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EPA hits five Idaho projects with stormwater fines

In July, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced fines levied against state and local agencies and contractors involved in road, utility, and development projects in Idaho. This is the fifth year in a long-term regional enforcement initiative to improve compliance with the Construction General Permit, which is part of the Clean Water Act’s (CWA’s) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. The permit requires construction site operators to design, install, and maintain stormwater controls to prevent polluted runoff from harming water quality.

Receiving the largest fine, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) agreed to pay $325,000 in penalties for numerous violations of a CWA Consent Decree. The 2006 Consent Decree was the result of CWA violations by ITD and its contractor from 2001 to 2003, committed during the Mica to Bellgrove Highway 95 realignment project in northern Idaho. In that case, EPA fined ITD and its contractor a total of $895,000 for numerous stormwater management problems and resulting discharges that harmed the Mica Creek watershed and violated the terms of EPA’s national Construction General Permit.

Under the existing Consent Decree, ITD is required to provide stormwater training to its personnel, implement new self-inspection protocols, improve communication with its contractors, and submit an annual report to EPA detailing its compliance. In its first annual report submitted in 2007, ITD disclosed a large number of violations from 2006.

The additional penalties are largely related to failure by ITD and its contractors to train environmental personnel in a timely way, failure to conduct self-inspections as required, and failure to document compliance with stormwater requirements. ITD claims it has recently taken corrective actions to try to prevent a repeat of the violations.

In a second enforcement action, Lakes Highway District, SI Construction, and Hayden Lake Recreational Water and Sewer District, operators at a Hayden, Idaho, construction site, paid $14,950 to settle a CWA case. The case arose from an EPA stormwater compliance inspection at the Lancaster Road Phase I construction site in March. EPA inspectors observed numerous violations at the site, including failure to adequately protect downstream surface waters by properly selecting, installing, and maintaining stormwater controls, and failure to conduct self-inspections as required by the Construction General Permit. Of particular concern to EPA was the operators’ failure to ensure that the highly erodible soils on the site were adequately stabilized before the wet season. One of the site’s operators had also failed to apply for permit coverage.

In a third enforcement action, operators at three construction sites in Nampa, Idaho, paid a total of $21,800 to settle CWA cases. The cases arose from inspections EPA Region 10 conducted at the start of the 2008 construction season. Violations included failure to apply for coverage under the stormwater permit, failure to conduct required self-inspections, and failure to install and maintain erosion and sediment controls.

According to Kim Ogle, manager of EPA’s NPDES Compliance Unit, conducting stormwater inspections helps ensure a level playing field when it comes to protecting Idaho’s waters. "While some Idaho builders and developers are doing a good job, there are others who are ignoring the stormwater permit requirements," said Ogle. "Builders and developers that fail to follow these permit conditions will face fines."