WASHINGTON— Home Depot has agreed to pay a $1.3 million penalty and implement a nationwide compliance program to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. The settlement resolves alleged violations that were discovered at more than 30 construction sites in 28 states where new Home Depot stores were being built.
The settlement, joined by the state of Colorado, requires that Home Depot implement a comprehensive, corporate-wide program to prevent storm water pollution at each new store it builds nationwide. Home Depot must develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections and promptly correct any problems at its sites. The company must properly train its construction managers, as well as contractors and their personnel on the federal storm water requirements. Home Depot must also implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and appoint a high-level company official to oversee compliance at all company construction sites.
“Storm water that runs off of large construction sites can carry sediment, debris, and other pollutants into surrounding waterways,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement is an important step in protecting the environment around Home Depot's future construction locations.”
“EPA requires construction sites to take simple, basic steps to prevent storm water pollution,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “We expect a large corporation like Home Depot to comply with the law and protect the waters in the communities it serves.”
The government complaint alleged a pattern of violations that EPA discovered through state and federal inspections of construction sites and by reviewing documentation submitted by the company. The alleged violations include not obtaining permits until after construction had begun or failing to obtain the required permits at all. At the sites that had permits, EPA found violations of permit requirements that prevent pollution, such as silt and debris, from getting into storm water runoff. Violations included the failure to maintain adequate plans to prevent storm water pollution, failure to properly place and install fences around project areas to prevent silt from getting into storm water runoff, and failure to install controls at storm drains to prevent soil and sediments from reaching nearby waterways.
The Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. Each site must have a storm water pollution prevention plan that sets guidelines and best management practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants. EPA also requires that all construction projects larger than one acre obtain a federal permit.
Improving compliance at construction sites is one of EPA’s national enforcement priorities. Construction projects have a high potential for environmental harm because they cover large areas of land and have had a history of noncompliance with environmental regulations. Without onsite controls, runoff from construction sites can flow directly to the nearest waterway and can cause beach closings, swimming and fishing restrictions, and habitat degradation. As storm water flows over construction sites, it can pick up pollutants, including sediment, used oil, pesticides, solvents and other debris. Polluted runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife and can affect drinking water quality.
Today’s settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions to address storm water violations from construction sites around the country. A similar consent decree was reached with Wal-Mart in 2005 under which Wal-Mart established a comprehensive storm water compliance plan and paid a fine of over $3 million.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Home Depot is required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court’s approval of the settlement.
A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.