Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), owners and general contractors at construction sites of one acre and larger or part of a larger common plan must apply for coverage under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Construction General Permit (Permit), which requires the installation of pollution prevention practices to minimize the discharge of sediment and other pollutants in stormwater runoff.
Under the Permit, developers and construction companies must design, install and maintain stormwater controls to prevent construction area runoff from polluting nearby streams and lakes. Without these controls, pollutants typically associated with construction sites, such as sediment, oil and grease, and concrete washout can enter nearby waterways.
On July 9, 2013, inspectors from the EPA, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the City of Cumming determined that unauthorized discharges of stormwater from the Cannon Place construction sites flowed into an unnamed tributary that feeds Lake Lanier. The inspectors noted additional deficiencies in Cannon Place’s required sampling and recordkeeping following storm events.
On October 22, 2013, Cannon Place entered into an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) with EPA and agreed to implement best management practices for stormwater runoff management to come into compliance with the CWA and the requirements of its Permit. The EPA has determined that Cannon Place has satisfied all the requirements of the AOC. Under a subsequent Consent Agreement and Final Order, Cannon Place paid a civil penalty of $110,253 to resolve its liability for the alleged CWA violations.
Congress enacted the CWA in 1972 to protect the nation’s rivers, lakes and stream, as well as some of the more fragile and vital wetland habitats. Polluted stormwater runoff is a leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies which do not meet water quality standards. Over land or via storm sewer systems, polluted runoff is discharged, often untreated, directly into local water bodies.
When left uncontrolled, water pollution can deplete needed oxygen and/or otherwise result in the destruction of aquatic habitats, as well as the fish and wildlife that depend on them. Water pollution can also contaminate food, drinking water supplies and recreational waterways, and thereby pose a threat to public health.