Archive for Wednesday, June 28, 2006

EPA lodges fines against development companies

June 28, 2006

A federal agency has lodged fines against two Tonganoxie development corporations -- South Park Development and Stonecreek Development -- for altering the path of a small stream.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released details of studies conducted at Tonganoxie's Jackson Heights and Stonecreek subdivisions. Both subdivisions are on the east side of Tonganoxie. The penalties stem from violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

Local residents Jack and Estee Willis own South Park Development, which includes the Jackson Heights subdivision, and Jack Willis, Art Hancock, Tonganoxie, and Joe Donnelly, Chicago, own Stonecreek Development. Neither Willis nor Hancock would comment on the EPA case.

The EPA assessed penalties at $43,277 for South Park and $50,687 for Stonecreek.

In addition to the fines, both development corporations will have to pay for mitigation.

For South Park, that translates to an estimated $14,000 for improvements to approximately 2,800 feet along a tributary of Tonganoxie Creek.

And for Stonecreek, which EPA officials said altered up to 5,000 feet along a tributary, mitigation could cost from $10,000 to $33,000.

Part of the violation cites the developers for work along the tributary, said EPA attorney Howard Bunch.

"They made it straight so it could go in back of the yards of properties," Bunch said. "By doing so, by straightening it out, it causes more erosion. There's more velocity in the water."

EPA spokesman Martin Kessler said it's important that developers understand what they legally can and can't do.

"We want to get the message out to the community of developers as a whole that they need to do the right thing," Kessler said. "There's plenty of folks out there who are doing what they're supposed to be doing, but some aren't."

Development is going to happen, Bunch said.

"We're not saying that development is bad," Bunch said. "We're just saying that a very severe environmental harm is going to be prevented if people comply with these requirements."

The public also needs to understand the importance of following EPA guidelines, Kessler said.

"It's not just that we're bringing the hammer down on some people, but it's more that we want to get the message out to be good stewards of the environment, protect the environment and set a good example for the other developers out there."

And Kessler said, the EPA welcomes tips.

"A lot of people aren't even aware that they can call us with complaints which may wind up with us doing an inspection," Kessler said. "It helps get across the point to people that they have a voice with this in their community."

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