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Construction Sites Must Properly Manage Storm Water Runoff

Release Date: 5/9/2001
Contact Information: Roy Seneca, (215) 814-5567

Roy Seneca, (215) 814-5567

PHILADELPHIA - Changing the landscape with new and useful buildings, homes and industrial developments is the crux of the construction industry. But in the forefront of all construction projects should be a constant concern for the environment.

The mid-Atlantic region of the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to spread this message to those in the construction industry by increasing awareness of permit requirements and pollution prevention measures to control storm water runoff.

“With development on the rise, it’s imperative that we protect our waterways from unnecessary runoff from construction sites so that our streams and lakes can continue to support aquatic life and be available for recreation,” said Thomas Voltaggio, EPA acting regional administrator.

Under the Clean Water Act, developers/contractors at construction sites of five acres or more must obtain a permit before discharging storm water runoff into surface waters. The permit requires a storm water pollution prevention plan and may contain discharge limits and monitoring requirements.

Neeraj Sharma, an EPA enforcement officer, said the agency is stepping up its efforts to see that the law is followed throughout the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

“We have spent the last two years reaching out to the regulated community to make them aware of what is required to comply with the law,” said Sharma. “Despite these efforts, we are still finding widespread non-compliance.”

Recently, the EPA’s mid-Atlantic region took enforcement action in a construction case by ordering Airston Group developers of Centerville, Va. to draft a dredging plan and correct severe erosion and storm water pollution problems at a housing construction site in Fairfax County, Va.

The order alleges that the developers never applied for the proper permits to control runoff from construction activity, which included the drainage of a farm pond on the site. Uncontrolled runoff from construction and work on the pond increased the amount and velocity of water flowing through a tributary on the site. This resulted in the discharge of pollutants and severe bank erosion, allowing mud and silt to flow downstream into small lake, where it accumulated as a small island.

Sharma and other EPA inspectors are working with state environmental agencies to inspect construction sites to ensure developers and contractors comply with storm water requirements. If a site is found in non-compliance, EPA or the appropriate state or local agency may take enforcement action on that could include an appropriate penalty.

Polluted runoff from residential, commercial, and industrial areas can harm receiving streams and other water bodies. Such runoff has been found to be responsible for 13 percent of the impaired rivers throughout the U.S., which translates to about 32,000 river miles. It has also been responsible for 21 percent of our impaired lakes, and 45 percent of our impaired estuaries. In the mid-Atlantic region, storm water is responsible for 5,265 miles of impaired streams. In 1990, EPA developed the Storm Water Program to regulate this runoff.

Those interested in obtaining permit coverage should contact their local state environmental agency. For more information about EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Storm Water Program, including state permit contacts for construction activities, go to EPA’s website at:

Beginning May 15, 2001, the Water Protection Division in EPA’s mid-Atlantic office will have sample Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) and information on environmental impacts from storm water runoff available via its web site under “Programs and Initiatives”at