N.J. Developer Fined for Wetlands Violations

     
(CN) – A New Jersey developer will pay a $225,000 penalty and preserve 108 acres in the state’s highlands preservation area to settle charges it failed to prevent polluted discharges from impacting multiple watersheds.
     With the agreement announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, Garden Homes and its affiliated companies are settling claims they failed to control stormwater discharges that alleged fouled the Passaic, Hackensack, Rahway, Raritan, Saddle and Delaware River watersheds.
     The acreage to be preserved lies within the Highlands Preservation Area in Morris County, New Jersey, and contains roughly 23 acres of wetlands adjacent to the Berkshire Valley Wildlife Management Area and in the Highlands Preservation Area – a critical drinking water protection area for the state of New Jersey.
     The land is also considered an important habitat to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, particularly the Indiana Bat and bog turtle, which have a known presence in the area.
     Under the federal Clean Water Act, developers and contractors are responsible for operations at their construction sites and are required to implement stormwater pollution prevention plans to keep soil and contaminants from running off into nearby waterways.
     These plans can include measures such as the establishment of sediment barriers, the implementation of controls to hinder stormwater flowing onto the construction site and the protection of slopes. Water carries soil and contaminants off of construction sites at a rate typically 10 to 20 times greater than that from agricultural lands and 1,000 to 2,000 times greater than that from forested lands.
     Under the settlement, Garden Homes will undertake a corporate-wide evaluation of its existing stormwater practices and develop a corporate-wide stormwater management program.
     In addition, Garden Homes will designate one of its employees as its company stormwater manager, who will be responsible for preparing all stormwater pollution prevention plans, developing and overseeing stormwater compliance training and conducting unannounced site inspections, among other responsibilities.
     The company will also designate individual site stormwater managers for its various sites. EPA estimates the value of these measures to be $539,000 for the first year and approximately $380,057 annually thereafter.
     The complaint alleged that Garden Homes violated numerous stormwater requirements at ten of the company’s sites in New Jersey by failing to conduct and document weekly inspections; failing to install perimeter silt fencing along the perimeter of construction sites; failing to maintain a spill kit on-site; and allowing fuel to spill on the ground uphill from an unprotected catch basin.

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