Snohomish County homes not part of EPA settlement with builder

Officials with a national company that’s built hundreds of homes in Snohomish County say a federal investigation into alleged stormwater runoff violations did not affect projects here.

Centex Homes, based in Dallas, Texas, which has an office in Kirkland, was among four homebuilders who reached a $4.3 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice over alleged violations at sites in 34 states.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, was the result of an investigation spurred by site inspections and a review of the companies’ documents, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In announcing the settlement, the agency did not disclose exact sites or instances where violations may have occurred. In some cases, the issues pertained not to actual stormwater runoff precautions, but to whether the companies followed proper procedures in obtaining all the required permits, government officials said.

Such was the case with Centex, a spokesman for the company said Friday.

“The settlement is really about paperwork and process rather than actual pollution,” said Eric Bruner, a Centex spokesman based in Dallas.

Bruner said he doesn’t know which specific Centex projects were targeted in the federal investigation. He and Doug Barnes, northwest division president based in Kirkland, said none involved sites in Snohomish County.

Barnes said he was not notified by the Environmental Protection Agency of any problems at any of Centex’s sites in Washington state.

Bruner said the settlement was reached without the government having proved any violations. Companies were notified of the investigation as far back as 2000, he said. Centex’s portion of the settlement was just under $1.5 million.

The company agreed to the settlement “in the interest of putting the matter behind us,” Bruner said.

A call to the Environmental Protection Agency’s office in Seattle on Friday was referred to Washington, D.C., where officials did not immediately return a phone call.

Barnes said Centex currently six projects in Snohomish County where it is still selling homes: Copper Creek in Marysville, Sinclair Woods in Bothell, Woodridge and Woodridge North in Bothell, The Summit in Monroe, and Meadowleaf in Lynnwood.

In addition, Centex has completed more than 10 housing projects in the county over the past two decades, Barnes said.

Discussions between the federal government and the homebuilders about stormwater practices during the investigation led to stricter standards being written into the settlement, both sides said.

Centex has increased training requirements for field managers and division officers, put stormwater supervisors at every site and division office, standardized its stormwater inspection practices nationwide, and taken extra steps to make sure any problems are resolved quickly, the officials said.

“Our company shares the government’s goal of protecting and preserving clean waterways,” Bruner said.

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

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