EPA is cracking down on storm water pollution violations by a major national real estate development company, and the Chesapeake Bay could benefit by receiving 10.4 million fewer pounds of pollutants a year, according to the federal agency.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced this afternoon that it has reached a settlement agreement with Beazer Homes USA. The settlement will require the company to pay a $925,000 penalty and install better stormwater control systems at its current and future construction sites across the country.
The violations happened during the building of the Greenspring Quarry project, at Quarry Lake Drive and Greenspring Avenue in Baltimore County, Maryland, as well as at sites in Virginia, Pennsylvania and 18 other states, according to EPA.
“Contaminated stormwater puts children and families at risk as it may carry pollutants, including sediment, debris, and pesticides, that contribute to water quality problems,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant EPA administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These pollutants affect our nation’s rivers, lakes and sources of drinking water.”
Back in April, EPA fined another major construction company, Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., $1 million for widespread violations of laws designed to stop stormwater runoff pollution. Over the last several years, EPA has imposed about $6.3 million in penalties on nine home building firms for stormwater violations.
The big picture here is that, while EPA has been taking a lot of heat these days, the agency is doing the right thing by becoming more aggressive about enforcing the federal Clean Water Act and scrutinizing development companies more closely. Storm water is the only source of pollution that is continuing to increase across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The federal government is helping all of us when it reigns in sprawl and sets firm pollution limits for the Bay.
In the Beazer case, the EPA filed a lawsuit against the development company covering alleged violations at 362 construction sites in 21 states. Twenty of the sites are in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, including 12 in Maryland, 8 in Virginia, and 1 in Pennsylvania, according to EPA.
The alleged violations include failure to obtain stormwater control permits until after construction began, and sometimes failing to obtain them at all, according to EPA. At sites with permits, the violations included failure to prevent the discharge of pollutants such as silt in stormwater, the EPA statement said.
In the future, Beazer will be required to develop improved pollution prevention plants for each construction site, conduct more inspections, and quickly correct any failings in stormwater control systems, EPA said.
Many of the violations concerned not installing silt fences and other stormwater controls during the construction of subdivisons. This allowed polluted water to flow into tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways, said Joseph Theis, chief of the industrial enforcement branch in the water enforcement division at EPA.
The alleged violations in Maryland were at the following development sites, according to EPA documents:
Adamstown in Frederick MD
Ballinger Creek in Frederick MD
Bonnie View Estates in Baltimore MD
Brighton Place in Prince Georges MD
Cedar 2 - Forest Glen in Anne Arundel MD
Collegiate Acres - Greenfield in Washington MD
Deep Harbour in Cambridge MD
Dove Barrington in Sussex MD
Greenspring Quarry in Baltimore County MD
Greenway Village in Montgomery County MD
Jefferson Place in Howard County MD
Linton at Ballenger in Frederick MD
The violations in Virginia allegedly occurred at these locations:
Brambleton 19297 Winmeade Drive Loudoun Loudoun VA
Fawn Lake Fawn Lake PUD Spotsylvannia Spotsylvania VA
Lansdowne 101 Macon Drive Loudoun Loudoun VA
Market Center 6299 Aster Haven Circle Haymarket Prince William VA
New Bristow 10605 Poagues Battery Drive Bristow Prince William VA
Somerset Farms 35109 Chesterfield Road Locust Grove Spotsylvania VA
Village Green 43168 Alex Street Leesburg Loudoun V
The violations in Pennsylvania allegedly occurred at this location:
Kingston Square 2552 Castor Ave Philadelphia Philadelphia PA
Click here to read the whole complaint.
To read the list of sites where violations allegedly occurred, click here and go to page 41.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation