As new Home Depot home improvement warehouses pop up across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency is concerned that our waterways may be deteriorating as a result. Last month, Home Depot agreed to pay 1.3 million dollars to settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. The violations were issued for prohibited construction site run-off at 34 new Home Depot stores. The U.S. Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Colorado agreed to the settlement, which will now need to be approved by the court.
Although construction site runoff is a temporary contamination source, the impact continues long after the building has ceased. During the construction process storm-water that flows off-site carries a great deal of sediment and debris into nearby waterways. Additionally, construction runoff can discharge used oil, pesticides and solvents. Such contamination can result in swimming and fishing restrictions, decreased drinking water quality, and higher treatment costs. As a result, the Clean Water Act requires contractors to implement controls in order to preclude polluted run-off from entering waterways. According to the EPA, the Home Depot neglected to implement such controls.
Specifically, the government complaint alleged a pattern of construction runoff violations. In some instances Home Depot failed to obtain the necessary permits until after building had begun or neglected to obtain the permits at all. Additionally, even where the necessary permits were secured, Home Depot simply did not follow them. In particular, the company was cited for failure to prepare a required plan to prevent construction runoff, lack of adequate fencing around the site, and failure to install pollution prevention mechanisms at storm drains.
In addition to the $1.3 million fine, the agreement requires Home Depot to establish a comprehensive storm-water pollution prevention plan at each new construction site nationwide. Under the corporate-wide plan Home Depot will be required to train construction managers on federal storm water rules as well as implement a reporting system to improve management of future construction runoff issues. Additionally, the new plan will requires Home Depot to appoint a company official to supervise storm water runoff compliance at all new construction sites. The Home Depot settlement is the most recent in a string of enforcement actions by the EPA to manage construction site pollution. In 2005, a consent decree was entered into with Wal-Mart for similar violations. The Wal-Mart agreement required the company to implement a storm water pollution prevention plan as well as pay a $3 million fine.
Source: Environmental News Service
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