A contractor for the Georgia Department of Transportation has reached a $22,500 settlement with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for erosion violations at a South Hall work site.
DOT spokesman David Spear said the problems occurred during the widening of a 4-mile stretch of Ga. 53 between Ga. 211 and Cedar Ridge Drive near Braselton. The $25 million project is scheduled to be completed late this year.
A.J. McAllister, environmental specialist for the EPD, said the DOT self-reported the violations on June 14.
"I investigated on June 21," she said. "They had been encroaching on the 25-foot stream buffer."
State law prohibits doing anything within 25 feet of a stream that might cause silt to get into the water.
McAllister said workers were engaged in land-disturbing activity, such as moving heavy equipment, too close to an unnamed tributary of Deaton Creek.
Workers may not have been aware of the buffer.
"(The contractor) did not identify the stream on (its) erosion and sedimentation control plan," McAllister said.
The penalty applies both to the contractor’s "planning error" and to the buffer violation itself.
Spear said the DOT did not actually pay the fine because the state was not at fault. The consulting firm, Kisinger Campo of Atlanta, was held responsible.
McAllister said the company paid the penalty, submitted a stream restoration plan and removed about 200 30-pound bags of sediment from the stream. They’ll have to continue monitoring water quality, and must submit a final report at the end of the project.
Officials with Kisinger Campo could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.
McAllister said the firm didn’t have to pay the full $22,500 in cash. They got a $5,000 credit for publishing a brochure, "Field Guide for Determining the Presence of State Waters that Require a Buffer."
McAllister said such "supplemental environmental projects" are common in settlement negotiations.
"We (the EPD) already had the brochure online. They offered to print it and distribute hard copies," she said. "It’s educational and appropriate to their violation. It benefits the public more than just paying a fine."