The United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Justice and the states of Alabama and Iowa have reached a landmark agreement for an innovative resolution of past environmental issues with cast iron pipe manufacturer McWane, Inc., Birmingham, Alabama.
Among other provisions, McWane has agreed to pay a $4 million penalty to resolve more than 400 federal and state environmental law violations at 28 manufacturing facilities across 14 states.
The settlement also requires the company to perform $9.1 million worth of environmental projects, including those which target stormwater contamination at numerous locations, and reduce stormwater pollutants by about 1,900 tons a year.
The settlement resolves civil violations over the past decade of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as alleged by the United States, Alabama, and Iowa in the complaint.
Chemical Company Fined
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has imposed a $23,287 fine on General Chemical Corporation, Parsippany, New Jersey, for pumping polluted stormwater into the environment.
The company had previously been fined $6,000 for two infractions regarding hazardous waste regulation violations. In one, General Chemical used a sump pump without a permit during one of the region’s torrential rainstorms. The second issue involved the use of the company’s cylindrical storage tanks that are designed to hold water for fire protection and to collect stormwater.
General Chemical stated that its stormwater management system accidently pumped rainwater into both the storage and fire protection tanks due to an exceptionally wet month.
The fire protection tank is connected to the town’s drinking water system.
Senate Bill Would Fund Green Stormwater Research
To encourage research, development and promotion of new technologies and designs that use natural processes to combat polluted stormwater runoff, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have introduced “The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act” (GICWA). The proposed legislation defines “green infrastructure” as stormwater management techniques that preserve, restore, enhance, or mimic natural hydrology. These would include green roofs, porous pavements and ground cover, or vegetated channels and detention areas that reduce the burden of stormwater on wastewater infrastructure and the environment.
If passed, the GICWA would establish up to five regional centers of excellence that would spearhead the research and development of new stormwater management techniques, which use soil and plant life to filter stormwater polluted by sediments and chemicals. It would also establish a green infrastructure program within the EPA’s Office of Water to coordinate and promote the use of new stormwater techniques. The legislation would authorize technical assistance and project grants to local wastewater utilities for green infrastructure projects that take advantage of these alternative techniques to stormwater management.
City Proposes Stormwater Management Fee
The city council in Moundsville, West Virginia, is considering an ordinance which would charge a $5 monthly stormwater user fee to residential dwellings and $12.50 per month for other properties within a designated service area. If passed, the fee would be combined with current utility bills.
The proposed ordinance came as a result of recently amended codes which now allow municipalities to regulate stormwater management and surface water discharge as part of its public works program and sanitary sewerage system. The additional fees will be used to help cover the cost of a new, federallymandated stormwater management plan.
City officials have confirmed that a $2 million project that will protect homes along the Lower Buck Gully in California has been postponed until September 2011. The project was scheduled to begin in August.
The erosion prevention project will add wire cages filled with river rocks to Lower Buck Gully, diverting water as it heads toward the beach. Officials fear that without the water diversion in place, a major storm could cause some houses to slide down the hillside.
The project is expected to take about six months to complete.
Federal Government Exempt from Stormwater Fees
The Washington, D.C., Water and Sewer Authority (DCWSA), recently implemented a new stormwater management fee on commercial property holders which is designed to raise $2.6 billion. The funds are needed to build a series of underground storage tunnels that will prevent sewage from being dumped into local rivers and creeks. The bulk of the revenue—about 19% of the money needed—was to come from the city’s largest property owner—the federal government.
However, in a letter to the DCWSA, the Government Accountability Office said the new charges “appear to be a tax on property owners,” from which the federal government is exempt.
A pending bill in Congress would make the issue moot. If passed, it would instruct federal agencies not to consider stormwater charges as taxes and to pay them. Senator Cardin, who sponsored the bill, said the federal government has a responsibility to pay its fair share to clean up the very pollution that it is causing.
Computer Model Predicts Stormwater Pollution
Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a computer model that will accurately predict stormwater pollution impacts from proposed realestate developments. The program w i l l h e l p r e g u l a t o r s m a k e informed decisions about which development projects can be approved without endangering water quality. The model is designed to evaluate the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus found in stormwater runoff from residential and commercial developments.
State and local government officials, as well as developers, can plug proposed development plans into the model and receive an accurate estimate of the level of nutrients that would likely be included in stormwater runoff from the completed development site. This would give officials key data that they can use to determine whether a proposed development project should be allowed to move forward or whether it requires additional stormwater treatment.
The researchers developed the model using chemical, physical and land-use data specific to North Carolina and surrounding states, but researchers say the data could eventually be modified for other areas of the country.
Cardi Materials, LLC, of Warwick, Rhode Island, has reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency for numerous violations of the Clean Water Act at its Warwick concrete manufacturing facility. The complaint includes alleged violations of unpermitted process water and stormwater discharges from the company’s concrete truck washing and loading operations, among others.
Under the settlement, Cardi will pay a $55,000 civil penalty, perform a comprehensive environmental audit of its facility to ensure that it is in compliance with all federal environmental laws, and conduct a “Supplemental Environmental Project,” costing $168,500.
The company must also eliminate all process water discharges from the facility, conduct additional monitoring and reporting of stormwater discharges, hire personnel certified in stormwater management to oversee compliance with stormwater permits, and provide training in stormwater management for all operational employees.
Stormwater USA Chosen as Training Partner
Stormwater USA, Bentonville, Arkansas, has been chosen by the Environmental Protection Agency to provide stormwater training and certification to staff and employees at K. Hovnanian Homes, a national homebuilder headquartered in Red Bank, New Jersey.
As a result of a Clean Water Act violation related to construction stormwater runoff, Hovnanian Homes signed a $1 million consent decree with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice. As part of the decree, Hovnanian Homes must provide ongoing erosion and sediment control training to all of the company’s stormwater managers, contractors, and subcontractors on an annual basis.
Stormwater USA is currently deploying stormwater compliance training for three other consent decrees as a result of Clean Water Act violations associated with stormwater runoff, one of which includes The Home Depot.
Input Needed for Proposed Program
The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to strengthen the national stormwater program under the Clean Water Act by focusing on stormwater discharges from developed sites, such as subdivisions, roadways, industrial facilities, and commercial buildings or shopping centers.
The Agency is proposing to distribute a survey to owners and developers of newly developed and redeveloped sites. The EPA will be selecting participants from small businesses and municipalities who will provide input to the Small Business Advocacy Review panel. The panel consists of officials from the EPA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Office of Management and Budget, who will study the potential significant economic impact of the proposed stormwater rule on small entities.
The EPA plans to use the completed survey to establish a program which would reduce stormwater discharges from new development and redevelopment, and make other regulatory improvements to strengthen its stormwater program.
Settlement Reached With EPA
The Pontotoc Union Lee Alliance (PULA) recently settled with the Environmental Protection Agency for stormwater-related violations of the Clean Water Act at two of its construction sites in Blue Springs, Mississippi.
PULA, along with the Eutaw Construction Company, entered into a $40,000 settlement with the EPA for stormwater violations at its construction site known as Blue Springs Rail Spur. PULA also entered a separate $30,000 settlement, along with L&T Construction, Inc., for violations at its Blue Springs North Loop Interchange site.
The violations included failure to revise Notices of Intent for Permit coverage, modify their Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans, institute inspection programs, and address areas of potential discharges. PULA has since complied with the EPA’s enforcement order.
Stormwater Fees Ruled Invalid
A Lincoln County, Missouri judge has invalidated a charge for stormwater control service that the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) began imposing two years ago on its 500,000 customers.
Circuit Judge Dan Dildine ruled that the service charge was, in fact, a tax, not a fee, and violated the Missouri State Constitution, which requires voter approval for a new tax.
The state Supreme Court has adopted a five-question test to determine whether a charge is a tax subject to a vote or a fee that does not require one.
It was left unclear whether MSD customers could receive a refund, as they did after a judge invalidated an MSD sanitary sewer charge about 15 years ago.
Billions Needed for U.S. Stormwater Control
According to a recently released U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, over the next 20 years the nationwide capital investment needs for wastewater and stormwater pollution control is estimated to be more than $298 billion. This number includes $192 billion for wastewater treatment and collection systems, $64 billion for combined sewer overflow corrections and $42 billion for stormwater management.
The summarized results were based on the “2008 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey.” The survey collected data from 47 states, various U.S. territories and the District of Columbia from February 2008 through April of 2009.
The report also documents a $43 billion, or 17% increase in investment needs over the previous 2004 report. The increase is due to a combination of improved reporting, aging infrastructure, population growth and more protective water quality standards.