Haines Road reconstruction project penalized for stormwater violations

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972

Duluth, Minn. —  Due to a failure to provide proper stormwater controls at a Haines Road reconstruction project in Duluth, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) penalized St. Louis County and its contractor, Hammerlund Construction of Grand Rapids for permit and water-quality violations.

St. Louis County is the owner of the two-mile project. The county hired Hammerlund Construction to conduct grading and other related services at the site.

Project work began in November 2012. Construction activities disturbed 42 acres and led to eroding sediment impacting wetlands adjacent to the site, into Merritt Creek, a designated trout stream, and another unnamed creek.

After receiving a complaint and photos of sediment-laden creek water in June 2013, an MPCA inspector visited the site and found a variety of construction stormwater permit and water quality violations. Three subsequent inspections between June and November yielded new and ongoing violations. By June 2014, much of the excess sediment has washed downstream. Four months later, the county and Hammerlund advised the MPCA that they had made corrective actions and described steps they would take in the future.

Construction sites disturbing more than one acre of land are required, by permit, to incorporate permanent stormwater treatment practices into each project. The permittee must notify the MPCA when uncontrolled materials pollute state waters, have and follow a pollution prevention plan, incorporate related stormwater controls and best management practices, and, follow all corrective actions as documented by the inspection reports. All are violations of the state construction stormwater permit that regulates discharges to state waterways.

Because they did not follow the permit's requirements, St. Louis County and Hammerlund Construction were required to perform corrective actions and pay a $46,000 civil penalty.

When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected the environment, whether they were first-time or repeat violations, and how promptly the violations were reported to authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner. For a comprehensive list of enforcement actions, refer to the MPCA’s Quarterly Summary of Enforcement Actions webpage.

Minnesota law requires governmental units and contractors to apply for a stormwater permit when construction projects disturb more than one acre of soil. The MPCA offers outreach and training to help facilities meet their permit requirements. For more information on stormwater permits, call Brian Green, MPCA compliance coordinator, at 507-206-2610 or toll-free at 800-657-3864.