Coosa Riverkeeper Reaches Water Quality Settlement with Newcastle Homes
BIRMINGHAM, AL – The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has reached a settlement with Newcastle Homes on behalf of the Coosa Riverkeeper.
Pelham, Alabama-based Newcastle Homes is the developer behind Melrose Landing, a 78-lot subdivision under construction adjacent to the Shelby County Dunnavant Valley Greenway, a popular recreation site for families that runs alongside the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek, a tributary to Lay Lake.
In 2021, reports of visible streams of sediment from the Newcastle development in Yellowleaf Creek, a tributary of the Coosa River, led the Coosa Riverkeeper to conduct water quality sampling. The Coosa Riverkeeper’s monitoring revealed that the development was contributing to 12 to 14 times more sediment than its Clean Water Act permit allowed. SELC then filed a complaint on behalf of the Coosa Riverkeeper against Newcastle Homes after documenting hundreds of violations of the Clean Water Act.
Under the Clean Water Act protections, developers must utilize Best Management Practices to prevent uncontrolled volumes of sediment and mud from being washed away into downstream waterways and reduce the turbidity, a measure of water clarity. Stormwater runoff and the sediment that comes with it harms water quality, putting businesses and wildlife that depend on clean water at risk, damages public and private property, and increases water treatment costs for communities.
The settlement between Newcastle and Coosa Riverkeeper requires the developer to repay the Riverkeeper $39,750 for monitoring expenses over two years. Furthermore, Newcastle Homes will be fined $500 to $1000 for every future infraction. Under the settlement, these fines will be paid to Big Canoe Creek Partners, whose mission is to preserve Big Canoe Creek Preserve, a 422-acre preserve on a tributary of the Coosa River in Springville that was purchased with funding from Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust program. Next SELC will ask a Magistrate Judge to approve the consent decree.
“After violating its permit for years, we are hopeful that this settlement will stop Newcastle from polluting Yellowleaf Creek, once and for all,” said Justinn Overton, Staff Riverkeeper at Coosa Riverkeeper. “This is a victory for everyone who loves and appreciates the beauty of the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek who should not have to compromise healthy waterways for development interests.”
“There are good and bad ways to develop a piece of land. Developers should realize that clear-cutting and then placing a subdivision on a mountain without phasing the development or maintaining any trees has a price,” said Sarah Stokes, senior attorney for SELC in Alabama. “It’s much harder for a developer to maintain compliance with the law at that point. This settlement is a step in the right direction in bringing Newcastle back into compliance.” The Coosa River stretches 280 miles across Alabama and helps form the Alabama River, then the Mobile River, before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. The Coosa was identified by American Rivers as the nation’s 5th most endangered river in 2022, largely due to the impacts of agricultural operations including poultry facilities and runoff from urban centers and development.
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