Dec 06, 2010

Residential Homebuilder Settles Clean Water Act Violations in 21 States

Company allegedly violated Clean Water Act storm water requirements

Beazer Homes USA Inc., a national residential homebuilder, agreed to pay a $925,000 civil penalty to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at its construction sites in 21 states, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced. As part of the settlement, Beazer also will implement a company-wide storm water program to improve compliance with storm water runoff requirements at current and future construction sites around the country.

A portion of the settlement will help EPA efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary. The bay and its tidal tributaries are threatened by pollution from a variety of sources, and overburdened with nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can be carried by storm water. The settlement will result in a reduction of approximately 10.4 million lb of pollutants to the bay watershed.

The government complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement agreement in federal court in Nashville, Tenn., alleges a pattern of violations that was discovered through site inspections and by reviewing documentation submitted by the company. The alleged violations include failure to obtain permits until after construction began, or failing to obtain them at all. At sites with permits, violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants, such as silt and debris in storm water runoff.

The settlement requires Beazer to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each construction site, conduct additional site inspections and promptly correct any problems detected. The company must properly train construction managers and contractors and designate trained staff for each site. Beazer also must implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and submit annual reports to EPA.

The Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. These controls include simple pollution prevention techniques such as silt fences, phased site grading and sediment basins to prevent common construction contaminants from entering the nation’s waterways.

Seven states have joined the settlement. Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, Tennessee and Virginia will receive a portion of the $925,000 penalty.

The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.