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Construction Companies Pay $270,000 to Settle Stormwater CWA Violations at 17 Construction Sites

On August 29, 2012, EPA announced a significant Clean Water Act enforcement action and administrative settlement associated with the agency’s construction stormwater permit requirements for land clearance activities at 17 constructions sites in the Mid-Atlantic States, many of which were federal or local government projects. In addition to paying a $270,000 administrative penalty, EPA ordered the companies to come into compliance on a going forward basis by undertaking certain prescriptive tasks at construction sites akin to injunctive relief, through an administrative order on consent.

EPA’s construction site stormwater regulations apply to companies that disturb one or more acres as part of land clearing activities (such as excavating, grading, and grubbing), requiring those companies to seek coverage under a general permit, or in some instances a site-specific permit. In turn, companies must prepare Stormwater Pollution Preventions Plans (SWPPP) and identify a suite of control mechanisms, known as Best Management Practices (BMPs), such as erosion control (mulching, geotextiles), runoff control (channels, diversions), sediment control (silt fences, straw or hay bales, sediment traps) and good housekeeping and material management.

EPA Region 3 alleged that the two construction companies, Turner Construction Co., and its subsidiary Tompkins Builders, Inc., failed to:

  • Obtain permits prior to construction;
  • Perform and/or document site inspections; and
  • Maintain controls and structures intended to prevent stormwater from reaching streams.

EPA’s recent enforcement action is part of a broader national emphasis focusing on nutrient loading and stormwater runoff from construction sites as part of EPA’s 2011-2013 National Enforcement Initiatives.

If your company is involved in land clearance activity that may disturb one or more acres (or is part of a larger common plan of development or sale where the cumulative total of land disturbance is one or more acre), whether as a developer, contractor, or construction company, you should plan to ensure your activities satisfy the construction site stormwater permitting regulations of the EPA and applicable state rules and requirements.