As a construction professional, your work directly impacts the environment. From excavation methods employed to prepare a site for building to materials used in construction, environmental concerns should factor into many decisions you make. In fact, you’re responsible for complying with federal environmental regulations, and failing to do so, can be very costly.
Of course, this responsibility isn’t just borne by general contractors and subcontractors — site owners also need to be in-the-know. Everyone with decision-making abilities can be held liable, so the more informed you are, the better.
Federal Environmental Requirements for Construction
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for federal environmental requirements for construction, but specific regulations vary by state. Get in touch with your state and local agencies before breaking ground on a construction project, to make sure you’re aware of all environmental constraints.
Environmental guidelines run the gamut from issues with the Clean Water Act to concerns with the Clean Air Act and beyond, including the following areas:
• Storm Water Runoff
• Dredged and Fill Material/Waters of the U.S., including Wetlands
• Solid and Hazardous Wastes
• Spill Reporting
• Hazardous Substances (Superfund Liability)
• PCB Wastes
• Air Quality
• National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
• Threated or Endangered Species
• Historic Properties
Violators Face Steep Penalties
Adhering to state and federal environmental requirements for construction may not be quite as convenient or cost-effective as other approaches, but you must conform. Consequences for violating these requirements vary, but can reach up to $27,500 per day for civil penalties and up to $250,000 and 15 years in prison for criminal penalties.
If you think you won’t get caught for violating these laws, think again. In 2011, the EPA settled an enforcement against the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and four private parties regarding alleged Clean Air Act violations at the John W. McCormack Post Office and Court House Building in Boston. The group was ordered to pay a collective penalty of $100,000. Previously, in 2007, two contractors for a construction site at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Conn. were held liable for $17,000 in fines for Clean Water Act violations.
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