Modern Stairways Inc. of Spring Valley issued $94,078 penalty for pollution runoff

By on June 1, 2017
California Drought Water Violations

Modern Stairways, Inc. of Spring Valley — approximately 12 miles east of San Diego – was assessed a $94,078 penalty by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (SDRWQCB) Executive Office earlier this week for long-standing water quality violations related to industrial activities. The company has been in violation of its permit requirements for more than five years despite constant inspections and reminders from Water Board staff.

Although Modern Stairways has had San Diego Water Board permits since the 1970s, both the state’s and the county of San Diego’s inspection reports from 2012 through 2015 show the site had open containers of oil and antifreeze, trash and, at times, up to two inches of concrete dust throughout the facility. Modern Stairways, a concrete production and metal fabricating facility, allegedly failed to implement proper management practices to prevent runoff as required by the state’s industrial storm water permit.

Pollutants, especially concrete waste, was allegedly washed into storm drains connected to Sweetwater River. Sweetwater River flows through the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and ultimately into San Diego Bay. The pollutants would wash off the site into the Sweetwater River when it rained. Concrete dust reduces the clarity of water and in sufficient quantities, or over long periods of time, these chemicals can damage local ecosystems by altering the pH and ultimately harming the ability of organisms to breathe.

“BMPs (Best Management Practices) can be simple, inexpensive measures such as daily sweeping and covering of containers. It’s such a small effort that can make such a big difference to water quality,” said Laurie Walsh, senior water resource control engineer with the San Diego Water Board. “That’s why it’s so frustrating when informed businesses ignore these requirements.”

Modern Stairways Inc. has been in business since the early 1960s. They pioneered the design and development of bolt-on stair treads and precast concrete stair treads for small backyard projects to commercial stairway contracts. They also manufacture auto stops/bumpers as well as various concrete cemetery products.

In additional to the water quality violations, Modern Stairways has failed to pay for four years of permit or re-enroll for permit coverage. The concrete fabrication business has also failed to turn in an annual monitoring report.

“Administrative violations are included in the penalty amount because when a facility ignores them, especially after such a long period of time, its operators gain an unfair economic advantage over their competitors,” said Chiara Clemente, the SDRWQCB‘s enforcement coordinator. “Many of the industrial stormwater permit requirements have been widely implemented across the state for over a decade, and we expect responsible business owners and operators to know how to comply, or hire someone who does.”

Additional information on the SDRWQCB, industrial storm water requirements or other San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board activities, you can visit the Board’s website at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/sandiego/.