EPA orders Condado Duo developer to pay $473K penalty for polluting lagoon

Written by  //  December 16, 2011  //  Environment  //  No comments

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The developers of La Concha hotel in Condado have settled the case with the EPA, agreeing to pay a fine. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

The developers of the Condado Duo Hotel complex, International Hospitality Associates, have entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for discharging pollutants into the San Juan stormwater sewer system, which is connected to the Condado Lagoon.

The settlement agreement requires IHE to pay a $472,240 civil penalty and expand an existing artificial habitat for fish in the Condado Lagoon, by constructing 30 units of reef modules at an estimated cost of $32,000.

IHE redeveloped and opened La Concha and has yet to finish the Vanderbilt Hotel project, which should be completed early next year.

The agreement comes more than four years after the EPA inspected the Ashford Avenue properties in April and August 2006, and discovered that they had discharged stormwater into the San Juan stormwater sewer system from the construction sites without first applying for the required permit.

The EPA also found that the developers had discharged water used in the construction into the stormwater sewer system without the proper permit. These discharges led to increased turbidity (water cloudiness) and bacteria in the adjacent Condado Lagoon.

“Pollutants, whether carried by uncontrolled stormwater runoff or discharged into waterways, can seriously damage ecosystems,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “I encourage all developers in Puerto Rico to take the necessary precautions to protect rivers, streams and other water bodies from contamination.”

Under the federal Clean Water Act, pollutants may not be discharged into navigable waters of the United States without the proper permit. Developers of sites one acre or larger are required to implement stormwater pollution prevention plans to keep soil and contaminants from running off into nearby waterways. The rate at which water carries soil and contaminants off of construction sites is typically 10 to 20 times greater than that from agricultural lands, and 1,000 to 2,000 times greater than those of forested lands.

The Condado Lagoon Taino Coral Trail and Reef Enhancement Project is a habitat restoration project consisting of 44 artificial reef modules that was constructed following the Morris J. Berman oil spill of 1994.

Since the first phase of the Reef Enhancement Project, the number of fish and other species within the lagoon has increased. The additional 30 reef modules that IHE will construct will further enhance the wildlife and fisheries value of the Condado Lagoon, the EPA said.

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