Environmental Protection

Homebuilder to Pay Clean Water Act Penalty, Implement Company-wide Stormwater Controls

The Ryland Group Inc., one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, will pay a civil penalty of $625,000 to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at its construction sites, including sites located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Ryland will also invest in compliance programs to improve employee training and increase management oversight at all current and future construction sites. The company is required to inspect its current and future construction sites routinely to minimize stormwater runoff from sites.

“This settlement will help protect communities in states across the nation from harmful pollutants in stormwater runoff,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “Polluted stormwater runoff can contaminate rivers, lakes and sources of drinking water, and it can be easily prevented with the system-wide management controls and training that this settlement now requires Ryland to implement.”

“Protecting America’s water resources, like the Chesapeake Bay, by keeping contaminated stormwater from flowing unchecked into our waterways is one of EPA’s top priorities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance and Assurance. “Today’s settlement will improve Ryland’s oversight of stormwater runoff at its construction sites nationwide and protect our nation’s water resources.”

EPA estimates the settlement will prevent millions of pounds of sediment from entering U.S. waterways every year, including sediment that would otherwise enter the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary. The bay and its tidal tributaries are threatened by pollution from a variety of sources and are overburdened with nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can be carried by stormwater.

The government complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement agreement in the U.S. District Court in Charlotte, N.C., alleges a pattern of violations that was discovered through site inspections and by reviewing documentation submitted by Ryland. The alleged violations include failure to obtain permits until after construction began, failing to obtain permits at all, or failing to comply with permit requirements at sites where Ryland did obtain permits. Alleged permit violations include not developing complete stormwater pollution prevention plans, failure to conduct adequate inspections, and failure to install or implement adequate stormwater controls or practices.

The Clean Water Act requires permits for the discharge of stormwater runoff. In general, Ryland’s permits require that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with stormwater into nearby waterways. These controls include common-sense safeguards such as silt fences, phased site grading and sediment basins to prevent common construction contaminants from entering the nation’s waterways.

The settlement requires Ryland to obtain all required permits; develop site-specific pollution prevention plans for each construction site; conduct additional site inspections beyond those required by stormwater regulations; and document and promptly correct any problems detected. The company must properly train construction managers and contractors on stormwater requirements and designate trained staff for each site. Ryland must also submit national compliance summary reports to EPA based on its quarterly management oversight inspections and reviews.

This settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions to address stormwater violations from residential construction sites around the country. Keeping contaminated stormwater out of America’s waters is one of EPA’s national enforcement initiatives. Construction projects have a high potential for environmental harm because they disturb large areas of land and significantly increase the potential for erosion. Without onsite pollution controls, sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can flow directly to the nearest waterway and degrade water quality. In addition, stormwater can pick up other pollutants, including concrete washout, paint, used oil, solvents and trash. Polluted runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife, degrade aquatic habitats and affect drinking water quality.

Seven states have joined the settlement. The states of Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada and the commonwealth of Virginia will receive a portion of the $625,000 penalty. The settlement also includes sites in the states of California, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

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