Enforcement News

News Item 1: EPA Proposes $97,000 Penalty For Stormwater Violations

EPA announced on Aug. 30 it is taking action against a Gurabo, Puerto Rico, developer for improper construction activities affecting El Rio Grande de Loiza. The agency proposed a penalty of $97,000 against Jose Lopez Roig, president, Estancias de Siervas de Maria Inc., for failing to obtain the required permit for construction activities that would have avoided runoff from polluting the area surrounding its 19-acre construction site in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.

"This is a wake-up call to bad managers whose construction activities adversely impact a watershed," said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Region 2 administrator. "Developers must be aware that sustainable development is now a business necessity. The required permit is designed to control the rainwater runoff from their construction sites, which can have extremely negative impacts."

The administrative penalty is being levied against Estancias de Siervas de Maria Inc. for its failure to obtain a discharge permit or implement the required stormwater erosion controls, for ignoring stormwater rules when constructing, and for ignoring a previous order from EPA to comply.

Construction projects are a significant source of sediment runoff because the soil at these sites is often disturbed and left in loose piles. When rain washes through them, it can carry large amounts of sediment into local water bodies. Stormwater runoff from construction activities can have a significant impact on water quality.

The Clean Water Act requires operators of construction sites of one acre of larger (including smaller sites that a part of a larger common plan of development) to obtain a permit to discharge stormwater. Pollutants, sediments, oil and grease can accumulate in stormwater as it travels across land and ultimately flow into the watershed.

Information on stormwater permits can be found at http://www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater.

News Item 2: Corporation To Pay $813,000 for CWA Violations In Alaska

Forest Oil Corp., based in Anchorage, Alaska, agreed to pay $813,000 in civil penalties to resolve violations of the federal Clean Water Act at the Osprey Platform, a production platform located in Cook Inlet, Alaska, officials announced on Aug. 29.

Between January 2001 and July 2002, when Forest Oil conducted exploratory operations at the Osprey Platform, discharges from the platform were required to comply with the Cook Inlet Oil and Gas Exploration General Permit.

In July 2002, Forest Oil began production activities at the platform which made it ineligible for coverage under the Cook Inlet Oil and Gas Exploration General Permit. As a result, Forest Oil has been discharging wastewater from the Osprey Platform under an individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

According to Forest Oil's discharge monitoring reports, between January 2001 and July 2005, there were approximately 2,600 effluent limit violations. Most of these violations were for sanitary and domestic wastewater discharges.

More about the NPDES program can be found at http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/index.cfm.

News Item 3: Michigan Judge Confirms Convictions Of Developers Who Destroyed Wetlands

On Aug. 21, the Honorable Judge William J. Caprathe of the 18th Judicial Circuit Court of Michigan upheld the criminal convictions of two developers for destroying more than 15 acres of wetlands in Bay County.

The case involves Tom Kozak Sr. and his son Tom Kozak Jr. preparing a 26 acre site for a mobile home park in Kawkawlin Township. The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) notified the Kozaks in 1998, 2000, and 2001 of the presence of regulated wetlands on the site and provided them with information on the permitting requirements of Michigan's wetlands law. At no point in the process, however, was a permit application filed or any information regarding activities on the site submitted to the department, DEQ officials said.

"We are pleased that our courts continue to uphold the importance of protecting Michigan's wetlands," said DEQ Director Steven E. Chester. "Our department makes every effort to work with developers, but these two individuals chose to ignore the law and destroy an important part of Michigan's ecology."

The Kozaks were found guilty by a district court jury on July 15, 2005, and were sentenced to restore the property to wetland condition and pay fines and costs. The defendants appealed their conviction, and the restoration order to the circuit court. However, in a 13-page written opinion, Caprathe ruled their claims were without merit, and lifted the stay on their sentence.

For more information, contact the Michigan DEQ at http://www.michigan.gov/deq.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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