Baldwin & Sons could be facing a $9.1 million fine.
A regional water regulator could impose a $9.1 million fine against Baldwin & Sons.
The fine is for letting more than 6 million gallons of storm water runoff trickle from the company’s construction project in Lake Forest into Aliso Creek in 2015 and 2016, reported the Orange County Register.
A complaint was issued against Baldwin & Sons in Jan. 2020 for public review by staff of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. It will be considered later this year by the agency’s seven-member board.
The complaint alleges the company did not implement measures to prevent the runoff from the southern portion of its 195-acre Portola Center project. It also asserts that Baldwin & Sons ignored stop-work and cease-and-desist orders from Lake Forest city officials.
According to the complaint, the runoff impacted aquatic plants and the ecosystem.
A public hearing has been scheduled for April, but Baldwin & Sons has asked for the case to be pushed back until October, according to Chiara Clemente, the agency’s enforcement coordinator.
Baldwin & Sons and its attorneys did not respond to requests for comment, reported the Orange County Register.
Baldwin & Sons was the developer of the 900-home Portola Center project at Glenn Ranch and Saddleback Ranch roads until 2015, when the company sold the bulk of the 95-acre southern portion of the project to Landsea Holdings Corp.
Baldwin & Sons still operated on the site for months following the sale, because of agreements between the company and Landsea, reported the Orange County Register.
The complaint alleges that between August 2015 and March 2016, Baldwin & Sons failed to implement best management practices to prevent the runoff, such as putting products such as a bonded fiber matrix over the soil to prevent erosion and managing vehicles so they don’t leak oil.
Lake Forest issued a citation to Baldwin & Sons on Oct. 6, 2015, followed by three more between October 2015 and February 2016. The city issued stop-work orders on Jan. 21, 2016 and Mar. 17, 2016 and a cease-and-desist order on Feb. 10, 2016. Those orders were initially ignored.
“I believe it’s one of the highest fines, if not the highest” said Clemente. “However, we believe it’s appropriate for the circumstance.”
Some corrective actions were put in place once the agency got involved. In 2017, Landsea put in a system that can store large volumes of storm water runoff.
It could take years to fully evaluate how the runoff damaged the nearby creeks and surroundings, according to Clemente.