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The Fleischmann's Vinegar plant sits just upstream of the Jones Falls Trail. Photo: Jeff La Noue/Google Maps

Baltimore Waterkeepers to Sue Vinegar Plant over Alleged Pollution in Key Tributary

Baltimore’s waterways watchdog group, Blue Water Baltimore, has announced it plans to sue Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company, alleging it has repeatedly leaked “acidic discharges” into the Jones Falls, the stream that leads to the Inner Harbor, the Patapsco River and, ultimately, the Bay.

Blue Water Baltimore and the Chesapeake Legal Alliance, who is representing the organization, issued a Notice of Intent against Fleischmann’s, whose North Baltimore plant sits just upstream of the Jones Falls Trail.

Blue Water Baltimore says acidic discharges, which can damage aquatic life in waterways, are continuously entering the stream from fissures in the facility’s concrete building. A fish kill in the Jones Falls in September 2021 happened “in the immediate vicinity” of Fleischmann’s, and the Maryland Department of the Environment found the facility’s de-chlorination system was out of order.

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Cody Matteson and Barbara Johnson, water quality scientists with Blue Water Baltimore, test waterways in 2021. Photo: Blue Water Baltimore

Just over a year later, in October 2022, neighbors reported more dead fish and a strong vinegar smell near the Fleischmann’s plant. That’s when Blue Water Baltimore says it documented the acidic liquid flowing through cracks directly into the Jones Falls.

“This action puts the power of enforcement in the hands of the people,” said Alice Volpitta, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper with Blue Water Baltimore. “Local residents first alerted us to these problems, and we gathered the data to back up those observations. Now, we are exercising our rights under the Clean Water Act to hold this company accountable and protect the Jones Falls on behalf of our members.”

In its Notice of Intent, Blue Water Baltimore calls for Fleischmann’s to “take immediate action to bring its Baltimore facility into compliance with all federal and state environmental pollution prevention laws including ceasing the acidic discharges seeping out of this building which are causing environmental harm.”

Fleischmann’s has 60 days to address their demands before Chesapeake Legal Alliance moves ahead with the lawsuit on behalf of Blue Water Baltimore.

Bay Bulletin reached out to the company, who confirms it did receive a Notice of Intent from Blue Water Baltimore. In a statement, a Fleischmann’s spokesperson told us,

Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company today received a Notice of Intent (NOI) from Blue Water Baltimore. Fleischmann’s Vinegar Company takes its environmentally responsibilities extremely seriously and has been working closely with the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection and the City of Baltimore to ensure that the site in Baltimore remains compliant with the Clean Water Act. The company is reviewing the allegations and is not in a position to comment further at this time.

-Meg Walburn Viviano

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