Idaho DOT, Contractor To Pay $895,000 For Stormwater Violations

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and contractor Scarsella Brothers Inc. agreed to pay $895,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act during the construction of the Bellgrove-Mica realignment of Highway 95 near Lake Coeur d'Alene in Northern Idaho, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and EPA announced on May 3.

The settlement concludes a lawsuit which began in 2004, alleging that ITD and Scarsella Brothers failed to provide adequate stormwater controls for a large highway project that later deposited many tons of sediment in Mica Creek, which flows into Mica Bay in Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Under the terms of the consent decrees, lodged on May 3 in the U.S District Court for the District of Idaho, ITD will pay a penalty of $495,000 and Scarsella Brothers will pay a $400,000 civil penalty. As part of the settlement, ITD and Scarsella Brothers also have agreed to send their engineers and environmental inspectors to a certified stormwater management training, and ITD has agreed to implement new construction management practices to help avoid future violations of the stormwater regulations.

"The Idaho Transportation Department and Scarsella Brothers Construction Company failed to follow known best management practices and their actions had a significant impact on the receiving waters and on the Mica Bay portion of Lake Coeur d'Alene," said Assistant Attorney General Sue Ellen Wooldridge of DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are committed to enforcing environmental laws and to seeing that violators undertake the actions necessary to comply with stormwater regulations in the future."

In a related action brought in state court, Scarsella will pay half a million dollars to the Mica Bay Homeowners Association to settle claims for property damage allegedly caused by sediment discharges from the site. The Association intends to use the money for environmental improvement projects in the Mica Bay watershed.

The penalty in these two cases is the largest EPA Region 10 has imposed thus far as part of its regional stormwater compliance initiative. Although the initiative began in 2001 with several years of intensive outreach, including workshops, mailers, and an expanded website, it was not until 2005, after EPA stepped up its inspection and enforcement efforts, that the region saw a dramatic increase in compliance rates.

The proposed consent decree is open for a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree is available on DOJ's Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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