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Swinerton to pay $2.3M fine over alleged Clean Water Act violations

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Dive Brief:

  • San Francisco-based contractor Swinerton has agreed to pay a $2.3 million penalty to resolve allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act and related state laws during the construction of solar farms in Alabama, Idaho and Illinois it worked on from 2016 to 2022, the EPA announced on Jan. 17.
  • The agency filed the complaint alongside the states of Alabama and Illinois. It alleges that across four jobsites, Swinerton failed to use proper stormwater controls, did not conduct regular site inspections by qualified personnel and did not accurately report and address stormwater issues, according to the release. At the Alabama and Idaho sites, its actions led to unauthorized discharges of large volumes of sediment-laden stormwater into nearby waterways, according to the EPA.
  • As a result, Swinerton will pay a civil penalty of $1,614,600 to the U.S., $540,500 to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and $144,900 to the state of Illinois, per the release. In addition, Swinerton will fund substantial mitigation projects to redress the excess sediment discharges at the Idaho and Alabama sites. In Idaho, Swinerton will provide $600,000 in funding toward a restoration project on the Portneuf River near Pocatello.

Dive Insight:

Swinerton did not immediately provide comment on the fine. The company, which was founded by Swedish immigrant Charles Lindgren in 1888 as a brick masonry and contracting startup, focuses on a breadth of markets including industrial, education and healthcare. 

In 2021, the builder sold its solar division, Swinerton Renewable Energy, to private equity firm American Securities.

“This settlement holds Swinerton accountable for its widespread Clean Water Act violations and ensures that nearby communities in Alabama and Idaho will benefit from projects to restore the waterways and enhance recreation,” said Todd Kim, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, in the release.

These aren’t the first cases the U.S. has brought against the solar farms — in 2022, the EPA settled allegations of Clean Water Act violations with the owners of the four sites, who paid over $1 million in combined civil penalties to the federal government and the affected states.

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