On June 27, 2022, EPA Region 2 issued an administrative compliance order to The Cliff Corp. and Grupo Caribe, LLC, to prevent stormwater and runoff discharge from their hotel and country club construction project in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico from flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.
After investigating the site, the EPA found erosion and sediment control and stabilization measures inadequate. The Agency has concluded that the proponents began work at the site and discharged pollutants into the Atlantic Ocean without the required authorization from the CWA (Clean Water Act) permit.
The Agency also recently ordered Kanaan Corp. to comply with critical CWA permitting and pollution abatement measures to address stormwater discharge from a 19-acre site in Aguadilla where Kanaan is building a shopping mall.
This investigation revealed that Kanaan did not have the appropriate CWA permits for stormwater discharges from a site associated with the construction of the proposed mall. Kanaan had discharged polluted stormwater from the site into a sewer system owned and operated by Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, which is connected to a creek that empties into the Culebrinas River and ultimately the ocean. Atlantic.
This is the latest in a series of enforcement actions on the island to end stormwater violations at construction sites.
Regulated construction activities
When it rains, when stormwater flows over the loose soil of a construction site, it can pick up pollutants such as sediment, debris, and chemicals and transport the loose, polluted soil to storm drains. near or directly in rivers, lakes or coastal waters. . EPA works with construction site operators to ensure they have the appropriate stormwater controls in place so construction can proceed in a manner that protects clean water and the surrounding environment. .
Stormwater pollution control at construction sites is part of CWA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. Individual states often have authority for one or more of the NPDES program components, but the EPA retains NPDES authority for construction activities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia. , as well as in various territories, including Puerto Rico. See the EPA’s NPDES State Program Authority website for more information on each state’s NPDES information.
A CWA NPDES permit is required for stormwater discharges from any construction activity that disrupts:
- 1 acre or more of land
- Less than 1 acre of land but part of a joint development or sale plan that will eventually disturb 1 acre of land or more
Construction activities include land disturbance activities such as land clearing, grading and excavation and other construction-related activities that could generate pollutants.
C&D Federal Rule
All NPDES permits for construction stormwater must meet the minimum Federal Effluent Limitation Guidelines for the Construction and Development Point Source Category (Rule C&D).
The C&D rule sets out minimum NPDES effluent limits, including:
- Design, install and maintain effective erosion and sediment controls and pollution prevention measures to minimize the release of pollutants.
- Stabilize disturbed areas immediately when construction has ceased and will not resume for more than 14 days.
- Prohibit dewatering discharges unless managed by appropriate controls.
- Prohibit the rejection of:
- Wastewater from washing concrete (unless managed by appropriate control) or washing/cleaning stucco, paint, mold oils and other waste water materials;
- Fuels, oils or other pollutants used for vehicles; and
- Soaps or solvents for washing vehicles and equipment.
General Building Permit (CGP) 2022
In jurisdictions where the EPA is the authorizing authority for NPDES, authorized stormwater discharges from construction activities are subject to CGP 2022. In many cases, states with NPDES program authority adopt the CGP.
Key CGP 2022 requirements include:
- Develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and keep it current.
- Complete and submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the EPA through the NPDES Electronic Reporting Tool (NeT).
- Implement erosion and sediment control measures and pollution prevention practices throughout the construction project.
- Perform the inspections required to verify compliance with the permit. Inspections can only be performed by a qualified person who (1) has taken the EPA Building Inspection course and passed the exam or (2) holds a current building inspection certification or license a program that covers the same basic material as the EPA inspection course.
- Perform routine maintenance and take corrective action to resolve control or discharge issues.
- Complete documentation of all site inspections, dewatering inspections and corrective actions.
- Comply with turbidity monitoring requirements for dewatering discharges to sensitive waters (if applicable).
- Comply with all state, tribe, or territory specific requirements of Part 9 of the permit.
Consequences of law enforcement by construction companies in Puerto Rico
The EPA asked Cliff Corp. and Grupo Caribe, LLC to submit an action plan within 30 days of receipt of order and take steps to achieve compliance and properly control site releases. Companies are also required to provide monthly reports to the EPA outlining the status and progress of actions taken to comply with the provisions of the order.
The Agency directed Kanaan to develop a plan to fully implement erosion and sediment controls for the Aguadilla site and to apply for a new permit under the CWA’s NPDES. The order also requires the company to stabilize certain areas of the site and control the spread of dust.