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Philip Morris Under Fire

RICHMOND, Va. -- A legal suit is now pending against Philip Morris USA following a recent decision by Virginia's Water Control Board to renew the tobacco giant's permit to discharge wastewater into the James River from its Bermuda Hundred Road processing plant in Chesterfield County, reported

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an advocate for preserving the health of the bay and its watershed, filed the suit last month with the Chesterfield County Circuit Court, appealing the water board's decision to let Philip Morris discharge up to 3 million gallons of phosphorus and nitrogen-rich water daily into a portion of the James that has previously been declared "impaired."

Philip Morris, along with the water board and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, are named as defendants. The legal action alleged the permitted discharges will "continue to cause injury to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its programs as well as to its members who regularly use and enjoy the James River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, for swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sport fishing and other educational and recreational pursuits."

The foundation maintained the water board's June 17 decision is inconsistent with water quality standards previously set by the board and is in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

The suit asks the court to suspend the permit and require the water board to revisit the limits set for nitrogen and phosphorus.

"I can't comment on a lawsuit that's still pending," said Bill Phelps, Philip Morris spokesperson. "But we share the concern of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation regarding the James River."

Phelps noted that Philip Morris has voluntarily reduced the amount of nitrogen in its wastewater discharges by 46 percent over the last three years. The new permit allows the company to discharge up to 50 percent more nitrogen and 18 percent more phosphorous into the river than it did in 2003.
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