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March 2004

Construction Industry Pollution Compliance Rates Dismal in Maine

Augusta, ME— A survey of construction sites in 88 communities revealed 44% failed to comply with environmental laws pertaining to soil erosion, reports the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Residential construction earned the blackest mark with 53% of single-lot building sites found applying earth-moving practices that can contribute to pollution of streams and lakes.

The good news is 91% of the sites that employed contractors certified by a state-sponsored soil erosion control program were found to be in compliance compared to only 41% of the sites employing non-certified contractors. “The higher compliance rate by certified contractors suggests considering Maine move from a voluntary certification program to a mandatory program,” stated Don Witherill, director of DEP’s Division of Watershed Management.

“Violation of the state’s Erosion and Sedimentation Control Law is no small matter,” Witherill said. “Soil erosion is the largest environmental threat to Maine’s surface waters. While one site of uncontrolled excavation, fill or other earth moving practices may be perceived as insignificant, reality proves otherwise. Soil erosion degrades water quality, especially when multiple sites are added together.”

Erosion can be easily controlled by proper use of mulch, perimeter barriers such as hay bales and silt fences, and stabilizing ditches. “The DEP is committed to continuing education on proper erosion control as well as ensuring compliance with state law,” according to Witherill.

Sites closest to natural resources such as wetlands, streams or lakes were less likely to be protecting local waters from soil pollution (53%) than those further away (59%) even though those closer were more likely to use erosion control measures. However, those near fresh water wetlands only had 31% compliance. DEP reports that 43% of all sites surveyed had no erosion control measures in place.

Maine law requires preventing eroded soil from leaving a construction site. As of July 1, 2005, on-going erosion problems must be corrected on sites that were developed prior to 1997 in watersheds designated as “most at risk from development” by DEP. All other eroding sites need to be stabilized by July 1, 2010.

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