Kansas DOT Settles with EPA for $477K
Racking up almost a half-million dollars in fines, the Kansas Department of Transportation has agreed to settle alleged federal violations of the Clean Air Act.
KDOT will pay a $477,500 civil penalty and add several inspectors and engineers to oversee project permit compliance under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the agency announced Tuesday (July 2).
The alleged violations occured at three road construction sites on U.S. Highway 69 near Pleasanton in November 2008, U.S. Highway 59 near Lawrence in August 2010, and Kansas Highway 18 near Manhattan in May 2012.
According to the federal complaint filed Monday (July 1) in U.S. District Court, violations observed during EPA Region 7 inspections included failure to:
EPA documented hundreds of violations based on site inspections and information requests, the agency said.
"With the amount of stormwater runoff that occurs during construction of Kansas roads and highways, effective stormwater management is necessary to protect our waters," said Karl Brooks, EPA Region 7 Administrator.
"The penalty and injunctive relief required by this agreement will ensure that the Kansas Department of Transportation has the appropriate plans, procedures and personnel on their project sites," Brooks said.
On numerous occasions, KDOT violated the terms and conditions of its Kansas General Storm Water Permit, the EPA alleged.
A review of KDOT's self-inspection reports revealed that maintenance on some ditch checks, slope protection, and inlet sediment barriers could take anywhere from a month to a year to be repaired, or would drop off its list entirely with no indication that the maintenance ever occurred.
As part of the federal settlement, KDOT agreed to complete "significant" injunctive relief, including new training and reporting guidelines, according to EPA.
Additionally, KDOT failed to develop an adequate Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan by inadequately including general location maps, drainage patterns and outfalls, locations and descriptions of industrial activities, names of receiving waters and endangered species, and historic properties located onsite.
According to the complaint, KDOT also allegedly failed to implement temporary stabilization and significant erosion rills were seen along the entire lenght of certain projects.
At one site, rock check dams had significant sediment accumulation, the rocks used to construct rock check dams were improperly sized, sedimentation basins were full and required cleanout, and silt fences were improperly installed.
As part of the settlement, KDOT has agreed to complete "significant" injunctive relief, EPA says.
"For many years now, all KDOT construction projects have included components that satisfy the federal and state erosion control requirements," Jerry Younger, Deputy Secretary and State Transportation Engineer, said in a statement issued after the settlement announcement.
"Despite having those controls already in place, three recent projects were found to have violations. Moving forward, additional procedures are being put in place and greater emphasis and accountability will be placed on KDOT staff and our contractor partners to comply with the Clean Water Act," said Younger.
The consent decree, which was also filed Monday (July 1) requires KDOT to designate several layers of compliance personnel.
First, KDOT must designate a stormwater compliance manager to oversee the development and maintenance of the stormwater training program and oversee compliance at all project sites.
KDOT will also designate an area engineer or metro engineer as stormwater compliance manager for each project, as well as an environmental inspector for each.
For all projects let after March 1, 2013, KDOT must detail a "Water Pollution Control Manager" to visit the project at least weekly until the Notice of Acceptance is submitted. In addition, for projects let after Sept. 1, 2013, that manager must attend stormwater management training in the 12 months before construction starts.
KDOT's alleged violations stemmed from three road construction sites dating to 2008.
For all projects that disturb five acres or more and are located in an environmentally sensitive area, KDOT must designate an independent Oversight Inspector to ensure compliance with the permit.
For all projects that disturb 300 acres or more and are in an environmentally sensitive area, the Oversight Inspector will be a qualified third-party consultant retained by KDOT.
For projects between 100 and 300 acres, the Oversight Inspector will be from the KDOT Headquarters Inspection Staff or a qualified third-party consultant.
Projects between five acres and 100 acres will require an Oversight Inspector from the KDOT Headquarters Inspection Staff, District Inspection Staff, or a qualified third-party consultant. District Staff cannot conduct oversight inspection in the same district where they are employed.
Train Inspectors, Establish Procedures
Within 120 days of the decree becoming effective, all area/metro engineers, and environmental and oversight inspectors must attend a training course provided by either KDOT or a third party and submit course certifications to EPA.
KDOT will have to prepare and distribute a quarterly stormwater bulletin, at least two pages long, that highlights new developments in the field of stormwater management, recent stormwater management problems encountered by KDOT in the field, or similar topics.
Within 45 days of the decree, KDOT will have to establish inspection procedures for all projects and distribute them to field offices statewide. The binding procedures must include a preconstruction stormwater erosion control conference.
Additionally, each project must be inspected in accordance with the permit by a trained inspector, and a copy of the inspection report must be provided to the area/metro engineer and the WPCM within 24 hours. KDOT will then have one week to correct and deficiencies.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.