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EPA protects Sheyenne River from unauthorized construction site discharges

Release Date: 06/28/2012
Contact Information: Contacts: Seth Draper, 303-312-6763; Matthew Allen, 303-312-6085

EPA protects Sheyenne River from unauthorized construction site discharges

Gowan Construction to pay $40,000 for Clean Water Act violations near Harwood; NDDOT to improve stormwater management and oversight

Contacts: Seth Draper, 303-312-6763; Matthew Allen, 303-312-6085

(Denver, Colorado – June 25, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with Gowan Construction, Inc. (Gowan) and the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) resolving alleged violations of the Clean Water Act at an interstate highway construction project affecting the Sheyenne River near Harwood in Cass County, North Dakota. Gowan is based in Oslo, Minn. and maintains a branch office in Grand Forks, N.D.

Under a consent agreement signed on June 12, 2012, Gowan will pay a penalty of $40,000. As part of the agreement, NDDOT has agreed to inspect active construction sites, review stormwater pollution prevention plans created for the department’s projects, and conduct reviews to ensure their contractors are complying with the Clean Water Act. NDDOT agreed to develop a website devoted to stormwater management that offers resources for contractors, and plans to continue to provide stormwater training opportunities for its contractors.

"EPA will vigorously enforce the laws to protect our nation’s water resources,” said Mike Gaydosh, EPA’s Enforcement Director in Denver. “EPA is encouraged that Gowan and the State of North Dakota are taking steps to ensure compliance with requirements that limit runoff of pollutants into surface waters.”

The alleged violations were discovered during an EPA inspection of Gowan’s construction site on Interstate 29, northwest of Fargo, in August, 2010. The project created a land disturbance of 220 acres (the size of 198 football fields), which intersected and overlaid the Sheyenne River. The Sheyenne River is a major tributary to the Red River of the North.

EPA observed unauthorized stormwater discharges at the site and alleged that Gowan and NDDOT had failed to maintain stormwater controls (such as silt fences, straw wattles, and silt curtains), failed to comply with inspection requirements, and failed to develop an adequate stormwater pollution prevention plan, all in violation of the Clean Water Act and their permit. The inspection was conducted when the project was 50% complete. During construction activities, 1100 tons of sediment was estimated to have been discharged in violation of the Clean Water Act. After EPA’s inspection an estimated 950 tons of sediment was reduced from entering surface water.

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over disturbed and unprotected land surfaces. This runoff accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if unchecked and untreated. Sediment can kill fish directly, destroy spawning beds, suffocate fish eggs and bottom dwelling organisms, and block sunlight resulting in reduced growth of beneficial aquatic grasses. In addition, sediment can impact the treatment of drinking water resulting in higher treatment costs, and can result in the loss of drinking water reservoir storage capacity and decrease the navigational capacity of waterways.

Information from NDDOT on stormwater requirements can be found online at www.dot.nd.gov or by calling 701-328-2563.

Developers, contractors, and other landowners who plan to conduct construction activities disturbing one acre of land or greater should obtain stormwater permit coverage with the North Dakota Department of Health at: http://www.ndhealth.gov/wq/storm/StormWaterHome.htm.

For more information on EPA’s stormwater permitting program: www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater.