EPA refines construction site runoff regulations

EPA refines construction site runoff regulations

Building and remodeling sites can contribute to runoff pollution if erosion controls aren't in place. Stormwater picks up excessive amounts of sediment and debris, along with oil and fuel leaked by construction vehicles.

The EPA regulates such activities under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, which requires construction site operators engaged in clearing, grading, and excavating activities that disturb one acre or more - including smaller sites in a larger common plan of development (such as a subdivision) - to get an NPDES permit for their stormwater discharges. However, the EPA withdrew regulation enacted in 2010 that limited the amount of construction debris allowed to enter storm drains.

The move is the result of a lawsuit filed by the National Association of Home Builders and petitions filed by the NAHB and the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, claiming it set a nearly impossible standard. "After a big rainstorm, it's typical to see some stormwater drain from a construction site," says NAHB Chairman Bob Jones. "In these new regulations, the EPA set a numeric limit on the amount of sediment that can cloud the water that both NAHB and SBA claimed was arbitrary and based on flawed analyses."

The EPA conceded it improperly interpreted the data and is working to refine the regulations by summer. In the meantime, the EPA's "best management practices" are still in effect for construction sites. "NAHB supports responsible development," Jones says.

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