AG Lautenschlager: Announces Settlement with Three Companies Over Environmental Violations at Oconomowoc Real Estate Development

AG Lautenschlager: Announces Settlement with Three Companies Over Environmental Violations at Oconomowoc Real Estate Development

Source: http://www.orchidforchange.com, December 1, 2005

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager announced that her office has settled civil cases brought against Neumann Enterprises, Inc., D.F. Tomasini Contractors, Inc., and New Berlin Grading, Inc., for their alleged violations of erosion control laws at a Waukesha County residential real estate development known as “Thurow’s Golden View Estates.”

The three defendants have agreed to pay penalties and costs totaling $120,000 to resolve the civil prosecutions against them. The 67-acre project site is former farm land in the City of Oconomowoc and adjacent to the Oconomowoc River, several wetland areas, the La Belle Cemetery, a pre-existing residential neighborhood and Fowler Lake.

The lawsuits allege that Neumann Enterprises, a real estate development company owned and operated by former Congressman Mark Neumann, proposed to develop the site in the spring of 2004. As required by law for large development projects like this, the company prepared detailed erosion control and storm water management plans. Those plans contemplated construction of numerous sedimentation ponds on the site so that, if erosion were to occur during the project, eroding soils would be caught on site in the sedimentation ponds, rather than to wash off site into public waters, wetlands or neighborhoods. After Neumann obtained necessary permits from the DNR, the company contracted with D.F. Tomasini to do the actual construction of the project. Tomasini in turn, the lawsuit alleged, subcontracted with New Berlin Grading to do all excavation, earth moving and erosion control work associated with the project. Although Neumann did not itself do the construction work, excavation or erosion control, Lautenschlager said, it was obliged by state law to ensure that its contractors complied with all the environmental project requirements. Because it allegedly failed to do so, it was named as a defendant in these cases.

In the case filed against them, the State alleged, among other things, that the defendants unlawfully:

  • from June 24, 2004, until at least August 3, 2004, began grading the project site and began installing sanitary sewer, water mains, storm sewer and related equipment, without first completing construction of the required sediment basins;
  • from on or about June 24, 2004, until on or about August 4, 2004, Neumann, as the developer, landowner and permit holder, and Tomasini, as the construction operator, repeatedly failed to protect altered or disturbed portions of the project site from erosion within seven days; and
  • on essentially a daily basis from on or about November 16, 2004, until on or after March 8, 2005, Neumann, as the developer, landowner and permit holder, and Tomasini or its agents, as the construction operator, failed to protect altered or disturbed portions of home sites on areas of the project site referred to as “Goldenview Court,” “Lapham Street” and “Thurow Drive.”

The lawsuits also alleged that the defendants’ failures to follow the construction schedule in this respect caused or contributed to the severity of the following:

  • On July 11, 2004, and July 12, 2004, large quantities of soil washed off the project site and onto the adjacent La Belle cemetery after a rain storm;
  • On July 16, 2004, following a brief rain storm, silt and water ran over the top of a silt fence in the northwestern corner of the project site and onto the property of others. The same silt fence had proven inadequate by failing during previous rains; and
  • On August 4, 2004, after heavy rains, large quantities of soil washed off the project site and onto the adjacent La Belle cemetery, into adjacent wetlands, into the Oconomowoc River and into Fowler Lake. The blanket of mud thus deposited in the La Belle Cemetery and these wetlands was up to six inches thick.

“The kind of sedimentation that occurred here as the result of these violations can destroy important features of wetlands and lakes,” Lautenschlager said.

Lautenschlager added the defendants undertook a clean-up project costing more than $400,000 in an effort to remove sediments that had washed into the wetlands and the La Belle Cemetery. Unfortunately, however, the sediments that reached the Oconomowoc River and Fowler Lake could not be recovered, Lautenschlager said.

To settle the case, the defendants agreed:

  • Neumann Enterprises will pay penalties and costs totaling $30,000;
  • D.F. Tomasini will pay penalties and costs totaling $45,000; and
  • New Berlin Grading will pay penalties and costs totaling $45,000.

The Department of Justice brought the case at the request of the DNR. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Dosch represented the state.

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