Special Topics in Environmental Management

EPA and State Work Together on Stormwater Enforcement

A New Hampshire concrete producer will pay a $135,000 civil penalty and implement a compliance program to resolve numerous stormwater violations at its sand, gravel, and stone mining and ready-mix concrete plant.
In addition to paying the $135,000 penalty, the company has agreed to implement a $500,000 Supplemental Environmental Project. The company will remove an impervious parking lot adjacent to a nearby pond and replace it with a 35,000-square-foot pervious concrete parking lot. This project will result in a significant decrease in the amount of polluted stormwater that drains into that pond.

Under the terms of the federal consent decree, the company will implement stormwater pollution control measures designed to reduce the impacts of stormwater discharges into surface waters. In addition, the company will completely eliminate process wastewater discharges from the site.


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EPA alleged that the company violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging stormwater and process water into wetlands and waterways without the required authorization under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

In a parallel state settlement, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) announced that the company has agreed to pay a $700,000 civil penalty for the unpermitted filling of approximately 12.5 acres of wetlands and streams at its plant in New Hampshire. The state settlement requires the company to restore a significant area of filled wetlands and to preserve 69 acres of land on a local pond. The federal and st
ate enforcement actions arose from a joint inspection by the U.S. EPA and NHDES in 2009.
Process wastewater discharges are strictly prohibited under the CWA, unless a company obtains a permit to allow for those discharges. Wastewater from concrete plants typically contains high pH, oils, greases, and high levels or total suspended solids. When these solids settle they can form sediment deposits on the bottom of the water bodies that destroy the bottom fauna and the spawning grounds of fish. High pH waters from truck wash-out and wash-off from concrete manufacturing sites are highly corrosive. Rather than obtain individual discharge permits with stringent effluent limitations, most concrete manufacturing facilities contain, treat, and often recycle their process wastewaters on-site. As part of this settlement, the company agreed to eliminate all off-site wastewater discharges.

The settlement requires that the company conduct additional monitoring and reporting of stormwater discharges, maintain a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP), hire personnel certified in stormwater management to oversee compliance at all facilities where stormwater permits are required, and provide training in stormwater management for all operational employees.

The settlement is the latest in a series of federal enforcement actions to address stormwater violations from industrial facilities and construction sites around the country.


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Federal Stormwater Enforcement

Under the CWA, EPA concentrates its enforcement efforts on the NPDES wastewater discharge permit program and pretreatment standards.

EPA authorizes most states to administer their own NPDES permit program, including an enforcement program. In order to administer their own program, however, states must have enforcement rules that are at least as stringent as those provided under the Act. EPA retains the right to commence an enforcement action even when the state agency has determined that no enforcement action is warranted (40 CFR 123.27(a)).

EPA regional offices are the primary NPDES enforcement authorities in unauthorized states, although these states may enforce additional penalties that are consistent with or duplicate federal rules. Federal penalties may be in the form of an administrative order, an action for civil penalties, an injunction, or an action for criminal penalties.

See tomorrow’s Advisor for an easy-to-read chart of EPA’s wastewater rule violations and the penalties involved.