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EPA Lodges Complaint Against Idaho Transportation Dept., Scarsella Brothers
Release Date: 8/24/2004
Contact Information: Bill Dunbar
August 24, 2004
On behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice today lodged a complaint against the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and its contractor, Scarsella Brothers, Inc. of Seattle, for at least 170 violations of the federal Clean Water Act at a six-mile long road project on U.S. Highway 95 between Bellgrove and Mica Creeks. The Department of Justice seeks penalties and a court order requiring ITD and its contractor to take action to come into compliance.
EPA inspectors describe the violations of federal storm water management requirements as among the worst ever seen at a construction site. Penalties for the violations could be up to $27,500 per day for each violation occurring between January 31, 1997 and March 15, 2004, and $32,500 per day per violation thereafter. This is the one of the largest storm water violation cases ever prosecuted by the EPA.
The Clean Water Act requires storm water runoff from construction sites to be managed through the use of erosion controls, sediment traps, and other practices. Excess sediment and other pollutants in construction site runoff can severely degrade local waterways and harm the environment in numerous ways. ITD and Scarsella Brothers, Inc. failed to properly plan for or to maintain storm water controls at the site, even though they were familiar with state and federal requirements for doing so.
Based on sample results and on rainfall and soils data, preliminary estimates are that runoff from the site violated state water quality standards at least 120 times, although the actual number of violations is likely much higher. ITD and Scarsella Brothers, Inc. violated the storm water regulations at least 50 other times during the project by failing to inspect the site properly, to maintain sediment traps, and to cover exposed ground to prevent muddy runoff. These failures have led to serious problems, including sediment basin washouts and landslides that have impacted both the construction project and the surrounding community. One landslide occurring at the site in January 2003 even led to the closure of Highway 95.
Homeowners and boaters around Mica Bay – the ultimate receiving water body for Mica Creek – have complained that so much sediment from the road project has accumulated around boat launches that they are no longer useable. Citizen suit notices also have been filed. In 1995, the ITD was sued by a citizens group and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for dumping sediments into wetlands near Sand Creek. ITD agreed to pay $200,000 for environmental improvements to settle the lawsuit.
On May 9, 2002, EPA issued a Compliance Order to ITD and the Scarsella Brothers Inc., ordering them to cease all illegal discharges, yet the defendants continued to violate the order for some time after it was issued. In addition, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has issued notices of violation to ITD and Scarsella Brothers, Inc. for violations of state water quality standards.
“It is hard to imagine more egregious violations,” said Ron Kreizenbeck, the EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator in Seattle. “Neither ITD nor its contractor can claim ignorance of storm water management requirements. Citizens have complained, all levels of government have complained, and penalties have been assessed. Let’s hope today’s enforcement action gets the attention of ITD, Scarsella Brothers, and others who fail to comply with the law.”
Clean Water Act Enforcement (epa.gov/compliance/civil/programs/cwa/index.html)
Idaho Water Quality Standards (yosemite.epa.gov/R10/WATER.NSF/webpage/Idaho+Water+Quality+Standards)
Idaho Department of Environmental quality (www.deq.state.id.us/water/water1.htm#compliance)
Idaho Transportation Department (www.itd.idaho.gov/highways/index.htm)
Idaho Department of Water Resources (www.idwr.state.id.us/water/default.htm)
Construction Industry Compliance Assistance (www.cicacenter.org/stormwater.html)