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Environmental Enforcement Roundup: 2010 Enforcement and Compliance Results; Beazer Settlement; X-Ray Manufacturer Fined


EPA Announces 2010 Enforcement and Compliance Results

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday the release of its annual enforcement and compliance results. In fiscal year 2010, EPA took enforcement and compliance actions that require polluters to pay more than $110 million in civil penalties and commit to spend an estimated $12 billion on pollution controls, cleanup, and environmental projects that benefit communities. These actions when completed will reduce pollution by more than 1.4 billion pounds and protect businesses that comply with regulations by holding non-compliant businesses accountable when environmental laws are violated.

“At EPA, we are dedicated to aggressively go after pollution problems that make a difference in our communities through vigorous civil and criminal enforcement,” stated Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in a prepared statement. “Our commitment to environmental enforcement is grounded in the knowledge that people not only desire, but expect, the protection of the water they drink, the air they breathe and the communities they call home.”

EPA said its civil enforcement actions for violations of the Clean Air Act alone will account for the reduction of an estimated 400 million pounds of air pollution per year. Those reductions will represent between $6.2 billion and $15 billion annually in avoided health costs. As a result of water cases concluded in 2010, EPA is ensuring that an estimated 1 billion pounds of water pollution per year will be reduced, eliminated or properly managed and investments in pollution control and environmental improvement projects from parties worth approximately $8 billion will be made.

EPA’s civil enforcement actions also led to commitments to treat, minimize or properly dispose of more than an estimated 11.8 billion pounds of hazardous waste.

EPA’s criminal enforcement program opened 346 new environmental crime cases in FY 2010. These cases led to 289 defendants charged for allegedly committing environmental crimes, the largest number in five years, 198 criminals convicted and $41 million assessed in fines and restitution.

This year’s annual results include an enhanced mapping tool that allows the public to view detailed information about the enforcement actions taken at more than 4,500 facilities that concluded in FY 2010 on an interactive map of the United States and its territories. The map shows facilities and sites where civil and criminal enforcement actions were taken for alleged violations of U.S. environmental laws regulating air, water, and land pollution. The mapping tool also displays community-based activities like the locations of the environmental justice grants awarded in FY 2010 and the Environmental Justice Showcase Communities.

Residential Homebuilder Settles Clean Water Act Violations in 21 States

Beazer Homes USA, Inc., a national residential homebuilder has 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 announced. As part of the settlement, Beazer will also implement a company-wide storm water program to improve compliance with storm water runoff requirements at current and future construction sites around the country.

“Contaminated storm water puts children and families at risk as it may carry pollutants, including sediment, debris, and pesticides that contribute to water quality problems.  These pollutants affect our nation’s rivers, lakes and sources of drinking water,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance and Assurance said in a press release. “Today’s settlement will help protect public health and the environment by requiring Beazer to meet the requirements of our nation’s environmental laws and improve its oversight of its construction facilities.”

A portion of the settlement helps 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 pounds of pollutants to the bay watershed.

EPA’s complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement agreement in federal court in Nashville, 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 must also 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.

This settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions to address storm water violations from construction sites around the country.  In the last several years, EPA and DOJ have reached consent decrees with nine residential construction companies for storm water violations resulting in approximately $6.3 million in penalties. 

Seven states have joined the settlement. The states of Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, and Tennessee, and the Commonwealth of 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.

X-Ray Device Manufacturer to Pay $40,000 Settle Clean Water Violations

A Massachusetts company that makes X-ray detection devices and related equipment has agreed to pay $40,000 to settle EPA claims that it violated the federal Clean Water Act.

According to EPA’s New England office, American Science & Engineering made unauthorized discharges of storm water associated with industrial activity into wetlands adjacent to a Shawsheen River tributary that violated the Clean Water Act..

The Clean Water Act requires many industrial operations to have permits and controls in place to prevent pollutants from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. Each site must have a storm water pollution prevention plan that puts in place practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants. Without these controls, storm water can pick up pollutants as it flows over the site. The storm water can then carry the pollutants to nearby waterways, where they can degrade water quality as well as swimming, fishing and drinking water.

American Science & Engineering disclosed its violations to EPA and took some measures to minimize storm water runoff, but the company did not meet all legal requirements, nor all the requirements of EPA’s self-disclosure policy. EPA took the company’s disclosure into consideration in setting the penalty, the agency noted.

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