The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced recently that Frederick W. Hertrich, III and his project manager, Charles Ernesto, will jointly pay a $100,000 penalty for violating the Clean Water Act at a site in Federalsburg, Caroline County, Md.
The alleged violations at the 183-acre site occurred during the development of forested wetlands into pastureland for a horse farm that specializes in breeding racehorses. In creating the pastureland, the defendants impacted 56 acres of forested wetlands. The forested wetlands on the site are adjacent to the Houston Branch, a tributary of Marshyhope Creek in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The defendants completed restoration of the impacted wetlands in 2011. Restoration included planting over 11,000 seedlings comprised of native species in order to revegetate the site. Restoration also included filling in and revegetating the main drainage ditch excavated by the defendants. The ditch was approximately 8 to 10 feet wide, 3 to 5 feet deep and 1,200 feet in length, and intersected a tributary of Marshyhope Creek. By plugging the ditch, the site will be able to maintain the hydrology needed to ensure the success of the restoration activities.
The settlement also requires Mr. Hertrich to place a deed restriction on approximately 80 acres of the property, limiting future activities that might threaten protected wetlands.
“Wetlands play a powerful role in our environment. This case sends a clear message that regulatory agencies will take the steps necessary to secure compliance with wetlands regulations and remedy the harm caused by illegal activity,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “The wetlands involved in this case provided sediment and nutrient controls, which is especially important in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”
The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and is the largest estuary in the United States. Many of the Chesapeake Bay’s living resources depend on wetlands for their survival. Natural wetlands are also vital to protecting the integrity of our rivers and estuaries by providing a natural filtration system for pollution before it gets into rivers, lakes and ponds, and by preventing flooding after storms. While progress has been made in recent years to reverse the trend, wetlands continue to be threatened.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires persons wishing to discharge pollutants into wetlands to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE). The defendants in this case failed to apply for or receive a Section 404 permit. EPA worked closely with the COE and state authorities on this case after receiving a referral from the COE concerning wide-scale unpermitted activity at the site.
The proposed consent decree was filed in federal court on September 28, 2012 by the U.S. Department of Justice and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
More information about the settlement: http://www.epa.gov/enforcement/water/cases/frederick.html.
For more information about wetlands and permitting requirements: http://www.epa.gov/owow/.