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The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Aug. 17 that it has decided to reconsider imposing a nationwide cap on the amount of sediment allowed in stormwater draining from a construction site.
The announcement came a year after the EPA's first proposal to develop a numeric limit for the turbidity, or cloudiness, of stormwater was rejected by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which essentially told the agency to come up with an Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) number that was legally defensible.
NAHB has estimated that attempting to comply with the regulations would carry a $10 billion annual price tag — stunting new home production and forcing costs up for home buyers.
The agency said that it still couldn't justify any specific limit and will start over again.
The EPA said it will be talking to home builders, environmental scientists and other members of the public to gather better data — a solution that NAHB has advocated for more than three years.
"The EPA set a numeric limit for water cloudiness that was based on flawed analyses," said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen.
Both the Small Business Administration and the Office of Management and Budget warned the EPA that the regulation would not hold up, joining NAHB in voicing concerns over its monitoring and sampling requirements.
"In its calculations, the EPA relied on questionable data, including figures obtained from the vendors that would have supplied the expensive systems home builders would have been required to use. That's no way to come up with national policy," Nielsen said.
Because terrain, geography and rainfall vary significantly across the country, NAHB has long held that a nationally applicable numeric limit is neither defensible nor practicable.
"It's our hope that the EPA's research will take that fact into account," he said.
In the meantime, NAHB is redoubling its efforts to collect turbidity data from its members' construction sites to help ensure that the eventual ruling makes good scientific sense.
"Stormwater management must be straightforward, affordable and workable," Nielsen said. "That's the only way we can continue to make progress.”
NAHB supports responsible development and the goals of the Clean Water Act, he said, and “the association will continue to work with state and federal regulators to keep our waterways clean."
For more information, email Ty Asfaw at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8124.