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Home builder faces $66,000 DEQ penalty for wetlands pollution, soil control violations

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - A home construction site in Scappoose is the subject of DEQ penalties for an alleged lack of soil and erosion control, as well as pollution to a nearby wetland. D.R. Horton, the home builder, has also been fined by another state agency for developing in a wetland without proper permits. D.R. Horton, a prominent home building company, found itself the target of state penalties connected to a Scappoose housing development for the second time in the past year.

Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality fined D.R. Horton $66,000 for soil control violations at the latest phase of the Dutch Canyon Estates housing development off Old Portland Road.

DEQ announced Monday, Aug. 7, that the home building company is being fined for causing pollution to Fisher Pond, and that its 8.15 acre home development site lacked proper soil and erosion controls and visual monitoring, compromising nearby streams and tributaries with possible wastewater runoff.

Matthew Van Sickle, public information officer for DEQ, said it's common for the state agency to do routine monitoring of projects, once permits are pulled.

"The inspectors come out and inspect the permit holders every so often," Van Sickle said. "It's part of a normal course of action for DEQ."

Builders must acquire a discharge permit for converting land into houses, Van Sickle noted, to deal with the transporting of wastewater.

"If heavy rain comes and they don't have their site prepped correctly, that goes into the stream and can choke out vegetation and also fish and wildlife."

The issues at the site first came under investigation by DEQ back in March, when site inspectors with the agency noted improper soil and erosion control measures.

D.R. Horton has now reached the penalty phase, according to DEQ.

At the time of DEQ's investigation earlier this year, the development company had already been fined $4,000 by the Department of State Lands in fall 2016 after a construction company contracted by D.R. Horton failed to get state permits for developing in a wetland. The area being developed is referred to as Fisher's Pond, or Fisher's Lake, as some Scappoose residents call it.

Site has history of violations

Penalties for soil and erosion violations were also issued back in April to Stafford Development Company.

A representative for the development company told the Spotlight at the time that the homes had been sold to another development company, who eventually sold them to D.R. Horton.

In that case, Stafford Development was given a $57,000 fine by DEQ for failing to implement proper soil and erosion control measures at the home construction site in Scappoose.

A notice of civil penalty sent to D.R. Horton on July 14 demands a report "detailing the condition of Fisher Pond Wetland and all of the erosion and sediment control measures D.R. Horton has implemented since March 15, 2017."

If the building company can correct the violations by installing soil and erosion control devices, DEQ may consider reducing some of the fines, the notice states.

D.R. Horton could not be reached for comment before press time.

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