WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) successfully resolved two environmental enforcement actions—winning a judgment in a water pollution lawsuit and reaching a settlement in a lead paint investigation—and filed a new lawsuit against a developer that polluted District waters.
Under the terms of a judgment OAG won against Miss Dallas Trucking, LLC, the company will be required to pay more than $30,000 to cover the District’s costs of an environmental clean-up and the maximum civil penalty of $50,000 for a violation of local water pollution law. Separately, OAG resolved a lead-paint-related investigation into a local contractor, Universal Flooring and Remodeling, LLC. As part of a settlement, the company will be required to pay $25,000 in civil penalties and ensure that its workers are trained to safely handle lead paint. Additionally, OAG filed a new lawsuit against South Capitol Improvement, LLC, seeking to hold the developers, owners, and managers of an apartment complex in Ward 8 accountable for illegally discharging water containing high levels of grease, oil, and heavy metals.
“The District’s strong environmental laws aim to protect our natural resources and the health and safety of all of our residents,” said AG Racine. “We know that exposure to toxic lead paint and other pollutants can cause lasting harm, particularly to children. And low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental problems. These enforcement actions put area businesses on notice that if they endanger vulnerable DC residents by polluting our air, land, or water, the Office of the Attorney General will not let them get away with it.”
OAG has the authority to enforce the District’s environmental laws, including the Water Pollution Control Act of 1984, which protects the District’s natural resources and the health and safety of residents by prohibiting discharge of pollutants into the waters of the District. OAG also enforces the Lead Hazard Prevention and Elimination Act, which protects residents from exposure to toxic lead paint. Lead is a toxic metal that can cause painful physical symptoms, including organ and brain damage, and is especially dangerous to young children. The law places safe maintenance and renovation requirements on buildings constructed before 1978, when the federal government banned consumer use of lead paint.
The District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) investigates and monitors businesses activities that may harm the environment, such as air emissions and storage of hazardous waste. When businesses violate environmental regulations, DOEE issues notices of violations or directives to get businesses to correct their harmful activities. When those businesses fail to comply with those notices or directives, DOEE refers the matter to OAG for enforcement action.
Water Pollution Judgment Against Miss Dallas Trucking, LLC
Miss Dallas Trucking, LLC (Dallas Trucking) is a waste hauling company. In 2018, one of the company’s dump trucks crashed into a concrete bank while exiting I-295 in the District and spilled 900 gallons of automotive fluid into a stormwater canal that drains directly into the Potomac River. The spilled fluids, including diesel fuel and motor oil, needed to be cleaned up immediately or they would enter the river and endanger human health and the environment. Dallas Trucking refused to clean up the spill and the District took action to remove the toxic fuel and oil from the canal and a wetland area and properly dispose of it. When the company refused to compensate the District for the clean-up, DOEE referred the matter to OAG, which filed suit. With the lawsuit, OAG sought to recover the costs of the clean up and impose maximum penalties under the Water Pollution Control Act.
The District obtained a partial default judgment in 2019, after Dallas Trucking failed to answer the complaint or appear at legal proceedings. The partial default judgment ordered the company to pay for the clean-up but denied the District’s request for civil penalties. The District successfully appealed the denial of civil penalties. In an October 2021 judgment in favor of the District, the court affirmed that Dallas Trucking had violated District law and ordered it to:
- Pay $31,399 to cover the costs of the environmental clean-up: Dallas trucking will be required to repay the District to cover the costs of cleaning up the spilled oil and fuel.
- Pay the maximum civil penalty of $50,000: Dallas Trucking will be required to pay the maximum civil penalty under the Water Pollution Control Act. The District requested that the court impose the maximum penalty to deter companies from ignoring the District’s attempts to recover costs in the future and send the message that if companies fail to take responsibility for their violations, they could face substantial penalties.
A copy of the judgment is available here.
A copy of the 2018 legal complaint is available here.
Lead Paint Settlement With Universal Flooring and Remodeling, LLC
Universal Flooring and Remodeling, LLC (UFR) is a construction company that renovates homes in the District. Under District law, renovation businesses must ensure that employees that may disturb lead-based paint—which is assumed to be present in buildings constructed before 1978, when lead paint was banned—are certified by either the Environmental Protection Agency or the District’s Department of Energy and Environment. An OAG investigation revealed that on at least 44 residential home renovations, Universal Flooring and Remodeling failed to ensure that drywall removal and other work that could have disturbed lead-based paint was performed by certified renovators. During many of these projects, Universal Flooring and Remodeling was a subcontractor for 5Design Development, LLC, which was also subject to OAG enforcement. Each of the 44 renovations performed without certified personnel is a separate violation of the District’s lead laws and consumer protection laws.
As part of a settlement resolving OAG’s investigation, Universal Flooring and Remodeling will be required to:
- Pay $25,000 in penalties to the District: Universal Flooring and Remodeling must pay $25,000 in penalties for endangering and misleading District residents. If the company fails to comply with any settlement terms, they will be required to pay additional penalties of up to $250,000.
- Comply with District construction, renovation, environmental, and consumer protection laws: The company must comply with laws intended to protect District residents from the dangers of toxic lead paint and ensure all employees and contractors performing renovations on homes built before 1978 have legally required certification and training.
A copy of the settlement is available here.
Water Pollution Lawsuit Against South Capitol Improvement, LLC
South Capitol Improvement, LLC (SCI) is the developer, owner and manager of a 195-unit affordable housing complex located at 4001 South Capitol St, NW in Ward 8. In 2020, the company informed DOEE that groundwater was seeping into the basement of its building and that it was discharging the water into one of the District’s storm sewer system. This storm sewer system flows directly into Oxon Run, a tributary of the Potomac River. The District issued a permit to discharge water into the storm sewer system to SCI, but to protect water quality in the Potomac River, the permit required the company to treat the water so that it would not exceed limits on toxic pollutants like oil, grease, and heavy metals.
Despite repeated warnings and requests from DOEE, SCI violated the terms of its permit and discharged polluted water containing high levels of petroleum, grease, and metals like nickel into a storm sewer system that drained into Oxon Run and the Potomac River. On at least 34 days, DOEE documented levels of pollutants that exceeded the set maximums.
In a lawsuit filed in October 2021, OAG alleges that SCI violated District law by discharging high levels of toxic pollutants into District waters. With this lawsuit, OAG is seeking a declaratory judgment and civil penalties to deter SCI and other businesses from flouting environmental protection laws. The Water Pollution Control Act imposes civil penalties of up to $50,000 per violation.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
Background on OAG’s Environmental Work
Over the last two years, OAG has—with the support of the Council—deployed new resources to protect the environment and address persistent local environmental problems, including those that disproportionately impact low-income communities. OAG won a $400,000 penalty from a developer for violating District laws that protect residents from toxic lead; obtained a $350,000 penalty from a property owner that leaked toxic used oil in Ward 5; forced a landlord to clean up lead paint that put children at risk; recovered $52 million from Monsanto for its role in the spread of toxic PCBs in the District’s waters and other natural resources; and settled a lawsuit with Greyhound over air pollution violations at Union Station that led the company to adopt bus anti-idling policies nationwide. OAG has also recovered $2.5 million from a power plant that discharged oil into the Potomac River and is deeply involved in the District’s ongoing cleanup of the Anacostia River. Additionally, OAG joined multistate lawsuits to stop the Trump administration from rolling back critical environmental protections, such as auto emissions standards and Clean Water Act rules.
District residents should report suspected violations of environmental law to DOEE through a smartphone app available here.