Thursday, May 1, 2008

US EPA and Pulte Homes


On June 11, 2008, the United States lodged a settlement between the United States, Pulte Homes, and the States of Maryland, Tennessee, Colorado, and Nevada, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Pulte Homes was ranked the third largest home builder in the country in 2006 and the fourth largest builder in 2007 in terms of home closings and revenues.

EPA conducted inspections and gathered information for Pulte Homes construction sites located throughout the country.

The types and severity of alleged violations vary for each site but generally include:

  • discharge of polluted storm water to storm sewers or waterways without obtaining an NPDES permit;
  • failure to develop an adequate Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) for minimizing the amount of sediment and other pollutants in storm water runoff from the sites;

  • failure to install or implement appropriate storm water controls or best management practices (BMPs) required by the SWPPP (for example: silt fences were not installed in all required areas; BMPs to prevent sediment from entering storm drains were not installed; no BMPs were installed at construction entrances to prevent offsite trackout of dirt; concrete washout basins were not installed to prevent concrete from flowing into storm drains; portable toilets were located directly on top of storm drain inlets without BMPs to prevent spills from entering the storm drain);
  • incorrect installation of BMPs (for example: silt fences were not properly trenched in; sediment ponds were not completed prior to commencing site grading);
  • failure to keep BMPs in effective operating condition (for example: silt fences and storm drain inlet protections were full of sediment and no longer effective; silt fences had fallen down or had holes; construction entrances needed additional rock);

  • failure to adequately or routinely inspect BMPs to ensure proper operation and maintenance.
    Pulte Homes has agreed to a settlement with the United States and the States of Maryland, Tennessee, Colorado, and Nevada, and the Commonwealth of Virginia to resolve these alleged violations.
Under this settlement, Pulte Homes will pay a civil penalty of $877,000, implement a Supplemental Environmental Project costing a minimum of $608,000, and implement a management and reporting system designed to provide increased oversight of on-the-ground operations and ensure greater compliance with the storm water requirements.

Specific measures include:

  • establishment of three management tiers that will be responsible for storm water compliance within the company, including the designation of trained, qualified staff at every construction site;
    a requirement to follow specified criteria for guidance in developing site-specific SWPPPs for every site;

  • a requirement to conduct pre-construction inspections and quarterly oversight inspections and reviews at all sites in addition to the routine inspections required by NPDES permits;
    a requirement to use EPA-approved forms for pre-construction inspections, routine inspections, and quarterly inspections and reviews; and,
  • a requirement to implement storm water training programs for storm water managers and builder employees, and storm water orientation programs for storm water consultants and contractors.

The Supplemental Environmental Project is designed to reduce sediment in storm water runoff in a northern California watershed in Mendocino County.

The State co-plaintiffs will receive a portion of the penalty based on the number of Pulte Homes sites within each State. The states will receive the following amounts:

  • Virginia: $12,000
  • Maryland: $21,000
  • Tennessee: $ 7,000
  • Colorado: $14,000
  • Nevada: $47,000

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