Sheyenne Pollution Case Settled

The Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with Gowan Construction, Inc., an Oslo, Minn., based company the EPA had accused of violating the Clean Water Act.

The company agreed to pay $40,000 for violations on a project on Interstate 29 near Harwood, along one of the last stretches of the Sheyenne River before it reaches West Fargo and eventually drains into the Red River of the North.

The EPA discovered the violations during an investigation in August of 2010, and the settlement was reached last month. When the project was 50 percent complete, the agency found that Gowan had failed to maintain storm water controls, failed to comply with inspection requirements and had not implemented or developed a storm water pollution prevention plan. Each action not only violated the Clean Water Act, but also violated the company’s construction permit.

The EPA estimates that 1,100 tons of materials were discharged into the river, which included debris, chemicals and other sediments and pollutants. The materials that washed into the river have the capacity to kill fish, aquatic grass and other organisms while destroying spawning beds and fish eggs.

The runoff can also affect drinking water. Fargo and Valley City are two of a handful of communities that use the river as a source of tap water.
“EPA will vigorously enforce the laws to protect our nation’s water resources,” said Mike Gaydosh, EPA’s Enforcement Director in Denver in a news release. “EPA is encouraged that Gowan and the State of North Dakota are taking steps to ensure compliance with requirements that limit runoff of pollutants into surface waters.”