State, Lake County sue Baxter over Long Lake pollution
The Illinois attorney general and Lake County state's attorney's offices have filed a lawsuit against Baxter Healthcare in Round Lake for releasing wastewater contaminants into Long Lake that exceed allowable limits.
The complaint filed in Lake County circuit court asks a judge to immediately stop Deerfield-based Baxter International from discharging contaminants into the lake and tributaries, according to a news release Wednesday. The attorney general also wants a judge to fine Baxter for violating its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, officials said.
"This lawsuit requires Baxter to take immediate steps to prevent further polluting the lake and to pay penalties for its violations," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in the news release.
Baxter spokesman John O'Malley said Baxter "strives to be a leader in environmental compliance both globally and in the communities in which we operate."
"Baxter is aware of the complaint filed by the Illinois Attorney General and has implemented corrective and preventive actions to avoid recurrence of the issues raised in its complaint," he continued. "We will address the complaint through the proper channels and will not speculate or discuss specific details at this time."
Baxter Healthcare has research-and-development teams for hospital products and manufacturing operations in Round Lake. It operates an on-site wastewater treatment system at Route 120 and Wilson Road.
The attorney general has been in contact with community groups over Baxter's wastewater discharge, authorities said.
According to discharge monitoring reports Baxter submitted to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the company violated its permit several times between January and May 2016 by discharging water that contained more than the allowable limit of total suspended solids and contaminants that deplete oxygen levels.
Inadequate oxygen levels in water can lead to rapid growth and decomposition of plants, such as algae, and can have negative effects on the ecosystem of a body of water, officials said.
Property owners around Long Lake in Round Lake have had a long-standing dispute with Baxter on the issue and have asked that the company link into sewer lines.
In May, a Baxter spokesman said the company has been working with Round Lake, Fox Lake, Lake County public works and the Lakes Region Sanitary District to secure the necessary approvals for Baxter to begin construction of sewer lines.
O'Malley said Wednesday the company is "nearing completion of a voluntary effort to connect its Round Lake facility to the public wastewater system."
"Once this connection is complete, wastewater from the facility will flow through the public sewer system to the Fox Lake wastewater treatment plant," he said.