Enforcement

Wright Brothers Construction Company and Georgia Department of Transportation Settlement

(Washington, DC - December 12, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wright Brothers Construction Co. and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) have agreed to pay a $1.5 million dollar penalty and spend more than $1.3 million to offset environmental damages to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The civil penalty is one of the largest ever under the CWA provisions prohibiting the unauthorized discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States.

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Overview of Company and Facility Locations

The proposed Consent Decree in this matter resolves a Clean Water Act (CWA) civil judicial action for violations stemming from the unlawful disposal of excess rock and soil generated from the expansion of U.S. Route 441 and U.S. Route 76 in Rabun County, Ga. 

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) conducted the highway expansion projects and hired Wright Brothers Construction Company (Wright Brothers) to dispose of excess material generated from the projects. The contracts between GDOT and Wright Brothers specifically required Wright Brothers to obtain environmental clearance from GDOT prior to using any site as a fill site. GDOT approved sites that included streams considered to be waters of the United States.

Wright Brothers is headquartered in Charleston, Tenn. and performs site preparation, grading, excavating, highway and heavy construction services.

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Violations

The Defendants violated Sections 301 and 404 of the CWA by discharging dredged and/or fill material into waters of the United States without, or in violation of, a permit issued under Section 404 of the CWA by the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Between 2004 and 2007, the Defendants buried and/or piped seven primary trout streams while disposing of excess material generated from the U.S. Route 441 and U.S. Route 76 expansion projects.  These actions impacted approximately 2,800 linear feet of stream.

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Injunctive Relief

To offset the impacts to waters of the United States that cannot be restored, the Defendants will purchase 16,920 mitigation credits.  The Defendants will purchase these mitigation credits from a mitigation bank servicing the geographic area in which the CWA violations occurred.  The Defendants will spend approximately $1,350,000 for this injunctive relief measure.

Additionally, the Defendants will remove the pipe from, and restore the bed and bank of, approximately 150 linear feet of stream channel.  This injunctive relief measure will cost approximately $25,000.

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Pollutants Reductions

In CWA Section 404 cases, pollution reduction is measured by the number of acres mitigated for wetlands or the number of linear feet mitigated for streams.  The on-site restoration and off-site mitigation requirements of this settlement will mitigate the 2,800 linear feet of stream impacts caused by the Defendants’ unlawful activities.

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Health and Environmental Effects

The Defendants have dramatically reduced the biological, chemical, and physical functions that the impacted streams perform.  Burying and piping the streams has destroyed valuable aquatic habitat and has reduced the streams’ ability to cycle nutrients, export carbon and reduce nitrogen.  The reduced water quality may have adversely affected downstream trout populations that are a major recreational resource to the region.

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Civil Penalty

The Defendants will pay a civil penalty of $1,500,000 in two installments. Within 30 days of the effective date of the settlement, the Defendants will pay $1,100,000. The remaining $400,000, plus interest, is due within 365 days of the effective date of the settlement. 

The civil penalty is one of the largest ever obtained under the CWA’s provisions prohibiting the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States without a CWA permit.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, is subject to a 30-day public 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:

Melissa Katz
Office of Civil Enforcement - OECA
Ariel Rios Building (Mail Code 2243A)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-5567
Melissa Katz (katz.melissa@epa.gov)

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