County developers must heed EPA rules
Along with increased construction in the area comes increased attention from federal regulatory agencies.
Martin Kessler, press officer for the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, said developers must follow EPA guidelines, including those established by the federal Clean Water Act, to protect water quality.
For instance, developers must take steps to keep soil from washing into water sources during construction. This means filing for a permit with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, establishing a plan to protect water quality and implementing the plan.
Environmental Protection Agency attorney Howard Bunch said when development is in progress, runoff is more likely to occur.
"The ground is unstable because it's been disturbed by earth-moving equipment," Bunch said.
It's important to establish a cover on recently turned ground, such as by seeding it to grass, Bunch said.
That keeps the sediment from washing into the water supply.
"Sediment is termed as a pollutant in itself," Bunch said. "It can carry oil and grease ... (from) the construction site."
Bunch said that nationwide, the EPA is looking at the water runoff issue.
"And nationwide there are problems," Bunch added.
Kessler said compliance within the construction industry remains poor.
"Developers have had a poor compliance history for a couple of years since we've been doing this," Kessler said.
For instance, in June of last year, according to Kessler, EPA officials made a round of inspections in Johnson and Wyandotte counties. They looked at seven developments.
"All seven had violations," Kessler said. "So there were six home developers and one commercial developer. The ratio of violations to inspections is pretty high compared to other sectors."
EPA isn't just looking at developments in large cities.
For instance, in December, Tonganoxie's South Park Development, owned by Jack and Estee Willis, was cited for failure to obtain a KDHE permit before beginning work on the Jackson Heights subdivision.
EPA attorney Howard Bunch said the inspection of South Park's Jackson Heights subdivision, at Leavenworth County Road 5 and Parallel Road, was carried out last May.
"I believe that it was a random inspection, based on our information about construction activities," Bunch said.
"... This development, which is Jackson Heights, being developed by South Park Development, is one of two that we looked at at the same time," Bunch said.
Bunch noted that the second development inspected was the Stone Creek subdivision, to the south of Jackson Heights.
"Based on the inspection reports of the two, we decided that a compliance order should be issued to the Jackson Heights development, or South Park (development corporation), because it seemed that there was more work to be done there and more ongoing issues," Bunch said.
By the time EPA looked at the Jackson Heights site, development was well under way, Bunch said.
"The compliance order says we have a basis to believe that prior to this you were in non-compliance. ... Here are the things that we want you to do specifically to ensure future compliance," Bunch said.
South Park's order for compliance, issued by EPA in December, called for the firm to take corrective action, develop a storm water pollution prevention plan and install recommended management practices.
In addition, Willis will pay a fine.
When contacted Friday, Willis declined to say how much the fine might be, saying he and his wife were still in negotiation with the EPA.