The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday issued a final rule in an effort to reduce water pollution on construction sites. The rule, which is set to take effect in February 2010 over a four-year period, is targeted to improve the quality of water nationwide.  According to a press release by the EPA, the impact is significant: 

Construction activities like clearing, excavating and grading significantly disturb soil and sediment. If that soil is not managed properly it can easily be washed off of the construction site during storms and pollute nearby water bodies.

EPA Rules on Construction SitesThe final rule requires construction site owners and operators that disturb one or more acres to use best management practices to ensure that soil disturbed during construction activity does not pollute nearby water bodies.

In addition, owners and operators of sites that impact 10 or more acres of land at one time will be required to monitor discharges and ensure they comply with specific limits on discharges to minimize the impact on nearby water bodies. This is the first time that EPA has imposed national monitoring requirements and enforceable numeric limitations on construction site stormwater discharges.

Soil and sediment runoff is one of the leading causes of water quality problems nationwide. Soil runoff from construction has also reduced the depth of small streams, lakes and reservoirs, leading to the need for dredging.

The pre-publication rules (pdf), as well as the EPA’s Fact Sheet on the final rule (pdf) are available online.  While it is too early to comment on the draft rule (…primarily because I have not had a chance to digest it all…), it is interesting to note that adoption of the rule came in response to a court order in a lawsuit alleging that the EPA failed to issue certain regulations under the Clean Water Act.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the court requried the EPA to issue the rule no later than December 1, 2009.