Construction project lacks necessary site controls, earns fine

The owner and developer of a Montesano housing project currently in construction is receiving a $14,000 water quality penalty from the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Ecology inspectors found John Backman of ANB Investments of Olympia and Swiss Meadows LLC were actively developing the land but had not applied for a construction stormwater discharge permit. This type of permit helps companies make sure discharges of stormwater are monitored for turbidity and don't pollute wetlands, streams or other sensitive areas.

Turbidity refers to the amount of sediment or other particulates that cloud water. When discharged to ditches, streams, or other bodies of water, it can cover fish spawning beds as well as smother fish or fish eggs.

Ecology became aware of the construction project in fall 2006. After initial contact with the owner, inspectors visited the site four times from November 2006 through March 2007 and noted repeated violations: lack of a construction stormwater discharge permit; improperly installed silt "fences" intended to control erosion; discharges of dirty water into the county ditches; unstabilized stormwater ponds; and a risk of turbid discharges to a wetland at the back of the property.

Ecology made several efforts to help Mr. Backman and Swiss Meadows come into compliance with environmental safeguards at the site including onsite discussions about the problems, letters of non-compliance, an order requiring corrections and one-on-one assistance with Backman and his representatives.

In mid-February, Mr. Backman received the construction stormwater permit but other violations at the site have continued.

"A stormwater discharge permit is an essential part of any construction project," said Kim McKee, a water quality manager for Ecology. "The permit emphasizes the need for having proper runoff and stormwater controls in place to prevent problems."

Mr. Backman has 30 days to file an application for relief from the penalty with Ecology, appeal the decision to the Pollution Control Hearings Board or pay the penalty.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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