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BWB and CLA announce Settlement in Jones Falls Vinegar Co. Case

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Baltimore, MD – Blue Water Baltimore, along with its attorneys at Chesapeake Legal Alliance and Saul Ewing, LLP announce today a settlement agreement with Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company for alleged pollution violations into the Jones Falls, a local waterway in Baltimore which drains to the Inner Harbor. 

The agreement comes after Blue Water Baltimore filed a federal lawsuit against the company and Kerry Inc. a related company and Kerry Holding Co. its corporate parent, in 2023 for ongoing acetic acid discharges and other pollution after two fish kills were discovered in the Jones Falls. Under the agreement, Fleischmann’s has agreed to begin decommissioning activities at the facility immediately, continue monitoring in the Jones Falls to establish no more pollution is entering the waterway, and pay more than $1.3M to resolve the case, including $865,000 to fund environmentally beneficial projects to restore the Jones Falls stream, $25,000 in penalties to the U.S. Treasury, as well as funds to reimburse BWB for fees and costs associated with the case. 

Blue Water Baltimore became aware of violations in September 2021, while investigating a fish kill in the Jones Falls in the immediate vicinity of the Fleischmann’s facility at 1900 Brand Avenue. Blue Water Baltimore documented acidic discharge flowing through cracks in the concrete walls at the facility directly into the Jones Falls. BWB’s testing revealed that the discharge contained acetic acid, and pH levels as low as 3.72, much more acidic than the baseline level of the stream (around pH 8.0). 

“This all began with a single call to our pollution reporting hotline, and it’s proof that one person can make a difference to protect their waterways,” said Alice Volpitta, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper with Blue Water Baltimore. “Blue Water Baltimore is going to keep holding polluters accountable on behalf of our members. While others turn their backs on our streams, we will never give up on the Jones Falls.”

After being alerted to the illegal discharges by Blue Water Baltimore, the Maryland Department of the Environment also brought a state enforcement action against Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company for violations of its discharge permit. Settlement negotiations are ongoing in that matter, and will provide additional injunctive relief to stop the ongoing pollution. 

The Fleischmann’s Vinegar facility was built in the 1880’s and previously functioned as the Melvale rye whiskey distillery, which was itself built atop an existing stone structure that was established in the 1830’s. The building was constructed directly on top of the Jones Falls, was missing its roof in large sections, and had drain holes in the floor that were dye tested and proven to connect directly to the stream in multiple locations. Shortly after Blue Water Baltimore filed its federal lawsuit, Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company announced that it would not continue manufacturing vinegar in the old building. 

“We brought this case to address the pollution that was degrading the local ecosystem and hindering the public’s ability to enjoy and recreate along the Jones Falls,” said Patrick DeArmey, attorney at Chesapeake Legal Alliance. “We are thrilled that this settlement ensures the pollution will end and puts the bulk of the payments towards projects that directly benefit the Jones Falls and the community.”

Take action now to protect our waterways! The recent agreement between Blue Water Baltimore and Fleischmann’s Vinegar is a critical victory in our ongoing fight against water pollution throughout the Baltimore region. Your support is needed to ensure that these efforts continue and that we can hold all polluters accountable for their actions. By donating today, you can help fund essential projects to restore the health of our shared watersheds and safeguard our environment for future generations. Every contribution makes a difference, so join us in our mission to preserve and protect our precious waterways.

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