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MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that the Wisconsin Department of Justice has settled its lawsuit against Green Bay concrete and aggregate contractor, Triple P, Inc. (Peters Concrete) and James O. Peters, Sr., for a monetary judgment of $300,000, an agreement to restore or mitigate any past violations at 16 quarries, and an agreement to pay stipulated forfeitures if the company commits significant violations of environmental laws during the next three years. The State settled its claims against the other defendant, the City of Gillett, for $10,000.
According to the complaint filed at the request of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Peters Concrete was chosen by the City of Gillett to build a bridge over Christie Brook, a tributary to the Oconto River that has been stocked with trout. The complaint alleges that Peters Concrete used undersized water protection measures (silt bags, pumps, etc.), it failed to install and maintain adequate protection measures, and it discharged sediment to wetlands instead of uplands. The complaint charged the City of Gillett with failing to ensure that water protection measures were installed, replaced and repaired, and with failing to report noncompliance to the DNR.
The complaint alleges that wetland and waterway issues associated with the Christie Brook project were exacerbated in June 2009 when Peters Concrete's backhoe became stuck in the bed of the creek. The company dug a settling pond in the wetlands instead of in uplands and began dewatering the stream by pumping water and fill into the wetland, filling .257 more acres than the City of Gillett's permit allowed. In its haste to remove the backhoe, Peters Concrete also pumped sediment-laden water back into Christie Brook, resulting in the discharge of 9,000 cubic feet of sediment extending 6,000 feet downstream. The sediment deposits were 10-12 inches deep near the pumping point, and the sediment stayed in the stream approximately nine months before Peters Concrete vacuumed it out.
The complaint also charges Peters and Peters Concrete with violating wetland protection and storm water management laws at a gravel pit and portable concrete mixing plant in Little River, Oconto County (the Caelwaerts site). The complaint alleges that other contractors bidding for the Highway 41 project had rejected the Caelwaerts site because wetlands on the property limited the area available for quarrying to the outline of an existing sand pit. Mr. Peters was advised that he could not disturb the wetlands on the site, and a portion of the wetland boundary was flagged. These flags were ignored, a sedimentation pond was installed in the wetland, and sediment was discharged into the wetlands. The complaint alleges that after DNR staff directed Peters to stay out of the wetland until it was fully delineated, Peters Concrete dumped several loads of concrete block in the wetland area. At least 1.4 acres of wetlands were disturbed. The complaint also alleges that erosion control best management practices were not installed and maintained, and the storm water pollution prevention plan for the Caelwaerts site was not amended when the project was expanded beyond the sand pit's boundary.
As part of the parties' settlement, in addition to paying $300,000 in forfeitures, costs, surcharges and attorney's fees, Peters Concrete agreed to maintain a $100,000 line of credit for four years, and to use this money to: (1) pay a qualified environmental consultant to identify past environmental violations at 16 quarries and pits owned by Peters Concrete and to identify and map all wetlands at these sites so they may be avoided in the future; and (2) to restore or mitigate any and all wetland violations found during the environmental assessment. Peters Concrete also agreed to pay $100,000 in stipulated forfeitures, surcharges and costs, if it is assessed $50,000 or more in penalties and costs for violations of environmental laws that are committed in the next three years. During the parties' settlement discussions, Peters Concrete also advised the State that James O. Peters, Sr., will retire from and will not act as an officer, director or employee of Triple P, Inc. d/b/a Peters Concrete Company in the future.
Assistant Attorneys General JoAnne Kloppenburg and Diane Milligan represented the State. The Honorable Michael T. Judge of Oconto County Circuit Court approved the parties' settlement.
The Complaint and Judgments are available at the following links: