Home development company agrees to settle federal lawsuit for Clean Water Act violations at construction sites
Cooper Land Development, Inc., a luxury home development company headquartered in Rogers, Ark., has agreed to pay a civil penalty and implement a storm water compliance program at its construction sites to settle allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.
According to a consent decree filed today in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., Cooper Land Development has agreed to pay a US$513,740 civil penalty to settle the allegations that it failed to properly manage construction site storm water runoff and implement erosion control at five of its housing developments located in Missouri, West Virginia, and Arkansas. The penalty will be paid in four annual installments, plus interest, according to the consent decree.
Additionally, the consent decree requires Cooper Land Development to implement a company-wide storm water compliance program that provides for improved environmental performance and increased oversight of its operations at all of its current and future construction sites. In addition to the Creekmoor and Glade Springs Village projects, those sites include Bella Vista Village, Benton County, Ark.; Hot Springs Village, Garland and Saline counties, Ark.; and Sienna Lake, Little Rock, Ark.
The settlement resolves a civil complaint filed Sept. 22, 2008, in which the United States alleged that inspections in 2006 found Cooper Land Development had violated the terms of separate National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits issued by respective state environmental authorities for its Creekmoor housing development in Raymore, Mo., and the Glade Springs Village housing development near Daniels, West Virginia.
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.
EPA estimates that by implementing the terms and conditions of the settlement, approximately 8.67 million pounds of construction sediments will be kept from polluting the nation's waterways.
Besides causing soil erosion and clogging streams with sediment, construction site storm water runoff can pick up other pollutants such as debris, pesticides, chemicals, solvents and other substances. Sediment-laden runoff can result in the loss of in-stream habitat for fish and other aquatic species, killing fish directly, destroying their spawning beds, and blocking sunlight, which can result in reduced growth of beneficial aquatic grasses.
“Storm water discharges from construction sites cause serious degradation of our nation’s waterways,” said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will result in better management practices that will ultimately lead to a cleaner environment.”
“The failure to properly control storm water runoff at construction sites can have serious consequences for the environment,” said William Rice, acting administrator for EPA Region 7. “EPA will enforce the laws and regulations to ensure that storm water runoff is properly managed in a way that protects our fragile ecosystems.”
Improving compliance at construction sites is one of EPA’s national enforcement priorities. Construction projects have a high potential for environmental harm because they disturb large areas of land and significantly increase the potential for erosion. Without onsite pollution controls, sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can flow directly to the nearest waterway and degrade water quality. In addition, storm water can pick up other pollutants, including concrete washout, paint, used oil, pesticides, solvents and other debris. Polluted runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife and can affect drinking water quality.
This settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions to address storm water violations from construction sites around the country. Similar consent decrees have been reached with companies like Home Depot and four major home building companies.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department Web site.