Stormwater recharges our water aquifers with fresh, clean water for our drinking supply, our agricultural needs, our beautiful environmental needs, and our aquatic recreational fun.
Run-off from our land surfaces, especially our paved, impervious surfaces, and our lawns can wash pollutants into our streams, rivers, and ocean. Infiltration of the pollutants can contaminate our groundwater with pathogens making our water supply not drinkable, our shellfish areas uneatable, and our aquatic environment destroyed. Not allowing clean stormwater to be captured by natural land processes in our watershed can be detrimental to our fresh water supply for present and future generations on our planet, Earth. The importance to infiltrating and protecting our stormwater is necessary to help us increase groundwater and aquifer storage, and to help us reduce flooding and its subsequent compromise of our fresh water supplies, for all ecosystems in our watersheds.
The Clean Water Act of 1972:
Sparked by wide-spread dumping of toxic chemicals into our nation's water supply, and literally for all the nation to see, Cleveland's Cuyahoga River catching on fire (continuously) and a 30-yard sludge perimeter around the Great lakes; Congress finally acted and passed the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) commonly called The Clean Water Act. It only controls water systems that directly flow into major watershed systems and does not control wells and agricultural erosion outflows. Those other systems are covered under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
As part of the Clean Water Act, Section 303 (d): Impaired Waters and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) Section 303 (d) of the Clean Water Act authorizes EPA to assist states, territories and authorized tribes in listing impaired waters and developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for these waterbodies.
A TMDL (Stands for Total Maximum Daily Loads) is the calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter a waterbody so that the waterbody will meet and continue to meet water quality standards.
The purpose of the TMDL is develop a plan for restoring impaired waters. It first identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. It then creates a pollutant reduction target and recommends load reductions that would be necessary to reduce the pollutants from sources within the watershed.
Background on Stormwater and the US Clean Water Act
Since the 1972 issuance of the US EPA Clean Water Act, direct or point source pollution from industrial waste, commercial waste and any waste had been forbidden to flow to our waterways. In 1987, the US EPA Clean Water Act made additional constraints placed on indirect, or non-point source pollution discharge to our waterways. Close to 70% of pollution in our streams, rivers, and ocean are conveyed to our waterways as stormwater run-off from land surfaces.
To address this wide-spread pollution source, the EPA has mandated each state’s large municipals (1990 Phase I, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Large Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) for Populations of >100,000) and each state’s small municipals (1999 Phase II, NPDES Small MS4 System for Populations of <100,000) to be required to have a permit for discharge of stormwater conveyances to our waterways.
The permits state that Large and Small Municipal Storm Sewer Systems must be monitored for illicit discharges to our waters. The general public, local businesses and small industries must be educated on ways to prevent pollutants from washing into our stormwater conveyance systems. Construction in new developments and redevelopments must have conditions in their building permits that infiltrate or convey stormwater to remain on site, and have operational and management plans that encouragement low-impact design of the stormwater structures and processes. Each municipal town or city must have operational and management plans for all municipal practices, such as street sweepings, catchbasin clean-outs, street deicing processes, and municipal building maintenance practices that reduce or eliminate the possibility of stormwater washing pollutants into our waters.
In 2003, US EPA issued their 5 year US EPA NPDES Small MS4 General Permit. Upon renewal of the general permit in 2008, 2 drafted MA Small MS4’s general permits followed by their respective comment periods were issued in 2010 and 2014.
After this extended period the Final 2016 US EPA NPDES Small MS4 General Permit was issued on April 4, 2016 to replace the original 2003 general permit. 2016 US EPA NPDES General Permit shall take effect July 1, 2017.
The 2016 US EP NPDES smallMS4 General Permit has more stringent inventory and mapping requirements for MS4, requirements for detailed monitoring protocols for detecting, eliminating, and removal of illicit discharges, required infiltration of stormwater and the monitoring of phosphorus in new development sites and redevelopment sites greater than or equal to 4 acres, plus improvements in maintenance and operations required for stormwater best management practices on municipal properties.
PRCWA endorses the 2016 US EPA NPDES Small MS4 General Permit especially with PRCWA’s concern for present-day water withdrawal issues and present-day water quality impairment issues in our Parker River Watershed.