Hawaii DOT To Pay $1 Million Penalty, Spend $50 Million To Resolve Violations

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) will pay a $1 million penalty and spend an estimated $50 million to address Clean Water Act stormwater violations at highways and airports in the state.

"Stormwater discharges pollute Hawaii's streams, coastal waters, and coral reefs," said Wayne Nastri, administrator of the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "By agreeing to make long-lasting changes to its operations under this settlement, HDOT will reduce its impacts upon the environment at roads, airports and harbors. We believe these actions will result in increased protection of coral reefs and improved water quality for the people of Hawaii."

A settlement, reached between state and federal officials, requires HDOT to undertake a variety of actions -- estimated to cost $50 million over the next five years -- to improve management of stormwater runoff from its highways and airports. These actions include requiring HDOT to:

  • Update its existing program for management of its storm sewer system for highways on the island of Oahu. This includes improving removal of sediment and debris from roadsides and storm drain catch basins, reducing roadside erosion and controlling other sources of pollution into its storm drainage system.
  • Institute new procedures for controlling stormwater at its highway construction projects. These include better processes for the planning and design of proposed projects and increasing inspections of contractors constructing projects on HDOT's behalf.
  • Improve its management of stormwater at airports. This consists of an enhanced program of inspections and enforcement against non-complying airport tenants to ensure that stormwater is not polluting Hawaii's waters.

HDOT also will pay $1 million in penalties to be divided between the state and the federal government. Further, HDOT will spend approximately $1 million to establish a management system to comprehensively assess HDOT's many environmental obligations at highways, airports and harbors under its jurisdiction. Finally, HDOT will spend $60,000 to provide statewide training to construction contractors on stormwater controls.

"This joint enforcement action represents tremendous team work between federal and state partners that will bring long-term, significant environmental improvements to Hawaii's waters," said Granta Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Stormwater runoff is a major threat to our water systems and wildlife. This settlement recognizes the importance of compliance with environmental obligations by the state Department of Transportation and its contractors."

Stormwater runoff from unpaved land areas, paved streets and maintenance baseyards contains contaminants such as sediments, chemicals and oils that enter waterways and coastal zones, adversely impacting the environment.

Violations of the Clean Water Act's stormwater control requirements led EPA to issue several orders against HDOT in 1999, 2000 and 2002. Inspectors from EPA and the Hawaii Department of Health found that HDOT was significantly behind other state and local governments in meeting national and state stormwater requirements. HDOT's compliance with this settlement will resolve the outstanding violations covered by these orders.

The agreement takes effect when signed by the federal judge following the conclusion of a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree (lodged on Oct. 6) will soon be available on the Department of Justice Web site at This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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