Colorado company faces fines for construction site violations – Work site had more than a dozen stormwater issues

By Jonathan Romeo Herald Staff Writer

Bayfield CO (9/27/2019) – A Colorado-based construction company likely faces fines for serious violations at a work site near Bayfield, according to state officials.

“This is a serious offense,” said Kelly Morgan, an environmental protection specialist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Based on the pattern and number of violations, and the history of enforcement with this company, we determined the best path forward … was enforcement.”

In 2017, SEMA Construction was hired by the town of Bayfield for an estimated $4.5 million to rebuild the aging Bayfield Parkway bridge that passes over the Los Piños River.

According to state records, an inspection was conducted by the health department in August 2017, which found 14 violations on the work site that stemmed from SEMA not properly having stormwater containment management.

More specifically, state inspectors found SEMA did not have in place proper equipment to control erosion and sediment from spilling into the Los Piños River and surrounding wetlands, which carries a risk to the ecosystem and aquatic life.

Morgan said SEMA was given the opportunity to fix the issues but failed to do so.

The state health department issued SEMA a “notice of violation” in recent weeks, which includes similar rampant violations found at two other work sites in Boulder and Jefferson counties.

Morgan said it’s rare for the state health department to issue enforcement orders – only about 2% to 4% of inspections conducted across the state lead to an enforcement action.

SEMA’s past violations also were a factor, Morgan said. From 2007 to 2014, the company received four enforcement orders, resulting in $550,000 in penalties and fines.

A SEMA spokeswoman was contacted late Thursday and asked for written questions via email. As of noon Friday, she had not responded.

The company has until the end of September to respond to the state order. CDPHE issued SEMA a series of corrective actions, but the project in Bayfield finished in fall 2017.

“They most likely will receive a civil penalty,” Morgan said.

Morgan could not estimate the amount in penalties or how long it would take to resolve the issue. She said an enforcement order was issued more than two years after the initial inspection because of the complexity of the situation that involved three work sites, as well as state legislation that affected inspection protocols.

Bayfield Town Manager Chris LaMay said local officials were aware of SEMA’s violations at the time of construction in 2017. He said town officials are relatively pleased with the company’s work.

“Everything seems to be holding up,” he said. “Their work seemed to meet industry standards.”

In January 2017, SEMA was also fined $14,075 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupation Safety and Health Administration for safety violations that contributed to the death of one of its workers, 23-year-old Brian John Anthony Shaw, known as B.J.