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EPA Seeks $412,500 in Penalties for Wetlands and Storm Water Violations

Release Date: 5/21/2001
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, (215) 814-5543

Bonnie Smith, (215) 814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued three complaints, each seeking $137,500 in penalties, for Clean Water Act violations involving the discharge of pollutants into wetlands and other waters by ditching and draining wetlands at three locations, in Chesapeake and nearby Suffolk, in southeastern Va.

“Today’s actions show that destruction of wetlands will not be tolerated,”said Acting Regional Administrator Thomas Voltaggio.

EPA has cited Vico Construction Company and Amelia Venture Properties for unlawfully filling wetlands at the Lewis Farms Site in Chesapeake without a required permit. EPA also alleges that these parties discharged pollutants in storm water into unnamed tributaries of Dunn Point Creek without a permit.

A separate complaint cites Vico Construction Company, Smith Farm Enterprises, LLC, Raymond L. Harris, and Robert F. Boyd for filling wetlands at the Smith Farm Site which is located partially in Chesapeake and part in Suffolk, Va. The Smith Farm complaint also alleges unpermitted discharges of pollutants in storm water into the tributaries of Bailey and Bennett Creeks.

In a third complaint, EPA has cited Vico Construction Company and Cavalier Investment Company as owner and operators of the Willow Lakes Site in Chesapeake. This complaint also alleges that wetlands were filled and pollutants in storm water were discharged, in this case into Goose Creek.

The Clean Water Act requires a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States, including wetlands areas. This requirement is designed to protect natural waterways and minimize the destruction of wetlands, which serve a number of critical environmental and economic functions -- including flood control, water filtration, and wildlife habitat.

The law also requires owners and operators of construction operations which disturb more than five acres (or in a large plan have the potential of disturbing more five acres) to obtain a storm water discharge permit. This permit includes management practices designed to reduce polluted runoff that may contain pollutants such as oil and grease, hazardous chemicals, nutrients, suspended solids and oxygen-demanding compounds.

The violations at the all three sites were discovered during state and federal inspections in late 1999 and early 2000. The owners and operators of the sites failed to comply with EPA orders in May 2000 requiring them to obtain the needed permits and to make necessary restoration. Today’s complaints are a followup to the May orders.

The parties are entitled to a hearing to contest the alleged penalties and proposed penalties.