State drafts new pollution run-off rules

08/13/07 8:51AM By John Dillon
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(Host) Under pressure from environmentalists and the federal government, Vermont has drafted new rules to limit pollution run-off from construction sites.

The rules will close a loophole that allowed contractors to release storm water for limited periods of time.

VPR's John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) When it rains on a construction site, muddy and polluted storm water can damage nearby streams.

Vermont used to allow companies to exceed water quality standards during construction for a limited period of time. But the Environmental Protection Agency now says that's not allowed under the Clean Water Act.

So the state has eliminated the exemption for what were called limited duration activities. For the most part, business groups say they can work with the change. Parker Riehle represents the Vermont Ski Areas Association.

(Riehle) "We're confident that the ultimate product will be something that is workable and usable and makes sense."

(Dillon) The EPA told Vermont to change its water quality rules after the Conservation Law Foundation threatened a lawsuit.

CLF lawyer Anthony Iarropino:

(Iarropino) "They essentially closed a loophole that was not holding polluters sufficiently accountable for the degradation of water quality and the effects on aquatic wildlife that was occurring as a result of poorly controlled run-off from construction sites."

(Dillon) The new rules apply to any construction project that disturbs more than one acre of soil. Tayt Brooks of the Vermont Association of Homebuilders says the old rules used to cover projects that affected 5 acres. Brooks says people building just one house won't be affected, but contractors working on three or more houses will probably need a permit.

(Brooks) "It does certainly complicate things. We do think it will drive up some costs at some construction sites. But we believe we will still be able to move forward under the proposed permit."

(Dillon) But environmentalist Iarropino questions whether some projects can be permitted in watersheds that are already considered damaged.

(Iarropino) "And I think in the past the way that they've gotten around that is by going through this LDA loophole. And with that loophole closed I think there are a number of projects on the horizon where they'll be a real serious question about whether they can go forward in these watersheds that are already failing to meet minimum standards."

(Dillon) The new rule requires more frequent inspections of construction sites to make sure that the storm water run off doesn't exceed state standards.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.

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