SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A nearly $600,000 fine was imposed on the developer of an 18-acre residential project in Lemon Grove for a series of water quality violations, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board announced Tuesday.
Last October, board staff accused developer San Altos-Lemon Grove LLC of 81 violations of its construction storm water permit for its 18-acre Valencia Hills development, occurring between December 2014 and September 2015.
According to the water board, the violations focus on a persistent lack of effective erosion and sediment controls, and sub-par housekeeping practices that resulted in six sediment discharges from the construction site into Encanto Channel. The Encanto Channel flows into Chollas Creek and dumps into San Diego Bay.
Agency staff originally proposed a fine of $850,000, but the board ended up ordering a $595,367 penalty.
"Compliance with the Statewide General Construction Storm Water Permit by construction site operators and their subcontractors is a high priority for the San Diego Water Board,'' said board Executive Officer David Gibson.
"This penalty of nearly $600,000 reflects the San Diego Water Board's concern for the appalling lack of compliance and cooperation with city and water board staff by San Altos-Lemon Grove LLC despite many months of inspections and warnings,'' Gibson said. ``Most construction site operators heed the kind of repeated warnings and notices of violation San Altos received and thereby avoid the large penalties noncompliance can bring.''
Sediment, resulting from the accelerated erosion of graded land exposed and inadequately protected, is the pollutant of greatest concern at construction sites because it can damage aquatic life and ecosystems, according to the water board. Sediment can also carry other harmful pollutants, like metals, fertilizers, pesticides, oil and grease and bacteria into creeks, bays and ocean.
Violations at the Valencia Hills site were brought to the San Diego Water Board's attention by Lemon Grove city officials, after multiple warnings and enforcement efforts directed at the developer were met with minimal response, according to the water board.
In a declaration filed with the board, a San Altos representative contended that a board representative canceled a meeting to discuss the allegations and never rescheduled, and that the agency failed to take into account the company's corrective measures.
The water agency said the proceeds will be deposited into an account that provides funding to public agencies to remediate pollution when responsible parties are not available.