Formosa Plastics set to pay $50 million in pellet pollution lawsuit

At a time when the plastics industry is under constant scrutiny over plastic pollution from many sources, it’s more important than ever that the industry police itself. That’s something that Formosa Plastics Corp. (Livingston, NJ) learned in a case involving spilled pellets in a Texas waterway.

Diane Wilson, Formosa Plastics lawsuit
Former shrimper Diane Wilson is a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Formosa Plastics. Image courtesy Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

On Dec. 3, a federal court judge in Victoria, TX, will rule on a consent decree in the environmental settlement between Formosa Plastics and residents of the state’s Point Comfort region. The judge is expected to sign off on the $50-million settlement that Formosa agreed to in October for discharging billions of plastic pellets into the waterways around its Point Comfort facility. The plaintiffs include former shrimper Diane Wilson, represented by attorneys with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA).

 

The decision will be the final step in a case that set precedent:

  • The $50 million settlement is the largest settlement of a Clean Water Act suit filed by private citizens in the history of the United States. It is five times the previous largest settlement of a Clean Water Act suit brought by private individuals. [Public Interest Research Group of N.J. v. Witco Chemical Corp., Nos. 89-3146, C-359-83 D.N.J. Jan. 15, 1993].
  • At a time when plastic pollution of oceans has reached urgent levels, Formosa agreed to rare “zero discharge,” meaning the company’s Point Comfort facility can no longer discharge any plastics into waterways. This is a standard that citizens all over the United States are trying to reach.

The settlement that Formosa reached also requires ongoing clean up of discharged pellets; monitoring and reporting of future discharged pellets; and includes fines for illegal discharges. The decree requires Formosa to hire an engineer to make important changes at the facility to prevent future illegal discharges.

The final consent decree will be modified to reflect that funds for the Nurdle Patrol will be paid to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

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