Soil Conservation District Reaches Deal on Fees
The Howard Soil Conservation District (HSCD), Woodbine, Maryland, has negotiated a compromise with developers on the rates they charge to review construction plans. The state mandates that developers must have their plans approved before they can get grading permits.
The Howard City Council approved a fee of $80 per acre of disturbance, capped at $1,700. However, HSCD had been charging developers $290 per acre and has not enforced the cap, which has angered developers. For at least three large developments, the total fees have exceeded $15,000, according to the director of government affairs for the homebuilders association.
The compromise keeps the council-approved fees, but adds a $100 hourly fee in cases where additional review time—beyond the amount covered through the disturbance fee—is needed. By adding the additional hourly rate, the HSCD district manager said he can charge the lower fee and still afford to pay his staff when they work extra hours to complete reviews.
Town Facing Erosion Fines
The town of Ramapo, New York, is facing fines of up to $75,000 for a series of drainage and soil erosion violations at the site of a new baseball stadium.
State inspectors from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found that contractors were filling up a major detention pond with dirt on the 27acre site. Inspectors also found soil discharging into water bodies in violation of state water quality standards. The site was also cited for failure to maintain its silt fence, entrances to the construction site and the detention pond walls.
The DEC issued a stop-work order, which was later lifted, for noncompliance with a permit governing the control of water and soil runoff from the construction site.
EPA Contractors Violate State Erosion Laws
Inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources found sediment washing into creeks near a massive cleanup site supervised by the EPA. Federal contractors of the $15 million effort at an abandoned apple orchard failed by relying wholly on rows of fabric silt fences and straw bales to control erosion.
The EPA designated the orchard a Superfund site (which allows the EPA to clean up abandoned, hazardous waste sites) a decade ago, due to pesticides seeping into the soil from underground pipes. Due to the designation, contractors were exempt from filing sediment and erosion control plans to the state.
Nearly 45 acres were in active excavation, with large swaths of stripped mountainside left exposed to heavy rains in April. Only 15 acres have been covered with clean dirt. State environmental agencies blame contractors for inadequate planning and over-extending themselves. They are now required to submit proper sediment plans for the entire 88-acre area.
The owner of a 10-acre campground in Madison, Wisconsin, was fined $15,000 for violating state environmental laws, including failure to prevent soil erosion.
According to the state attorney general, the owner violated his stormwater permit by refusing to allow the Department of Natural Resources to inspect the campground, among other charges.
In addition to the fine, he will have to comply with the permits, properly dispose of solid waste and restore a local spring-fed pond.
NPDES Construction General Permit Extended
On April 25, the EPA published notice that the existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) nationwide permit, also known as the 2008 Construction General Permit, would be extended until January 31, 2012, for construction activities.
The nationwide permit applies to construction activity which disturbs one or more acres of land— or less than one acre if part of a larger development—and is limited to “new projects” or “unpermitted ongoing projects.”
The 2008 Construction General Permit was set to expire on June 30, 2011. The extension was granted to allow the EPA additional time to prepare the new permit.
Revised Ordinance Gets Initial Approval
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has given initial approval to changes in its grading and soil erosion sedimentation control ordinance.
Under the new ordinance, fees will increase for most construction applications, but will decrease for certain types of commercial projects. In addition, there will be a new transfer fee required for inspections when property changes ownership. The soil erosion and sedimentation control appeals board would also be eliminated.