Hovnanian Settles Stormwater Runoff Issues in 18 States

Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc., a builder of residential homes nationwide, agreed on April 20 to pay a $1 million civil penalty to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at 591 construction sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department said.

As part of the settlement, the company will implement a company-wide stormwater compliance program for existing and future construction sites around the country.

“This settlement will bring positive change to construction sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia, said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Harmful storm water run-off from construction sites is something that is easily prevented. The construction industry needs to implement required controls or face the possibility of a federal lawsuit.”

A portion of the settlement helps EPA efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary. The bay and its tidal tributaries are threatened by pollution from various sources and overburdened with nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can be carried by stormwater. A total of 161 Hovnanian construction sites in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia fall within the bay watershed and are covered by this settlement.

The U.S. government complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement agreement in federal court in Philadelphia, alleges a pattern of violations that was discovered by reviewing documentation submitted by the company and through federal and state site inspections. The alleged violations include failure to obtain permits until after construction had begun, or failing to obtain them at all. At sites with permits, violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants such as silt and debris in stormwater runoff.

The settlement requires Hovnanian to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each construction site, conduct additional site inspections and promptly correct any problems detected. The company must properly train construction managers and contractors and will be required to designate trained staff for each site. Hovnanian must implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and submit annual reports to EPA.

The Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. These controls include simple pollution prevention techniques such as silt fences, phased site grading, and sediment basins to prevent common construction contaminants from entering the nation’s waterways.

Along with the federal government, the District of Columbia, the states of Maryland and West Virginia and the Commonwealth of Virginia have joined the settlement. The District and each of the states will receive a portion of the $1 million penalty.

The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

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