San Juan hotel developers reach settlement with EPA over stormwater discharges
The U.S. EPA announced a legal settlement with the developers of the Vanderbilt and La Concha Hotels of San Juan for discharging pollutants into the San Juan stormwater sewer system...
SAN JUAN, PR, Dec. 16, 2011 -- The U.S. EPA announced a legal settlement with the developers of the Vanderbilt and La Concha Hotels of San Juan for discharging pollutants into the San Juan stormwater sewer system, which is connected to the Condado Lagoon.
The settlement requires the payment of a $472,240 civil penalty and the expansion of an existing artificial habitat for fish in the Condado Lagoon. Under the agreement's terms, the hotel's developer, International Hospitality Associates S. en C. por A. (IHA-SE) and its managing partner, International Hospitality Associates Inc. (IHA-INC), will construct 30 units of reef modules at an estimated cost of $32,000.
"Pollutants, whether carried by uncontrolled stormwater runoff or discharged into waterways, can seriously damage ecosystems," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "I encourage all developers in Puerto Rico to take the necessary precautions to protect rivers, streams and other water bodies from contamination."
Under the federal Clean Water Act, pollutants may not be discharged into navigable waters of the United States without the proper permit. Developers of sites one acre or larger are required to implement stormwater pollution prevention plans to keep soil and contaminants from running off into nearby waterways. The rate at which water carries soil and contaminants off of construction sites is typically 10 to 20 times greater than that from agricultural lands, and 1,000 to 2,000 times greater than those of forested lands.
EPA inspected the Vanderbilt Hotel and the La Concha Hotels in April and August 2006, and discovered that they had discharged stormwater into the San Juan stormwater sewer system from the construction sites without first applying for the required permit. EPA also found that the developers had discharged water used in the construction into the stormwater sewer system without the proper permit. These discharges led to increased turbidity (water cloudiness) and bacteria in the adjacent Condado Lagoon.
The Condado Lagoon Taino Coral Trail and Reef Enhancement Project is a habitat restoration project consisting of 44 artificial reef modules that was constructed following the Morris J. Berman oil spill of 1994. Since the first phase of the Reef Enhancement Project, the number of fish and other species within the lagoon has increased. The additional 30 reef modules IHA-SE and IHA-INC will construct will further enhance the wildlife and fisheries value of the Condado Lagoon.
The artificial reef construction funded by IHA-SE and IHA-INC is considered by EPA to be a supplemental environmental project, which is an environmentally-beneficial project that a violator voluntarily agrees to undertake in partial settlement of violations, and it must be a project that a violator would not otherwise be required to perform.