Press Release – February 7, 2022| February 7, 2022
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southern Environmental Law Center A lawsuit was filedToday, Coosa Riverkeeper is in federal court against Newcastle Homes because they have been repeatedly violating the Clean Water Act in Shelby County.
Coosa Riverkeeper documented over 150 instances in which Newcastle Homes violated its stormwater permit at Melrose Landing, a subdivision of 78 lots located adjacent to the Shelby County Dunnavant Valley Greenway. Coosa Riverkeeper analyzed sediment from the North Fork Yellowleaf Creek which is a tributary to Lay Lake. It found that the developer had discharged sediment 12-14x above permit limits. This is illegal under the Clean Water Act.
Newcastle is allowing piles of mud and silt to pollute our creek which has incredibly harmful implications for downstream water quality and habitat, said Coosa Riverkeepers Justinn Overton. People from Shelby County should not have to suffer the consequences of Newcastle’s bad development practices, especially since Newcastle has had ample notice and time to rectify these issues.
Coosa Riverkeeper took water quality samples from 25 days between 2020 and 2022. Each time, it documented both visible stormwater pollution captured in photos and videos and excess sediment in laboratory samples taken at five unpermitted discharge points. SELC notified Newcastle in June 2021 that Riverkeepers were planning to sue, giving the developer 60 day to comply with permit requirements. Despite assurances that the company was correcting the problem, every sample taken by Coosa Riverkeeper since then has shown violations at the site.
With 220 active building permits, Newcastle is the second-most active homebuilder within Shelby and Jefferson counties. Although the company has the resources and the means to protect the recreational and practical uses surrounding waterways, Newcastle has repeatedly violated stormwater permits issued for projects in the state, such as the Dunnavant Valley Subdivision.
According to Alabama Department of Environmental Managements’ efile database, stormwater violations were found at 13 of 15 Newcastle construction sites. The Department issued at most five warning letters, eight notices of violations, and two consent orders to companies (totalling $39,200 in fines).
According to Senior Attorney Sarah Stokes of SELC, Alabama’s streams and rivers are not a free dump site for developers who believe they are above the law. Newcastle Homes should address these violations immediately.
Click HereSee photos and videos by Coosa Riverkeeper.
Stormwater permit requirements require that developers use Best Management Practices to control sediment flows and reduce turbidity in downstream waters. Alabama’s main cause of water pollution is sediment. Therefore, developers have to ensure that their operations do no harm to the water quality of downstream communities which rely on these waters as a source of drinking water, fishing, and navigation.
Coosa Riverkeeper received a citizen complain in December 2020 from a Shelby County Dunnavant Greenway Trail runner who expressed concerns about the construction runoff at Melrose Landing Development. The trail extends more than a mile along the North Fork Yellowleaf Creek which is a tributary to Lay Lake. Shelby County and Coosa Riverkeeper made complaints to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in December 2020. They received a non-binding response from the state agency.
Together with the inaction of ADEM, Newcastle’s inaction has contributed to the worsening stormwater pollution in Shelby County. There are no signs of improvement. Coosa Riverkeeper along with the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a Notice of Intent to Sue in June 2021. They have now filed suit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama.
Coosa Riverkeeper, a citizen-based river conservation nonprofit, is dedicated to protecting, restoring and promoting the Coosa River in Alabama. Visit our website to learn more about our work. CoosaRiver.org
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a powerful defender of the environment rooted in the South. SELC has a proven track record in protecting the environment. They work in government and in communities to address the most difficult environmental challenges. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 170, including 90 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. southernenvironment.org