- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Violations of environmental law have the town of La Plata and some local companies in hot water with the Maryland Department of the Environment.
MDE released a statement of recent violations and alleged violations Tuesday, and the town of La Plata and three Charles County companies are listed.
La Plata agreed June 13 to pay $50,000 for sewer overflows from the town’s sewer system between Jan. 7, 2009, and Dec. 7, 2011.
Town Manager Daniel Mears said the sewer overflows were a regular problem during storms in two locations — off Willow Lane and off the intersection of Centennial Street and U.S. 301.
The town took several steps to remedy the overflows, Mears said, including installing a new pump station on Willow Lane last April. The installation ended the sewer overflow issues, he said.
The fine will close out the actions MDE asked the town to take in its “consent decree,” Mears said. The fine will be paid in eight installments to the state’s Clean Water Fund, he said.
The Clean Water Fund is used to support projects that clean up local waterways.
The fine is not the maximum fine, Mears said, because the town has been responsive to addressing Clean Water Act violations.
Fines for sewer overflows can range from $1,000 to $32,500 per day that overflows occur under state and federal law, according to MDE.
“This particular issue has been going on for quite a while and the town was very fortunate in negotiating down the fine, which was going to be substantially more than $50,000,” Mayor Roy Hale said.
Hale said the town has taken steps, in addition to the Willow Lane pump station, to install new sewer lines on Willow Lane, one from Rosewick Crossing to the town’s wastewater treatment plant and another from the pump station to the treatment plant.
“Although we have had problems in the past, our town has made major steps in rectifying this problem,” Hale said.
St. Charles Associates Limited Partnership received a $7,000 fine June 19 for clearing in the 100-foot buffer zone surrounding Piney Branch Bog. The bog is a nontidal wetland of “special state concern,” meaning that applicants interested in clearing within the 100-foot buffer must apply for a permit and evaluate alternatives that avoid and minimize effects to wetlands, according to MDE.
As part of the consent order agreed upon with MDE, St. Charles Associates Limited Partnership needed to implement a plan to restore the buffer zone around the bog.
St. Charles Vice President of Public Affairs and Community Relations Craig Renner wrote in an email that the wetland has been restored to its original condition under an MDE-approved plan. The fine also has been paid.
The violation involved a subcontractor inadvertently driving over a small patch of wetlands, less than five yards long and a few yards wide, Renner wrote.
“Our company is vigilant in taking steps to protect wetland areas in our development process, as we are committed to providing a sustainable environment for our residents, and future generations. This incident, though small, is regrettable, and has served as a reminder to our contractors and field personnel of the need to be ever-vigilant in our protection of wetlands on our property,” Renner wrote.
MDE alleged that construction activity at the St. Mary’s Villas subdivision in La Plata violated sediment control laws and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permit for stormwater. Michael E. Mohler of M.E. Mohler Co. in La Plata resolved the alleged violation by paying $7,500 to the Maryland Clean Water Fund, according to the MDE news release.
Mohler could not be reached for comment.
MDE alleged in an order May 18 that SouthStar Limited Partnership in Waldorf is not complying with state lead laws on eight properties and that MDE is seeking $38,500 for alleged violations.
SouthStar issued the following statement in response to MDE’s concerns about its noncompliance with lead laws.
“Based on a professional evaluation, we can report that we are able to proceed with making repairs to two of the homes. Unfortunately, the other three homes that are occupied are approximately 70-plus years old, are in need of extensive repair and will be demolished. The land was originally purchased for other uses and we will take steps to assist the current tenants of those homes. Southstar can provide additional details once more information can be assessed by members of our team,” the statement reads.