Enforcement

Ryland Group Clean Water Act Settlement

(Washington, DC - October 7, 2011) The Ryland Group Inc., one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, will pay a civil penalty of $625,000 to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at its construction sites, including sites located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. Ryland will also invest in compliance programs to improve employee training and increase management oversight at all current and future construction sites. The company is required to inspect its current and future construction sites routinely to minimize stormwater runoff from sites.

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Overview of Company and Location and Sites

The Ryland Group is a Maryland corporation with its principal executive offices in Westlake Village, California.  It designs, constructs, markets and sells a variety of residential properties.  It is among the top ten homebuilding operations in the country based on revenues and number of new homes sold.  

This settlement covers 278 Ryland Group sites in 14 states including 22 sites located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  The number of sites in each of the 14 states are:

California
4 sites
Colorado
4 sites
Florida
57 sites
Georgia
14 sites
Illinois
10 sites
Indiana
20 sites
Kentucky
4 sites
Maryland
12 sites
Minnesota
12 sites
North Carolina
34 sites
Nevada
7 sites
South Carolina
37 sites
Texas
53 sites
Virginia
10 sites

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Violations

  • Discharge of pollutants in storm water without a permit pursuant to Section 301 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311.
  • Failure to provide information in the form of permit applications to the EPA Administrator pursuant to CWA Section 308, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1318.
  • Failure to comply with the conditions of permits issued pursuant to CWA Section 402, U.S.C. § 1342, resulting in the discharge of pollutants in stormwater from construction sites, which is a violation of CWA Section 301.  Permit violations include:
    • Failure to develop a complete Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP),
    • Failure to conduct adequate inspections,
    • Failure to install or implement adequate stormwater controls or practices, and
    • Failure to keep a copy of the SWPPP onsite.

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Injunctive Relief

The consent decree requires Ryland to implement a compliance program that will ensure adequate management and oversight of construction sites and compliance with National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), stormwater permits. The compliance program includes:

  • Designation of a national stormwater compliance manager who will oversee the compliance program company wide
  • Designation of trained and qualified site-level and division-level stormwater compliance managers for each site who will be responsible for compliance at that site
  • Specific requirements for site-specific Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans
  • A requirement to conduct and document a pre-construction inspection and review at every site prior to commencing construction activity
  • Requirements for routine site inspections including the use of standardized forms approved by EPA which require Ryland to document completion of all responsive actions taken to achieve or maintain compliance at a site
  • A requirement that the division-level stormwater compliance manager conduct an oversight compliance inspection and review at every site within his/her division once every calendar quarter
  • Implementation of a stormwater training program for Ryland employees that includes annual refresher training for stormwater compliance managers
  • Implementation of a stormwater orientation program for contractors
  • A requirement to submit national compliance summary reports to EPA; the national compliance summary reports are based on each division’s summary of its quarterly oversight inspections and reviews

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Pollutant Reductions

As a result of this settlement, EPA estimates the sediment discharged in stormwater runoff will be reduced annually by 261 million pounds from Ryland sites nationwide, with a reduction of approximately 11.6 million pounds per year within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

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Health and Environmental Effects

Discharges of stormwater runoff, including runoff from construction sites, can have a significant impact on water quality.  Construction activities alter natural landscapes.  During construction, earth is compacted, excavated and displaced, and vegetation is removed.  These activities increase runoff and erosion, thus increasing sediment transported to receiving waters.  In addition to sediment, as stormwater flows over a construction site, it can pick up other pollutants such as debris, pesticides, petroleum products, chemicals, solvents, asphalts and acids that may also contribute to water quality problems. 
Sediment-laden runoff can result in increased turbidity and decreased oxygen in receiving waters, which in turn results in loss of in-stream habitat for fish and other aquatic species. 

Sediment can kill fish directly, destroy spawning beds, suffocate fish eggs and bottom dwelling organisms, and block sunlight resulting in reduced growth of beneficial aquatic grasses.  In addition, sediment can impact the treatment of drinking water resulting in higher treatment costs, and can result in the loss of drinking water reservoir storage capacity and decrease the navigational capacity of waterways.

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Civil Penalty

As part of the settlement, Ryland has agreed to pay a total civil penalty of $625,000 to the United States and the states of Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada and Virginia.  The penalty is allocated as follows:

United States
$ 490,180
Colorado
$ 4,496
Florida
$ 64,074
Indiana
$ 22,482
Maryland
$ 13,489
Nevada
$ 7,869
Virginia
$ 11,241

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State Partners

The states participating with the United States in this settlement are Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, and Virginia.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact:

Susan D. Bruce
Water Enforcement Division
Office of Civil Enforcement, US EPA
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
202-564-8329
Susan Bruce (bruce.susan@epa.gov)

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