A federal appeals court has upheld Environmental Protection Agency rules requiring contractors to limit pollution runoff from building sites of one to five acres.
The 2-1 decision, made on Jan. 14 by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholds 1999 EPA standards to combat runoff pollution one of the nation's most significant sources of water contamination.
Larger sites already are covered under other provisions of the rule limiting storm-sewer pollution.
''They have to reduce pollutants to the maximum extent possible,'' said Victoria Clark, an Environmental Defense Center attorney who unsuccessfully sued the EPA to make the nationwide rules even more stringent.
One challenge to the Clinton-era rules was from the National Association of Home Builders, which disputed that small-scale construction sites contribute to water pollution.
The group said the rules, to be implemented later this year, were an unnecessary financial burden.
''We believe, in fact, small construction facilities are not associated with water quality impacts that Congress intended to regulate,'' said home association attorney Ellen Steen. ''But the court rejected that argument.''
In upholding the regulation, the 9th Circuit concluded that storm sewers carry suspended metals, sediment, algae-promoting nutrients, trash, motor oil, raw sewage, pesticides and other toxic contaminates into streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries across the United States.
''In 1985, three-quarters of the states cited urban storm water runoff as a major cause of water-body impairment, and 40 percent reported construction site runoff as a major cause of impairment,'' Judge James R. Browning wrote for the majority.
The San Francisco-based appeals court ruling stemmed from three consolidated cases that originated in San Francisco, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
For construction sites, the decision means contractors will have to undertake a variety of measures to limit runoff during the building phase.