EPA, CSI Settle Storm Water Violations

EPA and the Justice Department announced that Colorado Structures Inc. (CSI), a construction management firm that specializes in building big-box commercial stores, agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty and implement a storm water compliance program to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations.

As part of the settlement joined by the state of Colorado, CSI will implement the company-wide program to significantly reduce storm water pollution at its construction sites. The Colorado Springs, Colo.-based company agreed to comply with storm water permitting requirements; develop a management system to improve its oversight of operations; inspect sites daily; train site personnel on federal storm water requirements; take quick corrective actions when problems related to storm water runoff arise; and provide quarterly progress reports to EPA.

“Storm water runoff from construction sites poses a threat to the environment by washing sediment, debris and other pollutants into surrounding waterways and degrading water quality,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to work with EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act and to prevent this type of pollution from entering our nation’s waterways.”

According to the complaint, beginning in 1999, EPA inspectors found that CSI exhibited a pattern of failing to comply with storm water requirements. EPA documented violations at 16 CSI construction sites in Colorado, California, Nevada and South Dakota, including violations of applicable permits and the failure to obtain a permit.

At the Evergreen site in Colorado, for example, the complain lists violations including “failure to conduct inspections in accordance with permit requirements; failure to install and maintain storm water controls such as a vehicle track out pad, inlet protection, silt fencing to minimize off-site sediment and erosion runoff; and failure to implement additional BMPs [best management practices] during trenching by landscapers.”

Environmental Risk

Construction projects like those involved in this case have a high potential for environmental harm because they cover large areas of land. In response to those risks, EPA launched a national enforcement initiative aimed at reducing pollution from storm water discharges from construction sites.

“Protecting the quality of our nation’s waters is a top priority,” said Robert E. Roberts, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver.

The Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. Each site must have a storm water 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.

Without on-site controls, runoff from construction sites can flow directly to the nearest waterway and can cause beach closings, swimming and fishing restrictions and habitat degradation. As storm water flows over construction sites, it can pick up pollutants, including sediment, used oil, pesticides, solvents and other debris. Polluted runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife, erode stream banks and affect drinking water quality.

CSI operates in the western United States as a general contractor for and developer of big-box stores such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Fred Meyer and Safeway. The CSI violations cited in the complaint were documented during construction of Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores.

The Justice Department and EPA have previously concluded an enforcement action against Wal-Mart, which involved many of the same sites as in the CSI complaint. CSI was a contractor for Wal-Mart at the time the violations occurred and under the Clean Water Act, CSI also may be held liable for these violations as an operator at these sites.

The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court in Denver, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. CSI is required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court’s approval of the settlement, of which $50,000 will go to the state of Colorado.

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