Three parties involved in developing a 244-acre parcel in Taunton, Mass. have agreed to pay $137,500 to settle claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that they violated the federal Clean Water Act when they filled in nine acres of wetlands and failed to obtain proper permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA.
The parties had previously restored approximately 6.5 of the nine acres that had been filled, in response to an order issued by the EPA.
The Taunton Development Corp. and Condyne LLC, which are developing the property, and G. Lopes Construction, Inc., the contractor that prepared the site for construction, have agreed to jointly pay the penalty ordered this week by EPA’s New England office.
The violations occurred in late 2002 and early 2003 while land was being cleared and the site prepared for a 1 million-square-foot warehouse.
EPA charged the parties with discharging fill material to nearby waterways without a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permit and discharging pollutants without a storm water National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
"Filling wetlands can exacerbate flooding, and has already damaged wildlife habitat in the area of the development," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. "Restoring the land will help protect the natural resources of this area, and in addition to penalizing the three parties for their involvement in the unauthorized work, the fine will serve as a warning to other developers that the federal government takes wetland and storm water laws seriously."
An inspection by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in March 2003 revealed that the developers’ contractors had filled in about nine acres of wetlands on the site without obtaining the required Army Corps permit. In additional, the developers had failed to submit a Notice of Intent to be covered by EPA’s Construction General Permit, which authorizes storm water discharges from large and small construction activities.
In October 2003, EPA issued an order to the Taunton Development Corporation ordering it to come into compliance with federal Clean Water Act regulations. Based on last year’s order, the Taunton Development Corporation restored 6.5 of the nine acres that had been filled. Consistent with EPA’s order, the developers obtained a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to keep 2.5 acres of wetlands fill in place for roadways to access upland areas at the site. In addition, the parties prepared a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan and obtained coverage under EPA’s Construction General Permit.
In addition to providing valuable wildlife habitat, wetlands help to protect the health and safety of people and their communities. Wetlands filter clean water by trapping sediments and removing pollutants. Wetlands also provide buffers against floods as they store enormous amounts of flood water. In addition, wetlands store and slowly release water over time, helping to maintain water flow in streams, especially during dry periods.
As a result of the violations described above, wildlife habitat was destroyed, in particular, areas used for cover, nesting and feeding. In addition nearby residents experienced flooding as a result of the large scale cutting of forest for site development.