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NAHB has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to drop its current plans and come up with a brand-new set of rules for builders and developers to follow when they manage stormwater discharges from their construction sites.
In a June 10 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, NAHB said that the EPA’s construction and development effluent limitation guidelines do not work for the home building industry, are based on faulty science and will result in costs that far exceed any environmental benefit they may provide. NAHB encouraged the agency to “propose a new standard that is more appropriate for this category of dischargers.”
The NAHB petition follows an earlier request from the Small Business Administration, which noted that the runoff from home building sites accounts for less than 0.25% of the sediment going into bodies of water protected under the Clean Water Act, yet the new controls could cost the industry up to $10 billion per year— a tenfold increase over current mandates.
The EPA has long exempted the industry from ELGs because construction site discharges result from rainstorms, making them difficult to regulate. But a lawsuit from the Natural Resources Defense Council resulted in a court settlement that required the agency to propose the new guidelines.
“In its rush to meet the court-ordered Dec. 1, 2009 deadline, the EPA promulgated a standard without providing the public with an opportunity to review the data or methodology upon which it was based,” the NAHB petition said.
“We have subsequently uncovered a series of technical errors that, at a minimum, should cause the EPA to reconsider the standard,” it said, and the new standard should allow higher turbidity levels than those now in the guidelines because the data used to come up with the standards was not interpreted correctly.
“In one particularly crucial error,” the petition notes that the EPA’s findings on the turbidity — or cloudiness — of runoff from a construction site in Seattle were based on the assumption that there were 15 pretreatment systems in operation there when there were only three.
The costs of applying ELGs to construction sites “more than outweigh the benefits and are unreasonable,” the petition said.
“NAHB’s members understand the importance of their roles and have demonstrated throughout the years their willingness to take the steps necessary, and oftentimes go beyond the requirements, to protect and improve the quality of our nation’s waters,” the NAHB letter said.
“The data, cost and compliance challenges stemming from the December 2009 rule, however, demonstrate that the final ELG is unworkable, impractical and cost-prohibitive,” the letter said. “NAHB looks forward to your leadership in alleviating these difficulties and facilitating compliance and environmental stewardship by revisiting the Construction and Development ELG and making necessary modifications per the SBA petition.”
For more information, e-mail Ty Asfaw at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8124.
“Storm Water Permitting: A Guide for Builders and Developers,” available through NAHB BuilderBooks, provides a starting point for builders and developers to use in locating and understanding stormwater permitting requirements.
The publication has been prepared to help builders comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stormwater requirements, and includes information on state permitting programs and more than 50 of the most commonly used Best Management Practices.
Also included are tips on compliance, including how to handle visits from inspectors.
To view or purchase this guide online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.