EPA Reaches Agreement With Hotel Developers for Clean Water Act Violations

Developers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to expand artificial reef in Condado Lagoon

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a legal settlement with the developers of the Vanderbilt and La Concha Hotels of San Juan, Puerto Rico, for discharging pollutants into the San Juan storm water sewer system, which is connected to the Condado Lagoon.

The settlement requires the payment of a $472,240 civil penalty and the expansion of an existing artificial habitat for fish. Under the agreement’s terms, the hotel’s developer, International Hospitality Associates and its managing partner International Hospitality Associates Inc. will construct 30 units of reef modules at an estimated cost of $32,000.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, pollutants may not be discharged into navigable waters of the U.S. without the proper permit. Developers of sites one acre or larger are required to implement storm water pollution prevention plans to keep soil and contaminants from running off into nearby waterways. The rate at which water carries soil and contaminants off of construction sites is typically 10 to 20 times greater than that from agricultural lands and 1,000 to 2,000 times greater than those of forested lands.

EPA inspected the Vanderbilt Hotel and the La Concha Hotels in April and August 2006 and discovered that they had discharged storm water into the San Juan storm water sewer system from the construction sites without first applying for the required permit. EPA also found that the developers had discharged water used in the construction into the storm water sewer system without the proper permit. These discharges led to increased turbidity and bacteria in the adjacent lagoon.

The lagoon's Taino coral trail and reef enhancement project is a habitat restoration project consisting of 44 artificial reef modules that was constructed following the Morris J. Berman oil spill of 1994. Since the first phase of the project, the number of fish and other species within the lagoon has increased. The additional 30 reef modules that will be constructed will further enhance the wildlife and fisheries value of the lagoon.


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