Developer, contractor fined by EPA

$146,833 fine over Grindstone Wal-Mart project is regional record
Tuesday, June 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:54 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Columbia developer THF Grindstone Development LLC and contractor Emery Sapp & Sons have been fined $146,833 for violations of the Clean Water Act occurring in the development of the Wal-Mart Supercenter and shopping center on Grindstone Parkway.

The fine, which must be paid in 30 days, is the largest of its kind imposed by Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, which includes Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, according to a news release.

The U.S. EPA released details Monday of the settlement of two construction-related infractions.

Although steps are being taken to remedy the effects of the violations, Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club said the terms of the settlement aren’t enough.

“It solves the problem with that developer, but the problem is that Hinkson Creek is still polluted,” he said.

Between fall 2005 and spring 2006, the construction site lacked sufficient erosion controls, leading to runoff of concrete and sediment into a tributary of Hinkson Creek, said Delia Garcia, an EPA environmental scientist.

THF and Emery Sapp also built concrete culverts directly into the tributary and its banks without a permit required by the Clean Water Act, which increased erosion in the stream and worsened the water quality in the creek’s watershed.

In early June 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified the EPA about the illegal culverts, and inspectors visited the site on June 16, 2006, according to Garcia.

“During EPA inspection, our inspector documented sediment in the water,” said Diane Huffman, EPA water enforcement chief for Region 7. “He could actually see sediment from the site in the water.”

The construction changes needed to fix the problems were made “virtually upon discovery,” according to Frank Hackmann of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP, the lawyer representing THF Grindstone on environmental concerns.

“We’re very pleased to have the matter resolved and move ahead,” Hackmann said.

Hackmann said the violations were a result of “some miscommunication.”

No one from Emery Sapp was available to comment.

In addition to the fine, the settlement states that the firms will plant trees, shrubs and grasses along Hinkson Creek near Scott Boulevard to prevent erosion. Hackmann said that THF is aiming for a fall planting to meet the one-year deadline set by the EPA.

Hank Ottinger, also of the Sierra Club, hoped that the settlement sends a message to local developers.

“I would hope that such a decision would catch the attention of developers in the city and perhaps be a cautionary tale,” he said.

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Last Link June 19, 2007 | 11:19 a.m.

The writer neglected to report where the collected fine will be spent.

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