Conservation district now has power to enforce laws

By TOM KANE

PIKE COUNTY, PA - Errant Pike County contractors and developers will have to mend their ways when it comes to soil erosion, sediment pollution and storm-water discharge regulations at their development sites or face immediate penalties.

Pike County conservation staff can now initiate proceedings in enforcing Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control (ESPC) or the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program (NPDES) without the prior permission of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for each case.

“When we have repeated violations or serious pollution issues on a construction site, the conservation district will be able to initiate enforcement actions locally to better serve the people and natural resources of Pike County,” said Susan Beecher, director of the Pike County Conservation District.

Some measures of enforcement that are open to conservation staff are to take the recalcitrant contractor to the district court or even to the Commonwealth Court.

The power is called Level 3 Delegation.

“There are three levels of delegation in state environmental protection programs, each with increasing levels of responsibility,” Beecher said. “Level 1 entails education and information and outreach. Level 2 takes the next step in compliance with emphasis on dialoguing with developers to get them to change voluntarily. When that doesn’t work, we can now take direct action against them.”

In administering the program at Level 3, the district will follow specific DEP compliance/enforcement policies and procedures already in place, Beecher said.

The district has had a few such errant contractors in the past and have so in the present, Beecher said.

“The law provides for up to $10,000 in penalty per day for civil penalties and up to $10,000 in criminal penalties for each violation,” Beecher said.

“We will continue to work hard to help contractors comply with the regulations,” said conservation district chairman Scott Savini. “What will change is that we won’t have to wait for DEP to take enforcement action when voluntary compliance isn’t working.”

“This action is necessary since the county is growing rapidly and construction activities are increasing,” said Rich Caridi, Pike County commissioner.

TRR photo by Tom Kane
Pike County Conservation District Director Susan Beecher now has the authority to initiate enforcement of environmental regulations. (Click for larger version)