As reported earlier this year, the construction industry was under advisement that aggressive enforcement tactics of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would continue in 2013, but what about other regulatory bodies? For instance, how are construction stakeholders faring this year with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?
Recent EPA notifications of enforcement activities point toward more cooperative efforts in regulating construction site stormwater runoff, dredge and fill activities in U.S. waters and wetlands, oil and chemical spills, air emissions, asbestos handling, and solid/hazardous waste storage and disposal. Still, some notable violations persist.
In June, a construction company under contract with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation was cited with $55,000 in penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at a road construction project in Bellingham. The company has agreed to pay the fine for failing to install and maintain “best management practices” sufficient to minimize discharge of muddy storm water and residual pollutants to the Peters River and Arnolds Brook.
A little farther south, two companies consented in March to pay civil penalties of $130,000 and $56,000, respectively, in separate compliance settlements with the EPA resolving CWA violations at construction sites in Maryland and Virginia. Both companies allegedly failed to take precautions as their permits required to prevent discharging sediment to nearby surface waters, including Oak Creek, Accotink Creek, and Piscataway Creek. The latter two waterways, now identified as impaired for aquatic life, are tributaries of the Potomac River, in addition to Chesapeake Bay.
In the Midwest, a Kansas-based enterprise agreed in June to pay a $27,286 penalty for failure to use proper lead-safe work practices during the renovation of a multifamily property built in Kansas City—a violation of EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) rule. Moreover, the property owners were not notified in advance about any lead-based paint risks prior to the construction company or its subcontractors performing renovation work at the site.
Aside from this recent settlement, 17 other enforcement actions for serious RRP violations are on record earlier this year in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The enforcement activity included 14 administrative settlements assessing civil penalties as much as $23,000 and requiring RRP certification compliance. Additionally, the EPA filed three administrative complaints seeking civil penalties ranging upward toward the statutory maximum of $37,500 per violation.
The RRP rule requires general contractors and subcontractors that work on pre-1978 dwellings and child-occupied facilities to be trained and certified to use lead-safe work practices. This ensures that common renovation and repair activities such as sanding, cutting, and replacing windows minimize the creation and dispersion of dangerous lead dust. EPA finalized the RRP regulation in 2008, with it taking effect in April 2010.
With more than 90% of construction companies having fewer than 20 employees, today’s construction interests need to develop a regular business practice of staying ahead in the regulatory game, which means expanding information sources and utilization. To that end, Martindale-Hubbell, a legal marketing affiliate of LexisNexis based in New Providence, N.J., notes that May 31 was the deadline for submitting comments regarding proposed changes to EPA’s 2009 Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Construction and Development (C&D rule) Point Source Category.
Authorized under CWA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, the C&D rule’s proposed revisions include: a definition of “infeasible” requirements; language changes regarding control of stormwater discharges, reduced pollutant discharges, and site erosion stabilization; alteration of regulations covering soil compaction; reorganization of the 14-day stabilization requirement; addition of a provision addressing exposure of trash and other potential pollutants to precipitation and stormwater; and removal of the numeric turbidity discharge standard and related monitoring requirements.
“Controlling stormwater at construction sites can be a very costly component for any development project,” Martindale-Hubbell emphasizes. “It is important that those involved in construction activities understand how proposed regulations may affect their operations and provide EPA with feedback on any areas of concern.”
The Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Centeris also a valuable information source for keeping abreast of EPA construction regulatory activity. Recently, the organization announced that EPA intends to further strengthen its national stormwater program through a series of proposed performance standards aimed at newly developed and redeveloped sites, in addition to making other regulatory improvements regarding municipal stormwater sewer system protections and enhanced operations.
Of course, hands-on construction information resources are always the most useful tools. EPA’s Office of Compliance publishes and regularly updates Managing Your Environmental Responsibilities: A Planning Guide for Construction and Development. Known simply as the MYER Guide, this 255-page document reflects significant input from stakeholders and is a product of joint cooperation among the construction industry, states, other federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and EPA sources.
Another publication of interest, EPA’s 2009 report Potential for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Construction Sector, documents the industry’s emissions and examines ways to reduce them. A related document, Cleaner Diesels: Low-Cost Ways to Reduce Emissions from Construction Equipment, discusses a research project designed to study and identify low-cost ways to reduce emissions from nonroad construction equipment.
For construction organizations seeking a general overview of environmental stewardship, the 2007 EPA report Measuring Construction Industry Environmental Performance recommends ways to chart the industry’s progress in green construction, debris management, diesel air emissions, stormwater permit coverage, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. A closely aligned publication, Environmental Management Systems: Systematically Improving Your Performance, highlights the benefits of EMS implementation at construction facilities and was developed with assistance from the Associated General Contractors of America. The content provides expert guidance on maintaining compliance with environmental requirements, satisfying owner demands for green construction, and achieving environmental certifications. [ return to top ]