The Ryland Group Inc., one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, will pay a civil penalty of $625,000 to several states to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at its construction sites, including sites located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
Ryland will also invest in compliance programs to improve employee training and increase management oversight at all current and future construction sites. The company is also required to inspect its current and future construction sites routinely to minimize storm water runoff from sites.
Without proper onsite pollution controls, sediment-laden storm water runoff from construction sites can flow to the nearest waterway and degrade water quality. EPA estimates the settlement will prevent millions of pounds of sediment from entering U.S. waterways every year. In addition, storm water can pick up other pollutants, including concrete washout, paint, used oil, solvents, and trash.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli applauded the EPA’s action.
“When the EPA works within the bounds of its authority to enforce environmental regulations to keep contaminated storm water from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, I support its efforts to protect Virginia’s natural resources,” said Cuccinelli.
The government complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement agreement in the U.S. District Court in Charlotte, N.C., alleges a pattern of violations that was discovered through site inspections and by reviewing documentation submitted by Ryland. The alleged violations include failure to obtain permits until after construction began, failing to obtain permits at all, or failing to comply with permit requirements at sites where Ryland did obtain permits. Alleged permit violations include not developing complete storm water pollution prevention plans, failure to conduct adequate inspections, and failure to install or implement adequate storm water controls or practices.
The Clean Water Act requires permits for the discharge of storm water runoff. Ryland’s permits require that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. These controls include safeguards such as silt fences, phased site grading, and sediment basins to prevent common construction contaminants from entering waterways.
The settlement requires Ryland to obtain all required permits; develop site-specific pollution prevention plans for each construction site; conduct additional site inspections beyond those required by storm water regulations; and document and promptly correct any problems detected. The company must properly train construction managers and contractors on storm water requirements and designate trained staff for each site. Ryland must also submit national compliance summary reports to EPA based on its quarterly management oversight inspections and reviews.
Seven states have joined the settlement. Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, and Virginia will receive a portion of the $625,000 penalty. The settlement also includes sites in California, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. Virginia’s portion of the settlement is $11,241.
“Although Virginia is only receiving a small portion of the financial settlement, this case was more about ensuring appropriate storm water controls at construction sites and preventing future damage to the bay,” said Cuccinelli.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Once notice is published in the Federal Register, a copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department website at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.