Four of the nation’s largest homebuilders agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $4.3 million to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced. The companies also agreed to implement company-wide compliance programs that go beyond current regulatory requirements and put controls in place that will keep 1.2 billion pounds of sediment from polluting the nation’s waterways each year.
"EPA requires that construction sites obtain permits and take simple, basic steps to prevent pollutants from contaminating stormwater and harming our nation’s waterways," said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today’s settlements set a new bar for the homebuilding industry."
The four separate settlements resolve alleged violations of stormwater runoff regulations at construction sites in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Each company will pay the following penalties:
- Centex Homes—$1,485,000
- KB Home—$1,185,000
- Pulte Homes—$877,000
- Richmond American Homes—$795,000
Pulte Homes also agreed to complete a supplemental environmental project at a minimum cost of $608,000. The project will reduce the amount of sediment going into a Northern California watershed and improve the habitat for aquatic life.
Along with the federal government, seven state co-plaintiffs joined the settlements, including Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, and Utah. Each of the seven states will receive a portion of the penalties based on the number of sites located within that state.
The government complaints allege a common pattern of violations that was discovered by reviewing documentation submitted by the companies and through federal and state site inspections. The alleged violations include not obtaining permits until after construction had begun or failing to obtain the required permits at all. At sites that did have permits, violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants, such as silt and debris, in stormwater runoff.
The settlements require the companies to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections, and promptly correct any problems that are detected. The companies must properly train construction managers and contractors, and are required to have trained staff at each construction site. They also must implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and submit annual reports to EPA.
The settlements are the latest in a series of enforcement actions to address stormwater violations from construction sites around the country. A similar consent decree, reached in February with Home Depot, required the company to pay a fine of $1.3 million and establish a comprehensive stormwater compliance plan to prevent future violations.