EATON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) — Brookside Crossing LLC has been ordered to pay a $243,500 fine for violations of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) from 2012-15 at a mass grading and fill operation in Eaton County.
The company is also required to undertake actions to fully stabilize the site and pay court costs of $102,408.75. The Michigan Court of Appeals on Oct. 20 affirmed a Circuit Court ruling against Brookside in June 2018.
One of the central arguments in this case was whether there were wetlands on the Eaton County site where Brookside Crossing was bringing in large quantities of soil to build up the property. The Circuit Court confirmed that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) was correct in its understanding that wetlands were present. Wetlands are considered surface waters and most of the illegal discharges at this site were observed in the wetlands associated with Carrier Creek.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists Carrier Creek as an impaired waterbody due to excessive sedimentation and Brookside Crossing was identified as a major contributor of soil that entered the creek and nearby wetlands. Approximately $1 million in Clean Michigan Initiative funds has been used to alleviate excessive sedimentation in Carrier Creek.
On nine occasions, EGLE documented large quantities of soil-laden construction storm water being discharged into Carrier Creek, a tributary to the Grand River, and/or its associated wetlands. Excessive sediment can negatively affect aquatic organisms, aquatic habitat and wildlife that feed on aquatic organisms.
Part 31 of NREPA prohibits the discharge of any substance that is or may become injurious to waters of the state. In addition, Brookside failed to obtain an Individual Construction Storm Water permit from EGLE that would authorize the discharge of clean storm water from the grading and fill operation, which is also a violation of Part 31.
The Court of Appeals’ ruling confirms EGLE’s ability to require an individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for certain excavation activities and affirms EGLE’s commitment to remove the sources of pollutants. Earth changes, such as mass grading and fill operations, can accelerate soil erosion.
Also under NREPA, anyone undertaking an earth change activity must install and maintain effective Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control (SESC) measures to minimize erosion and keep sediment on-site until a location is fully stabilized. EGLE documented 17 occasions where Brookside failed to install and/or maintain effective SESC measures and eight occasions where Brookside failed to retain sediment on-site. The installation and maintenance of effective SESC measures would have protected Carrier Creek and its associated wetlands from excessive sedimentation originating from Brookside’s grading and fill operation.
Brookside also failed to obtain the necessary permits from EGLE to build two ponds, which is in violation of NREPA, which states that anyone constructing a pond or a lake within 500 feet of an existing stream must have permission to do so.