Newcastle Homes Sued for More Than 150 Clean Water Act Violations

Alabama housing developer Newcastle Homes Inc. has more than 150 violations of the Clean Water Act according to a complaint filed on Monday in federal court by Alabama environmental nonprofit Coosa Riverkeeper Inc.

Central to the complaint is the construction of the 53-acre Dunnavant Valley Subdivision along the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek in Shelby County, Alabama. Riverkeeper has collected numerous turbidity samples from the creek over the past 14 months, finding 59 violations where Newcastle’s storm discharge was significantly more than allowed by its Construction General Permit, according to the complaint. 

“Sediment pollution from newly-cleared construction can degrade water quality, harm fish and other aquatic animals and plants, and increase the difficulty and cost of treating water for drinking and other uses,” the complaint states. 

Riverkeeper became aware of the alleged pollution in December 2020 when a member noticed muddy water pouring into the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek from the Newcastle construction site. Shortly thereafter, Shelby County and Riverkeeper submitted complaints to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Inspections by ADEM in December and July 2020 revealed best management practices for reducing water pollution were not being followed, such as unstable slopes and drainage areas, improperly maintained silt fences and rip-rap, unprotected culvert collars, and a construction exit pad that was not implemented according to Alabama regulations. Newcastle entered into a Special Order Consent Decree with ADEM on September 28, 2021 that included a $21,000 penalty. However, this administrative order did not mention or enforce the company’s illegal discharge into the creek, and Newcastle passed a November 2021 inspection by ADEM, according to court documents. 

Since December 2020, Riverkeeper has monitored the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek and its background stream by taking at least 25 turbidity readings at multiple locations after it rained. Its last reading was February 3, 2022. Riverkeeper found 59 turbidity violations: at times, the turbidity was 15 times what Newcastle’s permit allows. Fifty-nine water samples also showed a substantial color contrast with the receiving water, in violation of the permit. In addition, Riverkeeper has observed discharge from the Newcastle construction site at several locations outside of its permit at least 40 times. 

Riverkeeper seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, a civil penalty of $56,460 for each of the 158 Clean Water Act Violations alleged in the complaint, and litigation costs. The nonprofit is represented by Southern Environmental Law Center