Four of the nation’s largest home builders penalized for
storm water violations
Four of the nation’s largest home builders have agreed
to pay civil penalties totaling $4.3 million to resolve alleged violations
of the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department and United States Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) announced in June. The companies also have 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 our nation’s waterways each
The home builders are Centex Homes, based in Dallas, Texas; KB Home,
based in Los Angeles, California; Pulte Homes, based in Bloomfield Hills,
Michigan; and Richmond American Homes, based in Denver, Colorado. The
four separate settlements resolve alleged violations of storm water run-off
regulations at construction sites in 34 states and the District of Columbia.
Each company will pay the following penalties:
- Centex: $1,485,000
- KB Home: $1,185,000
- Pulte: $ 877,000
- Richmond: $ 795,000
Pulte Homes has 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 have joined
the settlements. Those states are 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
Combined, the four builders accounted for more than 124,000 home closings
in 2006, and are ranked nationally among the top ten home builders in
terms of home closings and revenues.
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 the sites that did have permits,
violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants,
such as silt and debris, in storm water 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 storm water 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
storm water compliance plan to prevent future violations.
The consent decrees, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Virginia, are subject to a 30-day public comment period and
approval by the federal court. The companies are required to pay the
penalty within 30 days of the court’s approval of the settlement.