Red Bank-based homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises has agreed to pay $1 million for violations of federal Clean Water Act rules at 591 construction sites across the country, according to a federal Justice Department announcement.
The payment settles civil accusations that the company failed to obtain necessary permits before beginning construction or not getting them at all in 18 states and in Washington, D.C.
A federal lawsuit, filed simultaneously with the settlement agreement in federal court in Philadelphia, alleges a pattern of violations that was discovered by reviewing documentation submitted by the company, and through federal and state site inspections, the DOJ said in a press release.
The settlement requires Hovnanian to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each construction site, conduct additional site inspections and promptly correct any problems detected. The company must properly train construction managers and contractors, and will be required to designate trained staff for each site.
A portion of the settlement helps EPA efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary.
From the DOJ press release:
As part of the settlement, Hovnanian will also implement a company-wide stormwater compliance program designed to improve compliance with storm water run-off requirements at existing and future construction sites around the country.
“This settlement will bring positive change to construction sites in 18 states and the District of Columbia, said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Departments Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Harmful storm water run-off from construction sites is something that is easily prevented. The construction industry needs to implement required controls or face the possibility of a federal lawsuit.”
“If what we have at the end of the day is more development and a damaged environment, that’s not progress,” said Michael L. Levy, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Following the rules should not be a luxury item on a homebuilders list. When the safeguards are respected, it protects not only the environment, but the community’s quality of life.”
The District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia participated in the case and will share in the $1 million, but New Jersey, which has 54 of the sites, did not participate in the settlement, according to New Jersey Newsroom.