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Four of Nation’s Largest Home Builders Settle Storm Water Violations - 200 sites in mid-Atlantic region named

Release Date: 06/11/2008
Contact Information: David Sternberg 215-814-5548, sternberg.david@epa.gov

WASHINGTON (June 11, 2008) — Four of the nation’s largest home builders, all of whom are active in the mid-Atlantic region, have agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $4.3 million to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today. The companies also have agreed to implement company-wide compliance programs that go beyond current regulatory requirements and put controls in place that will keep1.2 billion pounds of sediment from polluting our nation’s waterways each year.

“Today's settlements mark an important step forward in protecting our waters from harmful storm water runoff from construction activities,” said Assistant Attorney General Ronald J. Tenpas. “In the future, these homebuilders will implement company-wide compliance programs that will provide better and more consistent protections at their construction sites across the country.”

The Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place, such as silt fences, phased site grading, and sediment basins to prevent construction contaminants from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. Today’s settlements require the builders to implement management systems to insure that appropriate control measures are in place.

“Sediment runoff from irresponsible development impairs waterways, destroys aquatic life, and threatens the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Today’s settlements are a huge step toward corporate accountability in the home building industry,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator of EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

The home builders, Centex Homes, based in Dallas, will pay $1,485,000; KB Home, based in Los Angeles will pay $1,185,000; Pulte Homes, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., will pay $877,000; and Richmond American Homes, based in Denver will pay $795,000 in penalties.

In addition to the penalties, the settlements require the companies to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections and promptly correct any problems that are detected. The companies must properly train construction managers and contractors, and are required to have trained staff at each construction site. They also must implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and submit annual reports to EPA.

The four separate settlements resolve alleged violations of storm water run-off regulations at construction sites in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Along with the federal government, seven state co-plaintiffs have joined the settlements. Those states are Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, and Utah. Each of the seven states will receive a portion of the penalties based on the number of sites located within that state.

In EPA's mid-Atlantic region, 233 sites are named in the settlements: 12 in Delaware; 79 in Maryland; 21 in Pennsylvania; 116 in Virginia; four in West Virginia and; one in the District of Columbia.

The government complaints allege a common pattern of violations that was discovered by reviewing documentation submitted by the companies and through federal and state site inspections. The alleged violations include not obtaining permits until after construction had begun or failing to obtain the required permits at all. At the sites that did have permits, violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants, such as silt and debris, in storm water runoff.

Improving compliance at construction sites is one of EPA's national enforcement priorities. Construction projects have a high potential for environmental harm because they disturb large areas of land and significantly increase the potential for erosion. Without onsite pollution controls, sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can flow directly to the nearest waterway and degrade water quality. In addition, storm water can pick up other pollutants, including concrete washout, paint, used oil, pesticides, solvents and other debris. Polluted runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife and can affect drinking water quality.

The pace of development in the mid-Atlantic Region is a key factor affecting the health of our streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. Sediment is a leading cause of degraded habitat in the Bay watershed's streams. Sediment plays an important role in transporting excess nutrients, burying bottom-dwelling plants and animals, and prevents light from reaching underwater grasses.

The Chesapeake Bay Program has established a goal to correct the nutrient and sediment related problems in the Bay and its tidal tributaries sufficiently to remove the Bay from the list of impaired waters under the Clean Water Act.

The consent decrees, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, are subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. The companies are required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court's approval of the settlement. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.