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Homebuilder settles with EPA on runoff from construction sites

Washington (AP) — One of the nation’s largest homebuilders has agreed to pay $1 million and take steps to prevent runoff from its construction sites under a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA officials said the agreement will protect the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways.

The allegations against Hovnanian Enterprises involve sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

EPA officials said the settlement was the latest in a series with homebuilders dealing with storm water violations at construction sites nationwide. It comes weeks before the EPA is to release a Chesapeake Bay restoration strategy in response to a presidential executive order last spring. While gains have been made in areas such as agricultural runoff, EPA officials said urban and suburban runoff is the only pollution source still growing in the bay watershed.

“Restoring and preserving the Chesapeake Bay is one of EPA’s top priorities, and preventing polluted storm water from entering the bay watershed is vital to keeping it healthy,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “This enforcement action will help protect the bay by addressing storm water pollution at the source.”

Hovnanian spokesman Doug Fenichel said the company did not have any comment on the settlement.

The EPA said 161 of the 591 sites in the complaint are in the bay watershed.
Maryland had 79 sites, second only to Texas, which had 116 sites. Virginia had 70, New Jersey 54, California and Ohio 50 each, Pennsylvania 43, North Carolina 42, Florida 28 and Arizona 13. Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia all had less than a dozen sites.

EPA officials said the agreement will remove more than 366,000 pounds of sediment from runoff nationwide, and more than 81,000 pounds in the bay watershed.

The violations were discovered during site inspections and reviews of company filings, according to the federal agency. Violations included failure to obtain permits until after construction had begun and failure to obtain permits at all. At sites with permits, violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants such as silt and debris in storm water runoff, according to the EPA.

Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia were also plaintiffs in the settlement, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, and will share in a portion of the penalty. Part of the penalty will also be used for bay restoration, according to the EPA.

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