EPA Asked to Improve Storm Water Management Regulation
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeks to step up enforcement of the Clean Water Act, NAHB has provided recommendations to the agency to ensure that its increased focus on the home building industry leads to improved compliance with regulations that are consistent, clear and reasonable.
“By refocusing on providing assistance” to home builders and developers trying to manage storm water discharge from construction sites, “the agency will make more headway than through enforcement alone,” the NAHB comments said.
The EPA first needs to establish a baseline of how many home building sites there are and how many of them are in compliance, NAHB noted. This will make it easier to put industry compliance into perspective and to determine the effectiveness of new enforcement policies.
NAHB also asked for clarification on the rules themselves — especially on the kinds of water bodies that can be regulated, and why. Ditches and storm water management facilities are not waters of the U.S., nor are wet spots that are temporarily created during the construction process, the comments said.
The comments emphasized the importance of education — both for the industry and for regulators.
Too often, inspectors are not familiar with the home building process, hindering their ability to logically enforce the program, NAHB said.
NAHB should also be notified of enforcement actions so the association can use them to help educate members who are seeking information on how to comply. “Details on types of violations can be used to target training and education efforts,” the comments said.
The EPA should also consider forming more partnerships, like one developed between the Texas Association of Builders and EPA Region 6 to focus on compliance issues in that state. As a result of this initiative, home builders worked with the federal agency as well as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to provide a series of well-attended compliance classes for builders and developers, the comments noted.
Improving the administration of the program would also help compliance efforts, according to NAHB. A checklist, streamlined processes, better collaboration with other agencies and with state and local officials and clear guidance would “reduce confusion and uncertainties,” the comments said.
Innovative solutions and flexibility should be encouraged as well. For example, low-impact development techniques — such as the creation of rain gardens for storm water runoff — can be a good management solution in areas with certain soils.
NAHB is hopeful that the EPA will consider the recommendations to help the home building industry comply with regulations that probably shouldn’t even be in the Clean Water Act, NAHB commented. “Storm water from construction sites is treated as a point source — an end of pipe discharge — but in reality, discharge from these sites is non-point pollution,” the association said.
Finally, “many mandates are getting ahead of the science. All requirements must be based on sound science and demonstrated environmental and economic efficiency,” NAHB said.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.