WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and contractor Scarsella Brothers, Inc. have agreed to pay $895,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act during the construction of the Bellgrove-Mica realignment of Highway 95 near Lake Coeur d'Alene in Northern Idaho, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
Today’s settlement concludes a lawsuit which began in 2004, alleging that ITD and Scarsella Brothers failed to provide adequate storm water controls for a large highway project that later deposited many tons of sediment in Mica Creek, which flows into Mica Bay in Lake Coeur d'Alene.
Under the terms of the consent decrees, lodged today in the federal district court in Boise, Idaho, ITD will pay a penalty of $495,000 and Scarsella Brothers will pay a $400,000 civil penalty. As part of the settlement, ITD and Scarsella Brothers also have agreed to send their engineers and environmental inspectors to a certified storm water management training, and ITD has agreed to implement new construction management practices to help avoid future violations of the storm water regulations.
“The Idaho Transportation Department and Scarsella Brothers Construction Company failed to follow known best management practices and their actions had a significant impact on the receiving waters and on the Mica Bay portion of Lake Coeur d’Alene,” said Assistant Attorney General Sue Ellen Wooldridge of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are committed to enforcing environmental laws and to seeing that violators undertake the actions necessary to comply with storm water regulations in the future.”
“Runoff from construction sites is a major contributor to water quality impairment in the U.S. The EPA is aggressively enforcing federal regulations to help control this problem,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement will result in improved water quality and is a signal of the Agency's commitment to enforcement of our nation's environmental laws and regulations.”
In a related action brought in state court, Scarsella will pay half a million dollars to the Mica Bay Homeowners Association to settle claims for property damage allegedly caused by sediment discharges from the site. The Association intends to use the money for environmental improvement projects in the Mica Bay watershed.
The penalty in these two cases is the largest EPA Region 10 has imposed thus far as part of its regional storm water compliance initiative. Although the initiative began in 2001 with several years of intensive outreach, including workshops, mailers, and an expanded website, it was not until 2005, after EPA stepped up its inspection and enforcement efforts, that the region saw a dramatic increase in compliance rates.
Between June 2004 and April 2005, the number of construction site operators in Idaho signed up for the Construction General Permit rose 112 percent. EPA inspectors have also noted that construction site operators are increasingly in compliance with the permit’s requirements to design, install, and maintain storm water controls to prevent common construction site pollutants such as sediment, petroleum products, and concrete washout from discharging into nearby waterways. Since the initiative began, EPA has brought cases against more than 100 operators.
The proposed consent decree lodged today is open for a 30-day public comment period. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html.