A recent criminal prosecution of a Washington developer provides a stark reminder of the importance of stormwater permit compliance. Brian Stowe was sentenced on October 10th to six months in jail and fined $300,000 for violating the Construction Stormwater General Permit. Stowe obtained coverage for his company under the General Permit but failed to install required improvements or implement practices designed to minimize the migration of pollutants to nearby waters. He also admitted to falsifying site inspection and discharge monitoring reports intended to allow state regulators to assess compliance. The compliance failures led to significant discharges of pollutants to nearby streams and wetlands and contributed to two landslides that forced closures of a nearby highway. Enforcement agency efforts to achieve compliance through administrative compliance orders were unsuccessful. Stowe will also make a payment of $100,000 to an environmental group to fund restoration projects targeting impacted resources. Stowe’s company was sentenced to a $350,000 criminal fine last month.
While this is an instance of willful noncompliance, even diligent stormwater permit holders can sometimes find it difficult to meet all the requirements of the general permits. Permit holders often first realize they are out of compliance when they receive a 60-day notice letter from an environmental group. Then they are faced with the cost of achieving compliance, the cost of the environmental group’s attorney fees, and the cost of funding a supplemental environmental project (in lieu of a civil penalty). It is obviously far better to achieve compliance in the first place, and the Stowe case is a good reminder to review your permit requirements. If you have questions about permit compliance, have received a 60-day notice letter, or have other permit issues, Miller Nash environmental attorneys are available to help.