July 15, 2014 11:30

Stormwater News

Stormwater Plan on Hold Indefinitely

The city council of Huntington, West Virginia, has voted unanimously to indefinitely postpone its plan to implement a fee to pay for stormwater infrastructure repairs. Mayor Steve Williams said that the charge had unintended consequences that would’ve hurt the recruitment of businesses.

The fee was going to charge residents and businesses an amount based on the size of their properties. Williams has merged together the stormwater department and the sanitary board, and has brought in community leaders to help form a new plan. He hopes that they will have something to bring to the city council soon.

Funds Allocated for Restoration Goals

In a boost for Chesapeake Bay water quality, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley has allocated $64.44 million to the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund in the state’s fiscal year 2015 budget.

“Stormwater runoff remains one of the single greatest challenges in our fight to restore the health of Maryland’s waterways,” said Governor O’Malley. “The Trust Fund provides a means for state and local partners to identify innovative, cost-effective approaches to meet our restoration goals, and provides the financial and technical resources to get them up and running.”

Funded through the state’s motor fuel and rental car tax, the Fund helps Maryland accelerate Bay restoration by focusing its limited financial resources on the most effective non-point-source pollution control projects, in coordination with public and private partners. These projects support the state’s Watershed Implementation Plan.

City Recognized for Using Trees for Stormwater Management

The city of Valparaiso was recognized recently by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for its efforts in using trees for stormwater management.

The city’s success is, in part, due to its “Shade Brigade,” a local group of volunteers who educate and mobilize the community to expand and preserve the city’s “urban forest.” The brigade has planted more than 220 trees so far, which aid in the absorption and dispersion of stormwater and contaminants when placed strategically.

The brigade has also installed Silva Cell modular suspended pavement systems that use soil volumes to provide stormwater management through absorption, evapotranspiration, interception, and infiltration of water. The cells are filled with lightly compacted soil and installed underneath permeable pavement, providing trees with larger areas to put down roots, and places for extra water to be absorbed.

Upgrades Expected to be Costly

An upcoming plan to bring Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, into compliance with state and federal stormwater regulations is projected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. These expenditures will go towards capital improvements and staffing expenses.

The borough will likely have to build underground storage basins to prevent stormwater from going into large sinkholes and quarries. It will also have to reengineer some of its current infrastructure in order to come into compliance with government requirements.

While the town will likely have years to implement all of the changes, it won’t be long before Mechanicsburg will have to consider serious funding sources. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has started to fine municipalities as their system permits are renewed if they don’t start taking steps to conform to the regulations.

IECA, WEF Announce Stormwater MOU

The International Erosion Control Association (IECA) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) announced a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) designed to encourage efficient stormwater management practices and to protect water quality.

The two organizations hope their cooperation will provide quality science- and technology-based education to stormwater and water quality professionals. Each group will organize joint educational events and exchange speakers, technical content, and share liaisons on committees and task forces, according to the release.

“WEF is looking forward to the great things that will come of this partnership,” said Eileen O’Neill, WEF’s executive director. “This MOU solidifies our ongoing collaborations to improve best practices on stormwater management and water quality protection.”

Myrtle Beach Set to Spend $11M for Stormwater Runoff Project

The city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, will spend $11 million on a new project that will push stormwater runoff farther into the ocean. The outfall project will consolidate several pipes that run off into the beaches into a larger single pipe that extends hundreds of feet out into the ocean. The change should keep more stormwater contaminants and sewage away from the beaches.

Over the last two decades, the city has invested $60 million in outfall projects along the coast. But some residents say the city has not done enough.

There are still more than two dozen open pipes lining Myrtle Beach, but city officials say runoff from the pipes is mostly harmless.

Signs are posted near each pipe warning not to go swimming near them after a rainfall. The Department of Health and Environmental Control has recently measured ETCOC (bacteria) levels to be as high as 909 near some pipes, almost ten times the recommended amount.

Native American Tribe Wins in Court

The battle between the village of Hobart, Wisconsin, and the Oneida Tribe over stormwater management fees has come to a close. The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Hobart’s petition to review its claim that it could impose the fees on either the tribe or the national government for tribal land.

The Oneidas filed a suit that challenged the village’s authority to impose the stormwater charges on tribal trust properties in February 2010. They won the case in U.S. District Court, and in October 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. In a prepared statement, the tribe said that it wishes to continue to work cooperatively with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local governments on issues of water quality.

“Today, we have achieved another goal that will allow us to execute our responsibility as stewards of the land and sustain our environment for future generations,” tribal chairman Ed Delgado said in the statement.

Hobart’s legal counsel said that the Supreme Court offered no explanation for its denial of their petition. The village is looking into additional legal strategies so that its taxpayers won’t have additional costs imposed on them.

Environmental Groups Back EPA Rule Change

Illinois environmental groups are backing a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act. They are particularly concerned with the pollution status of the local Fox River, and are looking to improve its quality through the rules change. The rule would make it clear that the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have the authority and responsibility to protect smaller bodies of water from harmful pollution. The change should tackle the issue of increased urbanization causing increased stormwater runoff.

“Any initiative that wants to manage the watershed as a watershed . . . makes much more sense,” the president of the Friends of the Fox River said. “The water quality in the Fox River had been stable since the Clean Water Act was passed, up until about the year 2000. But now there is more and more pressure on these tributaries, or streams. They are called upon to handle a lot of stormwater runoff, and that runoff is a problem both in quantity and quality.”

Mayor Calls for Change in Responsibility

The mayor of Lorain, Ohio, is calling on a regional change in how stormwater and flood relief are handled. The city was subjected to intense flooding and water damage when recent thunderstorms drenched the state. The problem is that the city cannot effectively build up its stormwater system when water from stormwater from surrounding areas gets funneled into the city.

“Local governments must cooperate to deal with flooding from severe rain storms,” said the mayor. “Stormwater from the south during a heavy storm event comes tearing through our creeks and our streams. In conjunction with the city of Lorain’s stormwater, this causes our city some real problems.”

The mayor called for all the cities in the county to pool resources and work together on larger projects and a flood management plan that will help everyone. He added, “Stormwater is not a city issue, it’s a regional issue.”

Residents Solve Problems through Annexation

Residents of the Suncrest neighborhood of Oakview in Monongalia County, West Virginia, have taken unusual measures in an effort to fix issues with their stormwater runoff. When they requested help from the Monogalia County Commission to upgrade an overwhelmed 24-inch culvert and drainage pipe to one twice its size, they were told they would have to pay for most of it themselves.

Instead, the Oakview residents successfully petitioned to be annexed by the nearby City of Morgantown. It is an unusual move, but now that they are a part of Morgantown, the Monogalia County Commission has committed $150,000 towards the culvert project.

Homeowner Gets No Help

A Fort Mill, South Carolina, resident’s property is continually being washed out by stormwater from a large drainage pipe. A nearby food service manufacturer is directing their stormwater through the pipe, which lets out into the resident’s yard.

The problem arose when the manufacturer fixed a major blockage in a pipe that was causing major flooding on their property. But since the blockage has been fixed, the water that was previously flooding the manufacturer’s property is now flooding the resident’s.

The resident went ahead and paid $1,000 for a temporary fix but says, “Right now it’s OK because of what we did, not them. Right now it’s fine, but this is going to wash out and in two or three years we’ll have this problem again.” He has appealed to the city and homeowners’ association, but so far has found no help.

County Explores Maintaining Private Retention Ponds

Fairfax County, Virginia, could eventually take over maintenance of all stormwater retention ponds now owned and maintained by homeowners associations in the county. The county already maintains many of these types of facilities, which are designed to collect water running off of developed properties in a neighborhood.

For now, the staff is recommending that the county only take over maintenance of the large dry and wet ponds, rather than the smaller varieties of stormwater control systems, at an estimated cost of about $1.5 million per year.

This would provide equity, because the county is already maintaining many of these facilities, said Randy Bartlett, deputy director of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

Compared to other options, this approach is less expensive and less complicated while still helping the county meet its clean water requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Act, Bartlett said.

Florida Rewards Counties

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is putting extra effort into awarding funding to municipalities for projects designed to improve stormwater systems and reduce polluted runoff. The grants are awarded to local government projects that can be completed within three years and prove—through monitoring—the actual pollutant reductions that will be accomplished.

“DEP wants to reward municipalities that are proactive about restoring their local water bodies,” said the director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “This grant program is meant to encourage local governments to take responsibility for their impact on the environment and assist them in making substantial contributions to water restoration.”

The recent grant recipients from the March 2014 review (Brevard County, Cocoa Beach, and Ft. Myers) were allocated more than $1.5 million for pollutant load reductions. The DEP awards such grants three times a year.

Montgomery Township Passes Stormwater Ordinance

A new comprehensive stormwater ordinance is now on the books in Montgomery, Pennsylvania. The ordinance is multifaceted, but a key part is the lifting of regulations on new projects that would add less than 1,000 square feet of impervious surfaces. Previous versions of the ordinance required all projects that would add impervious surfaces to develop an erosion and sedimentation control plan, but local pushback changed that.

Instead, they have implemented a fee-in-lieu-of option, where homeowners will simply pay a small fee that will go towards funding the township’s larger stormwater projects. Now, only projects more than 1,000 square feet will need to have their stormwater plans reviewed by the township.

Additionally, projects that are more than 5,000 square feet will be reviewed by the Montgomery County Conservation District, and projects over an acre will need to apply for permits, based on the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Shuttered Hospital Faces Lawsuit Due to Runoff

A small municipality within Indianapolis, Indiana, has sued a hospital operator over allegations that water runoff from the closed hospital is draining into its sanitary sewers and burdening the city with water-treatment costs.

For years, the city of Beech Grove has paid for the treatment of storm- and groundwater runoff that has been entering its sanitary sewers from the former hospital.

An engineering firm found that nearly 31,000 gallons of water enters the city’s sewers every day from the former hospital, even though its water service has been turned off.

The Mayor said that the water discharges could be costing the city tens of thousands of dollars a year in water treatment. Beech Grove wants the hospital operator to fix the issue. It is also seeking reimbursement for its water treatment costs, and fines of $1,000 per day.

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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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