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EPA Reaches Settlement to Protect Critical Wetlands in Puerto Rico

Release Date: 06/24/2004
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(#04094) San Juan, Puerto Rico -- Continuing its work to ensure the protection of Puerto Rico's wetlands, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it has reached a settlement with Suchville Development, Inc. of a complaint involving violations of wetlands regulations established under the federal Clean Water Act. Suchville Development, Inc. agreed to pay $75,000 in penalties for illegally filling wetlands to build condominiums on the island of Puerto Rico.

"Building on wetlands in Puerto Rico causes flooding, destroys important wildlife habitats and decreases the quality of life for local residents," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "It's important for developers to understand that they must get a proper permit before developing a wetland. If they do not, then they will face fines and may be asked to undo any damage they may have done."

In 1994, Suchville Development illegally filled 2.7 acres of freshwater marsh around the edge of a mangrove swamp in the Brenas Ward of Vega Alta to build an exclusive beachfront condominium complex called "Lakeside Villas." EPA discovered that the company originally intended to build the complex in Sabana Ward and had applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to fill wetlands there. Due to objections by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Exit EPA disclaimerSuchville retracted its permit application and began developing Lakeside Villas in Vega Alta without a permit.

A freshwater marsh is considered a navigable water of the United States and is subject to wetlands regulations that require developers to obtain a permit from the Corps before building. EPA filed a complaint alleging that Suchville Development discharged a pollutant without a proper permit. The Agency ordered Suchville to create new wetlands at another location to mitigate the damage. EPA is working with the developer to choose an appropriate parcel of land. Ultimately, the developer must restore a wetland that is at least twice the area of freshwater marsh than the one on which they built the villas in Vega Alta. EPA estimates that this will cost Suchville about $860,000.