San Diego Water Board Seeks $9 Million Penalty Against Baldwin & Sons for Illegal Discharges and Permit Violations

By on January 15, 2020

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a $9 million administrative complaint against Baldwin & Sons after completing a multi-year investigation into unauthorized sediment discharges at a luxury home construction site in southern Orange County.

The developer is alleged to have violated the Statewide Construction Storm Water Permit at its Portola subdivision, (a project of 900 luxury homes built on steep, sloping terrain in the city of Lake Forest), on multiple occasions from September 2015 to March 2016.

The stormwater permit, which is designed to protect against weather-related environmental damage originating at building sites, requires developers to implement precautionary measures such as slope stabilization, erosion and sediment control, curtailment of activity when it rains, and the use of sediment basins and traps to contain highly erosive soils.

During wet weather events, sediment flows downstream and transports pollutants directly to Aliso Creek, its tributaries and offsite mitigation areas. These discharges cloud the receiving water, which reduces the amount of sunlight reaching aquatic plants, and can clog fish gills, smother spawning areas, and transport other materials such as nutrients, metals, and oil and grease that negatively impact aquatic life and habitat.

Previously, city officials had issued stop-work and cease-and-desist orders, which the developer ignored, so the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board was asked to help bring the developers into compliance. After several meetings and inspections at the site, the Board issued significant corrective action to prevent further environmental harm.

“This homebuilder’s conduct is particularly egregious and deserving of a substantial penalty,” said James Smith, Assistant Executive Officer of the San Diego Water Board.

The administrative complaint and supporting evidence is available for public review and comment prior to a regional board hearing, tentatively set for April. The board will determine whether to uphold the violations and adopt a final order at that time.

The complaint can be viewed at