State Halts Construction Site After Water Board Ruling

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(Host) State environmental officials have halted construction on a Lowe’s Home Improvement Center store in South Burlington. The decision came days after the Water Resources Board ruled that runoff from the construction site would violate water quality standards.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg has set a Thursday morning deadline for Lowe’s to come up with a plan to stabilize its construction site so that no more sediment flows into a nearby polluted stream.

In the meantime, Wennberg says all work must be halted on the project.

(Wennberg) “I sent a letter to Chris Roy, who’s the attorney for Lowe’s, indicating that they should cease construction activity and that they should present a plan for buttoning up, for closing up the site, for the purpose of eliminating risk of a discharge.”

(Dillon) Wennberg’s letter follows a ruling late last week by the Water Resources Board. The board said that said stormwater from the Lowe’s construction site would damage a stream that’s already polluted.

The state had issued a general permit for the construction work. But the board overturned that state approval, and said the permit would not do enough to stop pollution from flowing into Potash Brook and Lake Champlain.

Chris Kilian, a lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation, the group that raised the legal challenge, was pleased the state stopped work on the project. But Kilian says he also intends to file an enforcement action against Lowe’s in federal court.

(Kilian) “From our perspective, everything they’ve done on that site has been in violation of the Clean Water Act and they should be held accountable for that. If a polluter wants to go forward and cause discharges into the state’s waters without valid permits, then they should be held accountable for that.”

(Dillon) Lowe’s lawyer says the company intends to comply with the state’s stop-work request. And Wennberg, the environmental commissioner, disagrees with Kilian over the need for enforcement action. He says Lowe’s has worked well with the state.

(Wennberg) “I think they have been exceedingly good in terms of cooperating with the program and working our folks.”

(Dillon) But Kilian says state officials have been extremely reluctant to crack down on stormwater violations.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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