Builder to pay $1 million for pollution violations

In a case federal officials said should help clean up the Cheapeake Bay, national home builder Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. has agreed to pay $1 million to settle allegations that it violated federal water pollution regulations at residential projects in 18 states, including Maryland, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Hovnanian, based in Red Bank, N.J., agreed to beef up its efforts to prevent storm-water pollution at its building sites and to promptly report any problems to authorities, the EPA said.

Federal regulators accused the builder of violations at 591 sites, including 79 in Maryland. Hovnanian failed to get required permits until after construction had begun, or not at all in some cases, the EPA said. And in some with the required paperwork, agency inspectors found silt and debris washing off building sites.

Hovnanian has 161 building sites in the six-state bay watershed, and the EPA estimated the settlement could reduce the flow of sediment into the Chesapeake by nearly 82 million pounds a year.

David McGuigan, the EPA's chief of permits and enforcement for the Mid-Atlantic region, said that "it's not that unusual, regrettably," for home builders to fail to get federal storm-water permits, which are required in addition to state and local paperwork. The EPA has settled similar complaints against four other major builders, he said.

Hovnanian acknowleged failing to get permits or keep needed records on its runoff controls at nine of its Maryland building sites, said Chuck Schnadel, an EPA enforcement officer. The company supplied no information on most of the rest, he added, so regulators don't know whether those sites were in compliance with the law.

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