Home Depot agreed to pay a $1.3 million penalty and implement a nationwide compliance program to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in February. The settlement resolves alleged violations that were discovered at more than 30 construction sites in 28 states where new Home Depot stores were being built.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with stormwater into nearby waterways. Each site must have a stormwater pollution prevention plan that sets guidelines and best management practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants. EPA also requires that all construction projects larger than one acre obtain a federal permit.

The settlement requires that Home Depot implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to prevent stormwater pollution at each new store it builds nationwide. Home Depot must develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections, and promptly correct any problems at its sites. The company must properly train its construction managers, as well as contractors and their personnel, on the federal stormwater requirements. Home Depot must also implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and appoint a high-level company official to oversee compliance at all company construction sites.

The government complaint alleged a pattern of violations that EPA discovered through state and federal inspections of construction sites and by reviewing documentation submitted by the company. 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 had permits, EPA found violations of permit requirements that prevent pollution, such as silt and debris, from getting into stormwater runoff. Violations included the failure to maintain adequate plans to prevent stormwater pollution, failure to properly place and install fences around project areas to prevent silt from getting into stormwater runoff, and failure to install controls at storm drains to prevent soil and sediments from reaching nearby waterways.

The Home Depot settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions by EPA to address stormwater violations from construction sites around the country. A similar consent decree was reached with Wal-Mart in 2005 under which Wal-Mart established a comprehensive stormwater compliance plan and paid a fine of more than $3 million.