EPA Fines Caltrans, Contractor $80K
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement for $80,000 each with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and a general contractor for dumping fuel and other substances into a lake near a major highway bridge project.
The EPA said in a Friday (July 31) statement that Caltrans and Tutor-Saliba Corporation each were responsible for allowing sediment, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid and dewatering slurry to enter Shasta Lake at the site of the Interstate 5 Antlers Bridge project near Redding, CA. The discharges took place from 2011 to 2013, the EPA said.
After receiving complaints from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, the EPA inspected the site in 2011 and 2013, the agency said in its statement. It found that Caltrans had failed to prevent polluted stormwater runoff from entering the lake, which is the state’s largest drinking source.
Failing to have a permit for the dumping, and from preventing the runoff from entering Shasta Lake, was in violation of the State of California’s Construction Storm Water General Permit and the Federal Clean Water Act, the agency said.
“Shasta Lake is our state’s largest drinking water reservoir, and protecting it from pollutants associated with highway construction is a priority for EPA,” wrote Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in the agency’s statement. “California’s drought means we need to do all we can to safeguard our dwindling water supplies from contamination.”
In its agreement with the transportation agency, the EPA said Caltrans discharged about 33,000 pounds of sediment into Shasta Lake. In addition to paying the $80,000 penalty, Caltrans has agreed to install and maintain erosion and sediment controls at the bridge construction site.
Meanwhile, the agency said that Tutor-Saliba dumped illegally 25 times from October 2011 to April 2013. In EPA’s agreement with the contractor, the agency said Tutor-Saliba Corp. discharged 8.5 gallons of diesel fuel, 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid and hundreds of gallons of dewatering slurry.
The EPA said all of the Tutor-Saliba incidents were self-reported leaks or spills, but they were not covered by a state or federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
The discharge into California's largest drinking water source occured in 2011 and 2013 as a result of the $129-million Antlers Bridge replacement project. The bridge carries Interstate 5 over Shasta Lake.
As part of the agreement, neither Caltrans nor Tutor-Saliba admit nor deny fault for the EPA allegations and both agree to waive the right to contest the allegations or appeal them.
The $129-million Antlers Bridge replacement project is ongoing. A new bridge will replace the one built in 1943, which is two decades past its 50-year life expectancy, the EPA said in its statement.
Over the years, the stress of heavy truck traffic has weakened the bridge, the EPA said. It is one of the most expensive structures recently built in northern California.
When completed in 2017, the new bridge will have an anticipated lifespan of 100 years.