Thursday, January 22, 2009

for the record

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following are my remarks presented at the 1/22 public meeting held by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) in reference to lagoons (stormwater management ponds) at Sun City Hilton Head, SC:


My name is Ray Koenig. I live at 58 Redtail Drive here in Sun City. I’m a retired civil engineer.

More than two years ago, while riding a bike through the community, I noticed water flowing out of stormwater management ponds over long stretches, more than 100 feet long. I designed a few stormwater management ponds in my day, and the ponds that I designed had embankments with freeboard and defined spillways, typically no more than 10 or 20 feet wide. I thought that it was strange that some ponds here don’t have freeboard and defined spillways.

Then in the summer of 2007 I saw an article and a photograph in The Island Packet of a pond that, during a normal rain, came within a few feet of a house. I called the person named in the article, and we talked.

· * He told me about how water in the pond described in the newspaper article rises quickly during a normal rain, and comes within feet of a house.

· * He told me about birds walking around and plants growing in the middle of other ponds.

· * He told me about ponds on the approved plans that weren’t built, and other ponds that were built, but are not shown on the approved plans.

· * He told me about how his neighborhood, Aster Fields, had organized a committee, and that they talked to Pulte, to Beaufort County, and to DHEC. He said that, despite all their work trying to get these ponds fixed, that NOTHING had been done to fix them.

As a result of our conversation that day more than a year and a half ago, I got involved.



I have three comments and four rhetorical questions.

Comment #1:
Poorly constructed lagoons aren’t the only construction problem that we’ve had here. We’ve had poorly constructed roof truss connections, poorly mixed and poorly constructed stucco, poorly constructed roofs that leak, a poorly constructed retaining wall that collapsed, and other construction problems.

Pulte controls this community. They control the Community Association and they control information that is disseminated to residents here through our community’s website and our neighborhood representatives.

For THREE YEARS Pulte, Pulte’s engineer, the community association, and neighborhood reps have consistently denied that there are CONSTRUCTION problems with these lagoons. In THREE YEARS Beaufort County and DHEC have been NO HELP in getting these problems fixed. The lagoons today have essentially the same MAJOR CONSTRUCTION PROBLEMS as the day that they were built.

Comment #2:
The suggestion that the problems with these ponds are MAINTENANCE problems is both RIDICULOUS and an insult to intelligent people. Ponds BUILT without embankments, freeboard, and defined spillways, and with outfalls that were BUILT too low, as the as-built information shows for 23 of the 32 ponds, are POORLY BUILT. Lack of embankments and freeboard and spillways, and outfalls that are BUILT too low have NOTHING to do with maintenance.



DHEC is responsible for approving the design and construction of stormwater management ponds.

Question #1: Why is it that YEARS after these Phase 5 ponds were constructed that residents have to inform YOU that the ponds weren’t built according to the approved construction plans? Shouldn’t YOU have known that yourselves?



DHEC is also responsible for monitoring stormwater management ponds after they’re built.

Question #2: Why is it that a year and a half AFTER the residents informed YOU of the MAJOR construction problems with these ponds that they still look essentially the same as they did a year and a half ago? Why haven’t YOU made Pulte fix them?



On June 12, 2008, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that four builders, including Pulte Homes, agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $4.3 million to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. SCHH, along with other communities, is named specifically in that document.

Coincidentally, ON THAT SAME DAY, June 12, 2008, DHEC issued a Notice of Violation of the Pollution Control Act against Pulte for violations brought to DHEC’s attention by SCHH residents, beginning on September 6, 2007. These violations are the subject of this meeting, AND ARE STILL UNRESOLVED.

Question #3: Is it possible that the feds contacted you BEFORE their June 12, 2008 press release to give you a “heads up”, so that YOU wouldn’t look bad for not having addressed FOR MORE THAN NINE MONTHS essentially the same violations that the feds were issuing their press release for? The INCREDIBLE timing of the fed’s press release and your Notice of Violation ON THE SAME DAY suggests that this is a distinct possibility.



My last questions to you are, quite simply, when will these ponds be fixed, and, will they be fixed COMPLETELY AND CORRECTLY?

The emphasis is on “COMPLETELY AND CORRECTLY”. Pulte has a history here, be it roof truss connections, or stucco, or collapsed retaining wall, or leaking roofs, or what have you, of NOT taking responsibility for their mistakes. When they’re finally FORCED to, they try to fix them as CHEAPLY as possible, which usually means INCORRECTLY AND INCOMPLETELY.



My final comment to you is this: don’t come around here after Pulte is gone and expect this community to pay for fixing MAJOR CONSTRUCTION problems with these ponds. You’ll have a fight on your hands. MAKE PULTE FIX THESE LAGOONS NOW--COMPLETELY AND CORRECTLY.



WE’LL BE WATCHING.

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1 comment:

Yaj said...

General Koenig:

I for one would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to hear their rebuttal or response to your statement!! Anything of the sort would be feeble and a mere croak.

There are NO coincidences... that "violation" issuance was CYA.

Your final point is the best. When the problem reaches critical mass you can rest assured the DHEC will be all over the neighborhoods asking for money. ASKING will be the wrong word - can you spell A-S-S-E-S-S-M-E-N-T boys and girls? They very well SHOULD expect a fight for that one!