May 29, 2015

Puerto Rico Developer to Pay $500,000 Penalty to Address Clean Water Act Violations

The company also will establish new staffing positions to oversee a storm water compliance program, adopt practices that require site meetings and inspections prior to construction and provide comprehensive storm water compliance training for employees and contractors

Puerto Rico developer F&R Contractors clean water act violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with F&R Contractors Corp. and F&R Contractors LLC to settle the companies’ alleged violations of requirements to control pollution from storm water discharges. The agreement requires F&R to pay a $500,000 penalty, establish new staffing positions to oversee a storm water compliance program, adopt companywide practices that require site meetings and inspections prior to construction, and provide comprehensive storm water compliance training for employees and contractors.

“Storm water often carries pollution and sediment into local waterways that can damage water quality,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Large quantities of storm water can run off of construction sites and it is important that storm water be controlled. The EPA takes these violations seriously, and today’s settlement illustrates that EPA will take all actions necessary to make sure that construction sites are not polluting water bodies in Puerto Rico.”

Under the federal Clean Water Act, developers and contractors responsible for operations at construction sites one acre or larger are required to implement storm water 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 such as berms or catch basins to reduce storm water 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.

The complaint alleged that F&R violated numerous storm water requirements at two sites by failing to adequately prepare or revise site-specific storm water pollution prevention plans; failing to implement best management practices; and failing to post adequate signage at the sites. The complaint also alleged that at a third site F&R discharged storm water into the Río Canóvanas, the Río Grande de Loíza and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean without a permit.

F&R operates seven construction sites throughout Puerto Rico. Under the settlement, F&R will staff a company storm water compliance manager to oversee the company’s storm water compliance program at these sites and any future sites the company may operate. Among other responsibilities, the company storm water compliance manager will implement F&R’s storm water training program; submit quarterly compliance summary reports to the EPA; manage all activities necessary to meet storm water requirements at each of the company’s construction sites; and ensure a storm water pollution prevention plan has been completed prior to commencement of construction activities at all company sites. F&R will also staff a storm water compliance manager at each site to oversee storm water compliance, to stop work, or order work, if necessary to ensure compliance, and to update the site’s storm water pollution prevention plan. F&R will also provide storm water compliance training for employees and contractors with operational responsibilities at a construction site, including comprehensive training for all managers, site-specific training in Spanish for field employees, and annual refresher training for all managers.

The proposed consent decree has been lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. 

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