EPA settles with Puerto Rico housing developer on raw sewage discharge case
Settlement follows $3 Million fine, 5-Year probationary term and restitution in criminal case.
NEW YORK, MARCH 19, 2019 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a civil settlement with Mora Development Corporation and Mora Development S.E., two affiliated Puerto Rico real estate development companies, for violations of the Clean Water Act. The companies built two housing developments – the Cascadas in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, and Montecielo in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico – with sewage collection systems that illegally discharged sewage into local waters. Under the settlement, Mora Development will pay a $242,400 penalty. Today's settlement is in addition to actions and penalties required when Mora Development Corporation pled guilty to violating sewage regulations. The violations at the housing developments were corrected under prior orders issued by EPA.
"This company flouted the law and discharged raw sewage into local waters – clearly posing a health hazard to nearby communities," said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. "Raw sewage can cause disease and hurts the environment, which is why we require that it be treated. This company thought it would get around the requirements, but as evidenced in this settlement, EPA will not allow such irresponsible behavior."
In 2012, EPA received a citizen complaint that sewage discharges from the Cascadas sewage collection system retention pond were seeping into the citizen's front yard and that sewage was entering the Cascadas storm sewer collection system. EPA inspected and confirmed the claims and, in 2013, issued an order to Mora Development Corporation requiring the immediate termination of sewage discharge into surrounding water. The order also required submission of records proving that sewage was being properly hauled to a wastewater treatment plant and a schedule for removal of all unauthorized connections (by-pass pipes) between the Cascadas' sewage and storm water collection systems.
In 2013, EPA received citizen complaints claiming sewage from Montecielo was emptying into an unnamed creek, a tributary of Rio Bayamón, which in turn discharges into the Atlantic Ocean. EPA inspected Montecielo and confirmed the discharges. Mora Development did not have a permit to allow those discharges. In 2013, EPA issued an order to bring Mora Development S.E. and Mora Development Corporation into compliance with the Clean Water Act, including the immediate cease of sewage discharge into waters of the United States.
In 2018, Mora Development Corporation pled guilty in a 2016 criminal case involving a felony violation for discharging sanitary wastewater from residences at the Cascadas Development in Toa Alta. Mora Development Corporation violated the Clean Water Act by discharging from a holding tank through a by-pass pipe into the Toa Alta municipal storm water system and then into a local waterbody without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. The plea required Mora Development Corporation to pay a fine of $3 million, serve a five-year term of probation, and pay restitution to the victims affected by its criminal conduct. The civil settlement involves both Mora Development Corporation and Mora Development S.E. for their involvement in Montecielo and Mora Development Corporation's non-criminal violations in Cascadas.
Since 2000, preventing sewer overflows and enforcement of sewage violations has been a national enforcement priority for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. The action against Mora Development Corporation and Mora Development S.E. highlights this important enforcement priority; the settlements have resulted in significant environmental benefit and significant specific and general deterrence.