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EPA Fines Construction Companies in Culebra, Puerto Rico for Ignoring Federal Water Quality Laws

Release Date: 04/28/2009
Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov or Brenda Reyes (787) 977-5869, reyes.brenda@epa.gov

(San Juan, P.R.) In a move that shows its strong commitment to enforcing rules that protect water quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) levied fines against eight construction companies in Culebra, P.R. for their failure to follow federal regulations for handling stormwater run off from construction sites. The eight companies are Culebra Resorts Associates; Playa Clara, S. E.; Inversiones del Mercado; JOFA Contractors; Caribbean Properties Investments; VPI Construction Corp.; and Víctor Morales all face fines for failing to obtain proper stormwater permits for construction sites in Culebra. Alfa & Omega was also fined for similar violations related to the installation of a sewer line. The companies face fines totaling $205,500.

“The failure to implement adequate stormwater and sewage controls at these construction sites was harming Culebra’s fragile coastal ecosystems” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “Stormwater runoff carries sediments and other pollutants that endanger sea grasses and coral ecosystems, which in turn can impact threatened and endangered sea turtles.”

The eight companies failed to obtain permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), a program under the federal Clean Water Act that regulates stormwater discharges associated with sewer systems, and industrial and construction activities. NPDES requires owners and operators of construction sites larger than one acre to obtain a permit and to develop and implement a storm water pollution prevention plan, including best management practices to minimize the amount of pollutants reaching waterways.

Breakdown of the fines:
Inversiones del Mercado/Jofa Contractors Corp. $60,050
Caribbean Properties Investment/VPI Construction Corp. $56,050
Culebra Resort Associates $32,500
Víctor Morales $32,500
Playa Clara, S.E. $24,400

Two endangered species of sea turtles, the hawksbill turtle and the leatherback turtle, and one threatened species, the green turtle, inhabit Culebra’s coastal waters. Elkhorn and staghorn coral, both endangered species, are also found in these waters.

Sediment runoff rates from construction sites are typically 10 to 20 times greater than those from agricultural lands, and 1,000 to 2,000 times greater than those of forest lands. Sediment discharges from construction sites can cause physical and biological harm to waterways.

For more information on how stormwater is regulated, visit http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/swbasicinfo.cfm.

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