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EPA Charges Two Massachusetts Developers With Stormwater Runoff Violations; Penalty Actions Part of Larger Initiative to Improve Compliance by Developers
Release Date: 08/18/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014
- BOSTON – As part of a major initiative to improve developer compliance with stormwater runoff rules, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced penalty actions against two residential developers for violations at sites in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
In the first case, EPA has filed a complaint and is seeking a penalty of up to $137,500 against the V&G Development Corp. in Dracut for stormwater violations at a 164-acre residential subdivision in Methuen. The second case is a settlement with the Mesiti Development Corp. in North Andover, which has agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty stemming from violations at a 112-acre residential subdivision project in Salem, NH. Both companies failed to obtain federal stormwater permits, prepare federal stormwater pollution prevention plans, and take appropriate actions to control runoff from their construction sites, thereby threatening waterways and wetlands with sediment and other pollutants.
The two cases are part of a multi-faceted effort by EPA to bring developers and builders into compliance with stormwater runoff regulations. The effort includes extensive compliance assistance activities, including workshops and training materials, as well as an enforcement sweep. Nearly two-dozen inspections have already been done at construction sites across the region in the last year, and more are planned.
"Stormwater controls are hugely important in protecting New England's waters, especially among builders and developers whose construction activities can have significant environmental impacts if done improperly," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Today's initiative, which includes extensive compliance assistance and stepped up enforcement, will go a long way in ensuring that developers are complying with stormwater rules."
Rainwater running off construction sites can carry sediments, oil and various other pollutants into nearby streams, ponds and rivers. Erosion from a one-acre construction site could discharge as much as 20 to 150 tons of sediment in one year if not properly managed. Sediments reduce the storage capacity of drains and waterways, causing flooding, and adversely affect water quality and fish habitat. Sediments and chemicals can also contribute to fish die-offs, toxic algae blooms, contaminated shellfish beds and closed swimming beaches. In 1998, more than 1,500 beach closings and advisories in coastal and Great Lakes communities were attributed to stormwater runoff from construction sites and streets, parking lots, agricultural lands and yards.
Existing federal stormwater rules require all parties conducting public and private construction activity disturbing at least five acres of soil to develop and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan that meets federal guidelines. As of March 2003, the requirement will be triggered when only one acre is disturbed. Stormwater plans, upon being implemented, will minimize erosion, minimize sediment loss and prevent byproducts of operations and maintenance (oils, gas, grease, chemicals, equipment washout and trash) from polluting stormwater that runs off construction sites.
Neither V&G nor Mesiti had obtained a federal stormwater permit or prepared a plan for reducing stormwater runoff pollution, as required by federal law. EPA inspections at the sites last year showed that the companies had failed to maintain erosion controls leading to siltation deposits in wetlands and, in the case of Mesiti, the potential for oil discharges to storm drains leading to wetlands.
Under the settlement filed this week, Mesiti agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty and certify that its construction sites are in compliance with federal stormwater rules. Company officials at Mesiti acted swiftly to rectify the problems on site and achieve compliance after being notified of the violations.
EPA is developing written materials, web sites, workshops, and other products to help those involved in construction projects understand how to comply with stormwater laws. EPA New England's stormwater web site contains many of these resources at https://www.epa.gov/region01/topics/water/stormwater.html. Developers seeking further assistance can contact Abby Swaine, of EPA NE's Assistance Unit, at 617-918-1841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EPA has also boosted its enforcement presence, completing over 20 inspections of construction sites in New England since July, 2001. These cases are part of a national enforcement initiative regarding federal stormwater construction requirements. Among the biggest cases was last year's enforcement settlement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in which the company agreed to pay a $1 million penalty and implement a $4.5 million environmental management plan stemming from widespread stormwater violations at 17 locations in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Massachusetts.