Homebuilders fined for water pollution

WASHINGTON The four companies -- Centex Corp. of Dallas, KB Home of Los Angeles, Pulte Homes Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and M.D.C. Holdings Inc. of Denver -- will also take steps above what is required by law to keep 1.2 billion pounds of sediment out of the nation's waterways under the settlements.

"Today's settlements mark an important step forward in protecting our waters from harmful storm water runoff from construction activities," Assistant Attorney General Ronald J. Tenpas said in a statement.

The settlements are part of a nationwide crackdown by the EPA to find storm water violations at construction sites. The Clean Water Act requires builders that disturb land to obtain permits and minimize runoff from rain. The companies named in the settlements allegedly failed to obtain permits and to prevent silt and debris-laden runoff from leaving construction sites from 2001 to 2004.

Centex Corp. agreed to pay the largest fine, at $1.485 million. KB Home was penalized $1.185 million. Pulte Homes Inc., along with a $877,000 fine, will complete a $608,000 project to reduce the amount of sediment entering a northern California watershed. Federal prosecutors levied a $795,000 on Richmond American Homes, a subsidiary of M.D.C. Holdings Inc.

Seven states that joined in the settlements -- Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee and Utah -- will receive a portion of the penalties.

The four companies, in a joint statement, said that they were pleased with the agreements.

"As leaders in the homebuilding industry, we share the government's goal of protecting and preserving clean waterways," the statement said.

The National Association of Home Builders said the settlements with some of its larger members were a positive step that will be used as a model for other homebuilders.

"Clear rules -- and understanding how to follow them -- enable builders to help protect the environment while keeping housing affordable," said NAHB spokeswoman Donna Reichle.

In February, the agency fined Home Depot Inc. $1.3 million to resolve alleged violations at 30 construction sites for its big box stores in 28 states. But the largest settlement to date was with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which in May 2004 agreed to pay $3.1 million for violations at construction sites across the country.

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