EPA fines Avimor after missing inspections, work encroaching on stream buffer

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined foothills planned community Avimor roughly $5,000 last month over a handful of environmental violations found during a January 2021 inspection. 

On May 10, Avimor and the EPA came to an agreement for the developer to pay the federal government $5,280 to resolve two issues discovered during an inspection a year and a half ago and 14 missing inspections the company should have completed. Avimor paid the fine and the problems have been remedied. 

This is the first time the EPA fined Avimor.

“We acknowledge and accept responsibility for these violations and have taken the appropriate steps to remedy the issues identified in the settlement and to ensure full compliance in the future,” Avimor General Manager Brad Pfannmuller wrote in an email. “We take seriously our commitment to being good stewards of the land and water and to the rules and standards that govern projects like this.”

What happened?

Three main issues were noted by the government inspectors reviewing the site for improper stormwater runoff and pollution.  

Todd Dvorak, with PR firm Strategies360, told BoiseDev an inspector from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality noted down undocumented gravel piles in and around the historic ranch property. Contractor work had also interfered with the required 50-foot buffer of vegetation surrounding a small creek on the property. 

The project was also missing 14 required inspections for when crews are working near specified bodies of water. These inspections were the responsibility of Syman Company, a third-party contractor hired by the developer to monitor soil erosion, control and reporting to the government. 

Brad Simpson, project manager at Syman Company, said the inspections were missed because his company was not informed that partway through the project the government changed the classification of a creek running through the property. By changing this classification, the government now requires weekly inspections as well as inspections after it rains more than a quarter of an inch. 

Simpson said it can be difficult to track all the times the government changes the classifications of certain creeks, resulting in things falling through the cracks occasionally. 

“Sometimes you hear about it, and sometimes you don’t,” he said. “It’s a constant battle of keeping up with what’s going on.”

Dvorak said inspections of the site were triggered by an anonymous complaint about a sheen on the ground. An initial inspection turned up nothing, but afterward a second complaint was filed with photos of a sheen on the ground attached. A second inspection failed to turn up any source of pollution, but in response to the complaint Avimor removed and dug up two above-ground fuel tanks in the area that date back to when the McLeod Ranch was operational prior to development. 

Crews excavated the ground around the tanks and replaced it with gravel. Dvorak said no contamination was ever detected on the site. 

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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