Harrison County

Lawsuit claims East Biloxi contractor is polluting Coast waterways

One of numerous photos submitted with a lawsuit filed by the Gulf Restoration Network against Oscar Renda Contracting Inc. shows Bayou Auguste at the Lee Street bridge in East Biloxi. The lawsuit says the area has been without perimeter controls to prevent sediment runoff into the bayou during a massive East Biloxi public works project.
One of numerous photos submitted with a lawsuit filed by the Gulf Restoration Network against Oscar Renda Contracting Inc. shows Bayou Auguste at the Lee Street bridge in East Biloxi. The lawsuit says the area has been without perimeter controls to prevent sediment runoff into the bayou during a massive East Biloxi public works project.

Oscar Renda Contracting Inc. is polluting Coast waterways in violation of the federal Clean Water Act during a massive public works project in East Biloxi, Gulf Restoration Network claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

“This is a situation where public resources have really been damaged and it needs to get fixed,” said environmental attorney Robert Wiygul of Ocean Springs, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of GRN, a coalition of environmental, social justice and citizens’ groups.

Oscar Renda has torn up more than 50 miles of hard-surface roads in Biloxi over the past 2 1/2 years, the lawsuit says, leaving exposed dirt to flow into Coast waterways and, in some instances, dumping construction material directly into waterways. Waterways polluted include Keegan’s Bayou, Auguste Bayou and Back Bay, the lawsuit says.

“Sediment flows are so heavy that they change the color of the receiving waters to a milky brown and have caused the buildup of pollutant-laden deposits in sensitive coastal habitats,” the lawsuit says. “In some cases, Oscar Renda has also dumped material directly into bayous, which violates the Clean Water Act’s ban on unpermitted fill activities in the waters of the United States.”

The lawsuits says storm water loaded with sediment disrupts the food chain by destroying habitat, and it compromises fish and wildlife and recreational use of the waterways.

Since GRN notified Oscar Renda of the problems in February, the lawsuit says, the contractor has taken some steps to control runoff. But protection is still lacking around some storm drains and waterways, GRN says, prompting the lawsuit.

Chief District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. is presiding over the case in Gulfport. GRN asks that Guirola declare Oscar Renda in violation of the Clean Water Act, award penalties based on the number of days the law has been violated for each drain, outfall or receiving waterway, and order that damages be remedied and best practices used moving forward.

GRN also is seeking court costs and legal fees.

The lawsuit represents only GRN’s claims. Oscar Renda has not yet filed its response.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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