Homebuilders to Pay $186K in EPA Case

MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2013

Two national homebuilders have agreed to pay a total of $186,000 in federal fines to resolve allegations of Clean Water Act violations at building sites in Maryland and Virginia.

The Environmental Protection Agency alleges that PulteGroup Inc., based in Bloomfield Hills, MI, and Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., of Red Bank, NJ, failed to take legally required actions to prevent the discharge of sediment into nearby surface waters.

Sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can pollute local waterways, the EPA notes.

The settlement with PulteGroup—the company's second in five years involving alleged Clean Water Act violations—includes a civil penalty of $56,000. Hovnanian's agreement requires it to pay a civil penalty of $130,000.

Neither company admits wrongdoing under the settlement. Hovnanan declined to comment Friday (March 8) on the settlement, and Pulte did not respond to a request for comment.

Hovnanian Settlement

The Hovnanian settlement stems from inspections by the EPA and state and county representatives at two of the builder's construction sites in Prince George’s County, MD, in August 2011. The wealthy county is part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.

Hovnanian Enterprises
Hovnanian Enterprises

Founded in 1959, Hovnanian operates in 17 states. The company has agreed to settle EPA's allegations with a $130,000 penalty and other measures.

The inspections, at Shipley Farm and Palisades at Oak Creek, "revealed that Hovnanian failed to install and/or maintain required best management practices to prevent the discharge of sediment to surface waters at both sites," EPA said in announcing the settlement.

The settlement requires the company to take actions to bring those two sites into compliance with permit requirements. The company also has 45 days to develop a plan for preventing future violations at its construction sites in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Pulte: Previous Complaints

The Pulte settlement stems from an August 2011 inspection conducted as a follow-up to a 2008 Clean Water Act settlement.

The earlier settlement was intended to resolve Pulte's "alleged delays or failures to obtain stormwater permits for numerous construction sites across the country," according to EPA. On Sept. 27, 2012, EPA issued a Clean Water Act Administrative Order that required Pulte to correct the violations discovered on the 2008 inspection.

Pulte Homes - VA
Pulte Homes

PulteGroup, which operates in 60 U.S. markets, settled another Clean Water Act case in 2008. A 2011 follow-up inspection found new violations, EPA said.

In a separate complaint, EPA alleged that PulteGroup Inc. "failed to implement and maintain control measures to minimize pollutants such as sediments flowing into" creeks that are tributaries of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

Virginia and Maryland have identified the Accotink and Piscataway Creeks as impaired for aquatic life. Accotink is a 25-mile stream of the Potomac in Fairfax County, VA; Piscataway Creek runs for 18.6 miles through Prince George's County.

'High Potential for Environmental Harm'

"Construction projects have a high potential for environmental harm, because they disturb large areas of land and significantly increase the potential for erosion," the EPA said.

"Without onsite pollution controls, sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can flow directly to waterways and degrade water quality. In addition, stormwater can pick up other pollutants, including concrete, paint, used oil, pesticides, solvents and other debris. Polluted runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife and affect drinking water quality."

Piscataway Creek

Construction stormwater runoff can pollute waterways. The EPA said Piscataway Creek in Maryland had been impacted by residential construction work.

The public may comment on the proposed settlement In re Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., Docket No. CWA- 03-2013-0066 until April 8; and In the Matter of PulteGroup Inc., Docket No. CWA-03-2013-0094 until March 26. Comments may be submitted to the Regional Hearing Clerk, U.S. EPA Region 3, 1650 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA. 19103.

Public notices of both settlements are available here.

More information about stormwater management is available here.


Tagged categories: Clean Water Act; Environmental Control; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Good Technical Practice; Home builders; Residential Construction; Residential contractors

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