Chesapeake Bay a winner?
It's about time to smack some corporate hands.
Saturday, April 24, 2010 - 18:52
The Chesapeake Bay was in the news again this week as the EPA stuck it to one of the nation's largest home builders, Hovnanian, with a $1 million fine for a history of clean water law violations. It seems that Hovnanian looked the other way at 591 construction sites in 18 states in dealing with — or not dealing with — stormwater runoff. Can you believe that construction resulted in 82 million pounds a year of sediment and construction debris, according to EPA?
A portion of that $1 million fine will help protect the Chesapeake because 161 of those Hovnanian construction sites were in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and D.C., and thus affected the bay watershed. That meant a lot of sediment runoff, used oil, paint, solvents, concrete washout, and debris, but what about the runoff from the jillions of acres of lawns, rooftop and streets after their mega-developments are completed? Otherwise known as non-point source pollution, this is one of the biggest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus in the bay. And then there's the chicken farm droppings! (But that's a subject for another day.)
What about the rest of the big-time developers who also need a watchdog? Is a $1 million fine enough of a deterrent for a company like Hovnanian that took in $1.6 billion in 2009 revenues?
Do fines on the biggie companies even translate into improvements? Ask the families of the 29 victims of the recent coal mine explosion in West Virginia if the Massey Energy Company CEO, Don Blankenship, was influenced by the $382,000 in fines his company received this year for ventilation and equipment violations. Guess not, since in 2009 the disaster mine site was cited for at least 500 violations. Blankenship supposedly wouldn't even give his workers the time off to attend funeral services.
And what about the relatives of the 11 offshore workers still missing in this week's oil rig explosion in the Gulf? Did BP also put corporate profits ahead of worker safety? I hate to be a skeptic, but it does make you wonder.
Photo: Mary Ann Moxon