EPA and the Department of Justice recently entered into consent decrees with four of the country’s largest homebuilders over alleged Clean Water Act stormwater violations. As part of the settlement, the companies agreed to pay a total of $4.3 million in penalties. The companies also agreed to implement nationwide compliance programs, complete supplemental environmental projects and add additional controls to stormwater systems. The settlement covers alleged violations in 34 states as well as the District of Columbia. According to EPA, the violations stemmed from a systemic pattern of non-compliance that included both failures to obtain permits and failure to comply with permits once they were obtained.
This settlement is significant (along with February’s $1.3 million settlement with Home Depot over stormwater practices) because it is additional evidence that EPA has made stormwater compliance at construction sites one of its national enforcement priorities. General permits for construction activity are easy to obtain but even easier to inadvertently not follow. Training, inspections, maintenance and recordkeeping must be performed, and if not, a site can quickly become non-compliant with its permit. If so, the increased enforcement priority makes it more likely that a site will be inspected and that an enforcement action will occur if violations are discovered. In light of EPA’s stepped up enforcement actions, we recommend stormwater permit holders to pay close attention to the requirements of the permits, including following the plans that they have developed as part of the stormwater management process.
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