The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is increasing its enforcement of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits. Due to this, states are beginning to require counties, municipalities, and communities to implement MS4s. This means meeting minimum control measures (set forth by the EPA) by implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) and developing Operation and Maintenance (O&M) plans for all public facilities. These measures can range from low-cost staff training to more expensive tasks, such as street sweeping and implementation of construction projects that reduce and treat stormwater runoff.
With government budgets already stretched thin, these new unfunded mandates are forcing communities to look for new revenue sources to cover costs, resulting in stormwater fees. As highlighted in one local community – Allentown, PA– these fees are based on impervious coverage, which generates high volumes of runoff and pollution. The goal of these fees is to fund community projects to meet the MS4 permitting requirements and reduce potential enforcement from the state and EPA. Thiscan be done, and fees can be reduced, by implementing structural and non-structural BMPs:
BMPs are typically focused on reducing the amount of runoff and pollutants generated by stormwater. Non-structural BMPs, however, center on revegetation and reducing impervious cover. Common methods for implementing non-structural BMPs include: minimizing soil compaction, revegetating with native species, reducing impervious cover, protecting and enhancing naturally green areas close to water, and street sweeping. Most of these methods can be implemented economically, although projects to disconnect impervious areas and street sweeping can be more expensive to implement and maintain.
Once an area has implemented measures to reduce runoff and pollutants, all that remains is a means to reduce the impact of byproducts. This is when communities turn to structuralBMPs. Structural BMPs usually take one of two forms: they either reduce the rate and volume of the runoff or they remove pollutants from runoff. Some common reduction BMPs include pervious pavement, subsurface basins, and rain gardens, while quality BMPs are usually proprietary separation or filtration products.
Each community chooses BMPs based on their unique situation and application. Not only will these improvements help communities avoid repercussions from the state and EPA, but they will allow communities to reuse the water in other ways.