By Mark S. Kuhar
Lafarge North America Inc. and four of its U.S. subsidiaries have agreed to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations. The violations include unpermitted discharges of stormwater at 21 stone, gravel, sand, asphalt and ready-mix concrete facilities in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland and New York, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“EPA is committed to protecting America’s waters from polluted stormwater runoff,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement will improve stormwater management at facilities across the nation, preventing harmful pollutants from being swept into local waterways.”
Lafarge will implement a nationwide evaluation and compliance program at 189 of its similar facilities in the United States to ensure they meet Clean Water Act requirements. Lafarge will also pay a penalty of $740,000 and implement two supplemental environmental projects, in which the company will complete conservation easements to protect approximately 166 acres in Maryland and Colorado. The value of the land has been appraised at approximately $2.95 million.
Lafarge will also implement one state environmentally beneficial project valued at $10,000 to support environmental training for state inspectors. The comprehensive evaluation will include a compliance review of each facility’s permit, an inventory of all discharges to U.S. waters, and identification of all best management practices in place. In addition, Lafarge must identify an environmental vice president, responsible for coordinating oversight of compliance with stormwater requirements, at least two environmental directors, to oversee stormwater compliance at each operation, and an onsite operations manager at each facility.
The U.S. estimates that Lafarge will spend approximately $8 million over five years to develop and maintain this compliance program. The company will also develop and implement an extensive management, training, inspections and reporting system to increase oversight of its operations and compliance with stormwater requirements at all facilities that it owns or operates.
The complaint, filed in federal court with the settlement, alleges a pattern of violations since 2006 that were discovered after several federal inspections at the company’s facilities. The alleged violations included unpermitted discharges, violations of effluent limitations, inadequate management practices, inadequate or missing records and practices regarding stormwater compliance and monitoring, inadequate discharge monitoring and reporting, inadequate stormwater pollution prevention plans, and inadequate stormwater training.
The Clean Water Act requires that industrial facilities, such as ready-mix concrete plants, sand and gravel facilities and asphalt batching plants, have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with stormwater into nearby waterways. Each site must have a stormwater pollution prevention plan that sets guidelines and best management practices that the company will follow to prevent runoff from being contaminated by pollutants. Since being notified of the violations by EPA, the company has made significant improvements to its stormwater management systems.
“Owners and operators of industrial facilities must take the necessary measures to comply with stormwater regulations under the Clean Water Act, which protects America’s rivers, lakes, and sources of drinking water from harmful contamination,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The system-wide management controls and training that this settlement requires from Lafarge and its subsidiaries will result in better management practices and a robust compliance program at hundreds of facilities throughout the nation that will prevent harmful stormwater runoff.”
The settlement is the latest in a series of federal enforcement actions to address stormwater violations from industrial facilities and construction sites around the country. The states of Maryland and Colorado are co-plaintiffs and have joined the proposed settlement. Lafarge is required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court’s approval of the settlement.