Storm Water Violations Cost Hawaii Transportation Department $52 Million
The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) has reached a $52 million settlement with federal and state agencies to address Clean Water Act storm water violations at highways and airports in Hawaii.
The U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Hawaii Department of Health settled with the Transportation Department today in an agreement that will see $1 million in penalties divided between the state and the United States.
The settlement requires HDOT to undertake actions, estimated to cost $50 million over the next five years, to improve management of storm water runoff from its highways and airports.
In addition, HDOT will spend another $1 million to establish a management system to comprehensively assess HDOT’s many environmental obligations at the highways, airports and harbors under its jurisdiction. Finally, HDOT will also spend $60,000 to provide statewide training to construction contractors on storm water controls.
“Storm water discharges pollute Hawaii’s streams, coastal waters, and coral reefs,” said Wayne Nastri, administrator of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “By agreeing to make long-lasting changes to its operations under this settlement, HDOT will reduce its impacts upon the environment at roads, airports and harbors. We believe these actions will result in increased protection of coral reefs and improved water quality for the people of Hawaii.”
HDOT has agreed to:
* Update its existing program for management of its storm sewer system for highways on the island of Oahu. This includes improving removal of sediment and debris from roadsides and storm drain catch basins, reducing roadside erosion, and controlling other sources of pollution into its storm drainage system.
* Institute new procedures for controlling storm water at its highway construction projects. These include better processes for the planning and design of proposed projects and increasing inspections of contractors constructing projects on HDOT’s behalf.
* Improve its management of storm water at airports. This consists of an enhanced program of inspections and enforcement against non-complying airport tenants to ensure that storm water is not polluting Hawaii’s waters.
“This joint enforcement action represents tremendous team work between federal and state partners that will bring long-term, significant environmental improvements to Hawaii’s waters,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Violations of the Clean Water Act’s storm water control requirements led the EPA to issue several orders against HDOT in 1999, 2000 and 2002. Inspectors from EPA and the Hawaii Department of Health found that HDOT was significantly behind other state and local governments in meeting national and state storm water requirements.
HDOT’s compliance with this settlement will resolve the outstanding violations covered by these orders.
“Storm water runoff is a major threat to our water systems and wildlife,” Nakayama said. “This settlement recognizes the importance of compliance with environmental obligations by the state Department of Transportation and their contractors.”
Storm water runoff from unpaved land areas, paved streets, and maintenance baseyards contains contaminants such as sediments, chemicals, and oils that enter waterways and coastal zones, adversely impacting the environment.
“We take very seriously the laws that protect our environment from harmful pollutants,” said Kelly Johnson, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “As a result of today’s joint settlement, HDOT will make the necessary improvements to storm drainage systems, strengthening compliance with environmental laws and ensuring that valuable natural resources will be protected in the future.”
The agreement takes effect when signed by the District Court judge following the conclusion of a 30-day public comment period.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.