Arizona Developer, Contractor To Pay $110,000 For Wetlands Violations At Construction Site
Tucson, Ariz. developer Whetstone Development Corp. and its general contractor K.E. & G. Development will pay penalties totaling $110,000 to settle Clean Water Act violations under an agreement reached with EPA.
The agreement with Whetstone compensates for the permanent loss of approximately 0.25 acres of desert streams, or ephemeral washes, which were filled without a permit during construction activities at "The Canyons at Whetstone Ranch" residential development in Benson, Ariz. The affected area is part of the San Pedro River watershed, a vital ecological resource in Arizona.
Whetstone Development Corp also agreed to donate 40 acres of open space as part of the settlement, the agency announced on Feb. 16. The parcel donation to the city of Benson contains approximately 2.5 acres of desert wash riparian habitat.
The San Pedro River watershed, an internationally recognized ecological treasure, is a much-valued resource for Arizona, the United States and Mexico," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's Water Division for the Pacific Southwest region. "We hope to bring water quality improvements to this watershed, and will strive to protect Arizona's water resources for generations to come."
Last February, EPA, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) inspectors discovered that both companies had not properly implemented or maintained adequate stormwater pollution controls at the construction site, as required by their state permits.
Stormwater controls, such as silt fences and fiber rolls, were improperly placed across washes, rather than parallel to them, which blocked or altered natural flows. In addition, the developers had failed to obtain permit authorization from the Corps prior to placing or directing the placement of fill material in the washes -- such as concrete housing pads or rock used for streambank hardening.
The Clean Water Act requires developers to obtain permits when altering natural waterways, including desert washes. The Corps issues permits to fill in water bodies, and the state of Arizona issues permits dealing with the release of pollutants in stormwater from construction sites.
In their natural state, desert washes provide many benefits including accommodation of flood waters, maintenance of water quality, recharge of groundwater, and support of wildlife populations. Once damaged, these environments are difficult to restore and the benefits are often permanently lost, agency officials said.
For more information on Clean Water Act compliance and enforcement, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/wetlands/regulatory.html. The consent agreement is open for a 30-day comment period. For more information on the agreement, visit http://www.epa.gov/region09/enforcement/pubnotices/index.html.