Homebuilder Cited $1 Million for Clean Water Violations in 18 States

Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., a builder of residential homes nationwide, has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at 591 construction sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia, EPA and the U.S. Justice Department announced recently. As part of the settlement, the company will implement a company-wide storm water compliance program designed to improve compliance with storm water run-off requirements at existing and future construction sites around the country.

“This case is a result of EPA’s effort to protect local waters by vigorously enforcing the nation’s environmental laws,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance and Assurance. “Without appropriate onsite pollution controls, sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can pollute local waterways. This enforcement agreement will mean cleaner water for hundreds of communities across the country.”

The complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement agreement in federal court in Philadelphia, alleges a pattern of violations that was discovered by reviewing documentation submitted by the company, and through federal and state site inspections. The alleged violations include failure to obtain permits until after construction had begun, 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.

“This settlement will bring positive change to construction sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Harmful storm water run-off from construction sites is something that is easily prevented. The construction industry needs to implement required controls or face the possibility of a federal lawsuit.”

The settlement requires Hovnanian 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 will be required to designate trained staff for each site. Hovnanian 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.

For more information about the settlement, visit http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/hovnanian.html.

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