Northampton flags Coca-Cola plant for ‘juice waste’ discharge in river

  • Photos released by the Northampton DPW show the allegedly illegal discharge by Coca-Coca North America into the Connecticut River near Damon Road. The discharge of “juice waste” lasted at least 22 days in March and April 2021, according to records reviewed by the Gazette, and was caused by a corroded coupling in a waste line at Coca-Cola’s bottling plant at 45 Industrial Drive. NORTHAMPTON DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS

  • Photos released by the Northampton DPW show the allegedly illegal discharge by Coca-Coca North America into the Connecticut River near Damon Road. The discharge of “juice waste” lasted at least 22 days in March and April 2021, according to records reviewed by the Gazette, and was caused by a corroded coupling in a waste line at Coca-Cola’s bottling plant at 45 Industrial Drive. NORTHAMPTON DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS

  • Photos released by the Northampton DPW show the allegedly illegal discharge by Coca-Coca North America into the Connecticut River near Damon Road. The discharge of “juice waste” lasted at least 22 days in March and April 2021, according to records reviewed by the Gazette, and was caused by a corroded coupling in a waste line at Coca-Cola’s bottling plant at 45 Industrial Drive. NORTHAMPTON DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS

  • The corroded cast iron coupling that Coca-Cola North America blamed for the discharge of “juice waste” into the Connecticut River near Damon Road over at least 22 days in March and April 2021. NORTHAMPTON DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS

  • Coca-Cola North America repaired a corroded cast iron coupling in a waste line, which had been blamed for the discharge of “juice waste” into the Connecticut River near Damon Road over at least 22 days in March and April 2021, shortly after receiving violation notices from the city DPW. NORTHAMPTON DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS

  • Entrance to the Coca-Cola North America plant in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Entrance to the Coca-Cola North America plant in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/25/2021 8:22:55 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For more than three weeks in March and April, a corroded waste line at the Coca-Cola North America bottling plant caused an untreated substance described as “juice waste” to leak into the Connecticut River near Damon Road, according to city documents reviewed by the Gazette.

A state construction crew notified the Northampton Department of Public Works of the discharge on March 19 when they saw white foam flowing out of a drainpipe north of the Norwottuck Rail Trail Bridge. Coca-Cola fixed the leak 22 days later, shortly after the DPW issued two wastewater violation notices for the plant at 45 Industrial Drive.

“We do not have any further information about the duration of the discharge beyond the date it was first reported to us and the date that Coca-Cola stopped it,” DPW Director Donna LaScaleia said Monday.

After the DPW was notified on March 19, it conducted an investigation and informed Coca-Cola on March 25. Coca-Cola told the DPW in written documents that the plant’s “management team commenced investigatory activities but was initially unable to find evidence our facility was the source.”

The DPW issued the violation notices on April 8. One notice alleged a violation of the city ordinance against illicit connections and illegal discharges into the municipal storm drain system, and the other alleged a violation of the company’s industrial discharge permit.

Coca-Cola reported to the DPW on April 10 that the leak, caused by “an undiscovered, underground corroded cast iron coupling,” was repaired.

“At The Coca-Cola Company, responsible wastewater management is a core principle of our environmental policy, and our policy is to adhere to applicable laws and regulations relating to the environment,” the Coca-Cola Company, the plant’s corporate owner, said in a statement. “Immediately after learning about the issue from the city, we took steps at the Northampton plant to identify the cause and implement corrective actions.”

The 470,000-square-foot Coca-Cola North America plant, which employs 319 people and is slated to close in summer 2023, bottles non-carbonated products including Minute Maid, Vitaminwater, Powerade and Honest Tea. In an email to a federal official at the Environmental Protection Agency, LaScaleia described the substance that flowed into the river as “juice waste.”

“The liquid flowing from Coca Cola North America was observed to have a yellow color, had a strong sweet, ripe odor and produced a white foam when shaken,” the violation notices read. “The area below the outfall was coated with a gray benthic (algae or bacteria) growth which indicates the discharge has been occurring for an extended period of time.”

“The flow from the Coca Cola North America pipe was estimated to be 8.3 gallons per minute” on April 7, the notices read.

On Monday, LaScaleia said that she could not further identify the “human generated pollutants” involved, but the city conducted measurements that indicate the substance was more acidic than clean water and contained some solid material. The measurements also noted the presence of surfactants, a type of chemical used in beverage manufacturing.

The city’s stormwater management permit, jointly issued by the EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, allows “only the conveyance of clean water through the storm drain system and the discharge of that clean water to our outfalls,” LaScaleia said.

Failure to fix the leak could have resulted in $5,000 daily fines starting April 8, but no fines were assessed. The DPW notified MassDEP on April 12 that the leak was resolved. Coca-Cola agreed to conduct inspections and chemical testing for 30 days after the repair was made, and submitted those results to the DPW in mid-May.

“We appreciate the city’s collaboration in helping us solve this issue quickly and efficiently,” said the Coca-Cola Company’s statement.

In a letter to LaScaleia, Coca-Cola asked the DPW to rescind the violation notices since the leak was unintentional and had been repaired, but the DPW did not do so.

“We are continuing to review the incident and continuing to monitor our manholes and outfall,” said LaScaleia.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.


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