Baxter to pay $95,000 for polluting Long Lake
Baxter International will pay a $75,000 penalty for improperly discharging wastewater contaminants from the company's Round Lake facility into Long Lake.
As part of a settlement with the Illinois attorney general's office this month, the Deerfield-based health care company also will pay $20,000 to a nonprofit to fund restoration work to a nearby wetland.
According to discharge monitoring reports, Baxter violated its permit several times between January and May 2016 by discharging water that contained more than its allowable limit of total suspended solids and contaminants that deplete oxygen levels, which can be devastating for the local ecosystem.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the settlement will help preserve Long Lake for future generations.
Company spokesman John O'Malley said Baxter "strives to be a leader in environmental compliance both globally and in the communities in which we operate."
"Overall, our Round Lake facility has an excellent environmental record, and we are glad to have this resolved," O'Malley said.
Paige Fitton, spokeswoman for Stop Pollution in Long Lake, a neighborhood group that has been at odds with the Baxter facility since at least 2000, said the settlement was a public validation that Baxter was in the wrong.
Madigan's office brought the lawsuit against Baxter on Dec. 15, 2017, and asked a judge to make the company stop polluting immediately. According to court documents, Baxter stopped dumping into Long Lake on Jan. 3, 2018, and the next day connected to the Fox Lake Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility.
"Their connection to the public system should have happened long ago, so that the lake could begin healing," Fitton said.
The $75,000 penalty Baxter must pay will be split among state and county agencies. The Illinois EPA will receive $60,000 for the Environmental Protection Trust Fund. The Lake County state's attorney's office, which partnered with Madigan's office on the lawsuit, will receive $15,000 for its environmental fund.
The Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves, a nonprofit, will receive $20,000 from Baxter to fund wetland restoration of Sargent Marsh in the Kettle Grove Forest Preserve. Sargent Marsh connects to Long Lake.
The restoration work will include disabling drain tiles, removing invasive species and installing native plants.
"Hopefully the attention brought to this case reminds people how profit-driven corporations do not necessarily act in the best interests of our community," Fitton said. "Long Lake learned that the hard way. We need to be vigilant, have high environmental standards in place and actually hold companies accountable for their actions."