By Keith Clines Staff WriterDecatur Daily
A Hartselle developer possibly could have avoided an $18,500 state environmental fine if he had taken the necessary steps to stop sediment from a U.S. 31 construction site from washing into a Flint Creek tributary.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management in November sent a warning letter to Quentin Gillette identifying the areas of concern and requesting they be addressed, but the agency said it never received a report from Gillette that was required by the letter.
A March inspection of Gillette’s Genesis I commercial development site north of Hartselle found the same improper activities that ADEM had found in November, according to the agency.
ADEM last week issued a proposed consent order fining Gillette’s Genesis Capital LLC $18,500 for allowing stormwater runoff into Moss Spring branch of Flint Creek and other violations.
“We use enforcement as a tool,” ADEM spokeswoman Lynn Battle said Friday. “We start with a warning letter to encourage compliance. Normally, if you take care of everything, that would be the end of it.”
Gillette, who could not be reached for comment, signed the negotiated consent order April 14.
Battle said she didn’t know if discharges from construction sites are a major problem in the state.
“I know that we’re trying to stay on top of it,” she said.
David Whiteside, founder and executive director of Tennessee Riverkeepers, said Gillette’s fine is a significant amount for ADEM.
“ADEM generally goes toward the lower end of the fines allowed by the laws,” he said.
He said recent budget cuts at ADEM have reduced the number of field agents to enforce environmental laws.
“It’s kind of a surprise when a developer gets fined by ADEM,” Whiteside said.
The order said violations included noncompliant discharges, not implementing best management practices, not obtaining a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and not complying with construction stormwater rules.
ADEM said in the order the violations were found during a Nov. 19 inspection of the site and a follow-up inspection on March 3. The March inspection also found a discharge violation for suspended particles in the water.
ADEM rules prohibit such activity unless best management practices are implemented and maintained to control erosion, sediment and stormwater runoff.
ADEM’s order said it considered seriousness of the violations and Gillette’s failure to resolve the problems after receiving a warning in determining the amount of the fine.
“The department also noted that failure to implement and maintain (best management practices) resulted in offsite sediment accumulation on adjacent property and in state waters which could have been avoided by continual implementation and maintenance of (best management practices),” the order says.
ADEM originally proposed a $37,700 fine, but reduced it to $18,500 through negotiations and to avoid the cost of potential litigation, according to agency files.
Gillette agreed with the order’s requirements that he obtain all necessary permits and take appropriate measures to stop the violations. Gillette notified ADEM on March 18 that he intended to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.