Environment

EPA fines Boise Foothills developer for violating Clean Water Act

EPA head Scott Pruitt gives Idaho authority to oversee water pollution permits

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt meets with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter June 5, 2018, and signs a an agreement allowing Idaho to issue and enforce pollution discharge permits for rivers and lakes.
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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt meets with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter June 5, 2018, and signs a an agreement allowing Idaho to issue and enforce pollution discharge permits for rivers and lakes.

A Boise developer agreed to pay $68,000 in fines after the government said he violated a federal water-pollution law numerous times during construction at a Foothills subdivision.

Connell Development Co. “committed numerous violations of a federal Clean Water Act permit for stormwater management at Connell’s Eyrie Canyon project” north of Hill Road near 36th Street, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release.

Stormwater runoff from Eyrie Canyon ran into nearby Sand Creek, the EPA said. Because Sand Creek runs into the Boise River, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, which prohibits discharging pollutants into U.S. waters.

Court documents allege 24 violations dating back to 2015, including “failure to adhere to installation requirements of stormwater controls,” “failure to provide effective means of eliminating the discharge of water from the washout and cleanout of concrete” and “failure to install sediment controls along perimeter areas of the site that will receive pollutant discharges.”

As part of the settlement, Connell Development neither admitted nor denied the allegations. But in a phone interview, Colin Connell, owner of the company, denied introducing pollutants to the creek.

“[The EPA] wanted to make an example of me,” Connell told the Statesman. “They never did prove I put anything in Sand Creek.”

Connell argued that any pollutants in Sand Creek would be filtered before reaching the Boise River. EPA spokesman Bill Dunbar said that’s not the point.

“It broke a law. There were clear violations of stormwater rules. Why else would someone pay a fine?” Dunbar said in a phone interview. “Whether the pollution actually reached the Boise River is irrelevant. The proper equipment was not in place.”

Dunbar said the EPA doesn’t bring many cases like Connell’s. Often, violators receive a notification. It was the magnitude of the Boise case that led the EPA to pursue legal action.

“It was the number of violations, the chronic nature of them, the county and city all had trouble getting compliance [from Connell],” Dunbar said.

After an inspection from the Ada County Highway District on Dec. 7, 2015, the city of Boise issued multiple notices of violation and stop-work orders, asking Connell Development to perform major cleanup and establish best practices for stormwater removal. EPA representatives then inspected Eyrie Canyon in January 2016 and September 2017. They determined that Connell still had not complied with the law.

As part of the settlement, Connell agreed to adhere to best practices and to more frequent inspections at Eyrie Canyon. The subdivision was in phases 8 and 9 at the time of the violations. Connell recently proposed expanding the subdivision and beginning a new development nearby.

“When the EPA gets after you, you’re dead in the water,” Connell said. “But I’ll live to fight another day.”

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