By Christopher Walker. In 1992, the EPA instituted an erosion regulation -- under the authority of the Clean Water Act -- that holds developers, site owners, and contractors on construction sites larger than one acre responsible for the development and implementation of an erosion control plan for that site. Enforcement actions by the EPA against violators were minimal for the first eight years of the rule's existence. But December 2000 saw a flurry of enforcement activity by the EPA, which that month fined three developers $60,000 each for failing to control their jobsite runoff. The following month, the EPA fined Wal-Mart $1 million for erosion violations at 17 new store construction sites.

Builders in areas covered by stricter state and local laws have as much if not more to fear from failing to contain their sediment. In June of this year, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in California fined Weyrich Development of Paso Robles, Calif., $192,375 for allegedly allowing its erosion to clog a creek and partially block a roadway, the Tribune (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) reported. The paper quotes Donette Dunaway, a water board staff member, as saying, "Through this enforcement case, we're trying to get the message across that sediment and erosion to our creeks won't be tolerated."