Sept. 15, 2014 06:31

Stormwater News: Bylaw Changes Stifle Housing Development

Bylaw Changes Stifle Housing Development

Elected officials in Belmont, Massachusetts, want to update the town’s stormwater bylaw, and doing so may mean shelving plans for an affordable housing complex. The new bylaw is meant to detect illicit discharge, better control construction runoff and protect the nearby Mystic River watershed. Passing the law could disqualify Belmont Uplands, a planned 298-unit complex, from approval.

Belmont’s selectmen are contemplating switching from their existing flood projections, which were created in 1961, to new ones made in 2011 by Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Climate Center. According to the new projections, Belmont could get 8.8” of rain during a catastrophic storm event, an increase from the old projections which estimated 6.5”.

The elected officials agreed that adopting new stormwater laws would be in their best interest, but they intend to consult other boards before anything is final. “I feel that not acknowledging recent data is not healthy in general, so I’m all for it,” said Belmont Selectman Andres Rojas. “I just want to make sure it does not have unintended consequences.”

Nine States Lack Utilities

A recent study conducted by Western Kentucky University, which sought to identify stormwater utilities around the country, has found that no such institutions exist in nine states. Among those nine states were New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the three states that bore the brunt of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Louisiana and Mississippi, which were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, are also lacking stormwater utilities.

The study identified more than 1,400 stormwater utilities in 39 states, as well as Washington, D.C. They’re typically created in states where it’s clear that such institutions can be created, according to C.

Warren Campbell, engineer and author of the survey results. He strongly recommends that those states move to create that statutory authority. “Doing so does not create a single stormwater utility, but it makes it easier for local governments who wish to secure adequate funding for flood mitigation projects to do so.”

City Challenged with Polluters

Hazmat crews recently had to flush out any trace of motor oil dumped into the stormwater system of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Employees of a local sanitation company first spotted the leak while picking up trash. Authorities have already retrieved a discarded oil filter and are currently investigating the incident.

The city has had many recent issues with pollution in its stormwater system. A worker at a local chicken restaurant was fined $300 by the city for letting 200 gallons of fryer oil leak into the stormwater drain behind the restaurant.

Landlord Harold Dice dumped approximately 12,000 gallons of raw sewage into the system, and is currently under investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined the city itself for failing to update its stormwater management permit in 2012.

Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello updated the city’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) plan to comply with the EPA’s regulations. Part of this includes educating the public to avoid dumping hazardous waste into the stormwater system.

Largest Stormwater Project Completed

The largest stormwater mitigation system in Philadelphia history has started operating at local company Cardone Industries’ corporate headquarters. The project consisted of replacing the impervious concrete, asphalt and cement at the 50- acre facility with porous materials and vegetation. This will prevent stormwater from accumulating and carrying trash and pollutants into the city’s stormwater systems.

Stormwater will be redirected into one of the five drainage basins on the site, capable of holding a total of approximately five million gallons of water. The entire system is expected to handle up to 1.38 inches of stormwater per storm.

The project was a collaboration between the city and Cardone Industries, to address stormwater runoff at the company’s site. It was helped along by a $3.4 million grant from the Philadelphia Water Department’s Stormwater Management Incentives Program.

Street Sweeping Fights Stormwater Pollution

The street-sweeping program that Polk County, Florida, has employed in its unincorporated areas is paying off. According to a report given to the county’s Stormwater Technical Advisory Committee, more phosphorous and nitrogen-loaded stormwater is being swept off streets before it can pollute the county’s lakes.

This report was given as a larger effort to comply with state and federal mandates to reduce lake pollution; stormwater runoff is the leading pollutant. The main focus of the mandates is on restoring polluted lakes. However, officials also want to persuade the state to approve projects that will prevent cleaner lakes from becoming contaminated. “We need to persuade the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to protect what we have,” Committee member John Lindsey said.

City Shelves Fee Proposal

Residents of Park Ridge, Illinois, won’t be voting about whether to institute a stormwater utility fee to help pay for flood control projects. They objected to the measure, and city council members didn’t feel well-versed enough on the subject to move forward. “I do think that we all need to become far more educated on the implementation of a stormwater utility fee,” Park Ridge Alderman Dan Knight said.

The fee issued would have depended on how much permeable surface existed on a given property. Properties with more space that could contain stormwater runoff would pay lower fees. The proposal was criticized by one of the city council members who felt that property owners were in more floodprone areas by their own choice. “If you bought low property next to high property, you get what you deserve,” Alderman Jim Smith said.

Rainy Weather Stalls Projects

Summer rainfall has wrought havoc on Johnston, Iowa. It has delayed most of the ten stormwater projects currently underway in the city. This includes an effort aimed at reducing erosion in the Greenwood Hills greenbelt.

The bidding process has also delayed the greenbelt project. No contractors bid to do the project originally. A city official blamed the lack of interest on a tight project schedule and a fall deadline.

Rainfall and running water has also delayed work to mitigate erosion on nearby Beaver Creek. That project will help reduce erosion caused by two storm sewer outlets. The erosion is threatening a sanitary sewer line.

Efforts Pay Off in Colorado Springs

Debris catch basins and backup flood mitigation measures that cost millions have paid off for Colorado Springs, Colorado. They successfully contained a flash flood from reaching the city’s west side. Recent torrential rains overflowed a catchment facility, but mud and debris were retained by a newly-built basin. The water itself was slowed by an alluvial fan, preventing it from striking inhabited areas with destructive intensity.

Local officials are declaring victory. “This is a huge success story,” said Aaron Winter, executive director of the Flying W Ranch, located near the catchment facility. “You never really know how they’re going to react until you actually get that heavy rain event.”

Efforts are now underway to get the debris out of basins before more storms arrive. Crews using excavators are currently clearing basin intakes.

City Working With Company for Stormwater Incentives

Elected officials in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are mulling over incentives that would encourage property owners to improve upon how they manage stormwater. The city wants them to start installing rain gardens and barrels and other pieces of green infrastructure on their properties.

Property Owners Urged to Curb Stormwater Flow

Attempting to address stormwater runoff, the State of Pennsylvania has passed a law that allows local authorities to offer benefits for improving stormwater management. “If we can address this problem of stormwater and combined sewer overflows, it means less polluted runoff and less untreated human waste entering our streams and our lakes,” said Jennifer Quinn, representing environmental organization PennFuture.

Homeowners and businesses are eligible for credits and fee reductions when they install rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavers on their properties, among other options. “You can plant native vegetation if you have a slope towards the bottom that will act as a buffer,” said Quinn. “If you have a driveway that needs to be replaced, instead of doing concrete or asphalt, you can install permeable pavers.”

The state is hoping it can also reduce the strain on aging sewer systems in dire need of replacement. “If we can reduce the amount of stormwater flowing into the old system, that may prevent the amount of upgrades needed,” said Quinn.

Fee Hikes to Pay for Stormwater Upgrades

To pay for federally-mandated stormwater system upgrades, the city council in Logansport, Indiana, is scheduled to vote on a hike in stormwater fees. They will jump by 18%, to help satisfy the approximately $7.9 million needed for the improvements.“ The upgrades consist of two new clarifiers for the city’s wastewater treatment plant, in addition to its existing two. The current clarifiers will be retrofitted to improve their ability to remove solids during high flow conditions. Upgrades that make the plant better able to process sludge and remove phosphate from wastewater are also in order.

Town Receives $500,000 for Improvements

To prevent runoff and flood damage, Center Point, Indiana, has received $500,000 in grant funding for stormwater improvements.

Center Point will use the funding for a stormwater improvement project, which includes the installation of approximately 1,700 linear feet of storm sewers, and related ditch and grading improvements.

The program is funded through the Federal Community Development Block Grant Program.

Residents Resist Flood Control Plan

The city council of Clarksville, Kentucky, found a catch basin to be too small to adequately handle stormwater runoff in the area near Ray Lawrence Park. But attempts to enlarge the basin have met with opposition from local residents. “You’re taking a big chunk of the park away,” said a local resident, who has been gathering signatures to make the council consider alternatives.

The current plan involves expanding the catch basin at the expense of some of the land in the park, entailing the loss of some of the park’s trees and picnic tables. But a study conducted in 2008 states that there is an alternative to a larger basin.

City officials, however, contend that enlarging the basin is the most cost-effective solution. “We looked, but the area is built out,” said the city’s projects coordinator. “There is no other place, unless we were to look at taking existing homes or businesses.”

Threat of Rising Sea Levels

As sea levels rise, the city commission in Miami Beach, Florida, has been planning to address the inevitable increase in stormwater runoff. Sixty-five new pump stations have been improved to remove stormwater from streets. Also, 21 wells in the city will get upgrades. “It’s just essential,” said Miami Beach City Commissioner Joy Malakoff.

The cost for these improvements is estimated at about $30 million. It will be paid for by bonds and an 84 percent increase in Miami Beach’s stormwater fees. The commissioners came to this number after previously agreeing to factor in higher sea levels when budgeting for city projects. However, both the price tag and plans have been questioned within the commission. “I kind of want…a larger game plan, and to know when these projects will actually start,” City Commissioner Deede Weithorn said.

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In many ways, we are fortunate that, in our chosen profession, we are able to help people when certain disasters occur: the tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Georgia, the flooding in Louisiana, the snows in the northeastern part of the country, the rain in California, and the snow in Colorado....

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