EPA releases new draft for Clean Water Act permits in NH
The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new draft of its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System General Permit, which updates Clean Water Act protections in 60 New Hampshire municipalities.
"Storm water is regulated through the Clean Water Act," said Newton Tedder, an EPA physical scientist. "Any form of storm water that derives from an urbanized area, which is defined by the Census . is considered a point source (of pollution), and therefore requires a permit for discharge, to control from that point source."
Changes in the current draft include a longer timeline allowance for a municipality to come into compliance with the regulations, as well as looser requirements on the cleaning of catch basins and street sweepings. There are also new provisions designed to address nitrogen in Great Bay.
The new draft also expands the coverage of the regulations, adding or modifying coverage for 15 communities previously unregulated or now under-regulated after the 2010 Census identified urban areas with their borders. They are: Allenstown, Barrington, Bow, Candia, Epping, Fremont, Lyndeborough, Mont Vernon, Newfields, Newmarket, Pembroke, Raymond, South Hampton, Stratham and Wilton.
Town officials are still reviewing the draft, which was released Feb. 12. Some communities, however, have been working in anticipation of the coming regulations.
"We're planning for it, right now we're ... out there doing the GPS on all our storm drains, catch basins, culverts, things of that nature," said Pembroke Town Administrator David Jodoin. "So we're planning ahead. . We're aware of it. We're just waiting for the final resolution to come down so we can figure out exactly what needs to be done."
The town of Auburn, which has a very limited area covered under the permit requirements, "perhaps less than an acre," according to Town Administrator William Herman, has been performing similar work.
"What we did do early on, we inventoried and identified all of the catch basins and drainage sources that we had, which probably took us three years, even for a small town. There are hundreds of these things out there," said Herman. "There was an expense to doing that, but it was also good data to have on hand for other purposes."
According to Herman, the expense was between $10,000 and $12,000.
The question of money has municipalities with more expansive coverage areas nervous. Depending on the size of the regulated area, meeting the permit's requirements is estimated to cost between $78,000 and $829,000 per year, according to the EPA.
One of the stipulations of the permits is the development, implementation, and enforcement of a Storm Water Management Program to control pollutants to the "maximum extent practicable" in order to protect water quality, according to an EPA statement.
"Unfortunately, in this day and age it all comes down to money," said Jodoin. "Every community is going to be struggling with coming up with the funds to get this done, and a lot of large communities are going to be paying a pretty penny. We're trying do as much internally as we can, but we don't know whether or not we're going to be able to do any of it. We're going to have to look at hiring and engineer to help us finalize the process. We're not sure what the total cost is going to be, but that's probably going to be the worst thing for us."
The officials may be relieved at some aspects of the new draft, however. The draft incorporates some of the 100 public comments received on the previous permit draft, several of which deal directly with cost.
"We did take (cost) into consideration with this draft. We had a lot of comments on previous draft on cost," said Tedder. "We did look for way to combine areas of the permit or look at ways to reduce the burden on municipalities in this new draft, so we did take that seriously. . A bunch of the requirements and burdens that were in the last draft have been significantly reduced."
The initial general permits were issued in 2003. The permits expired in 2008, but the EPA has continued their use until a new permit could be issued.
Six minimum control measures are required under the draft. There are: public education, solicitation of public participation, the detection and elimination of "illicit discharge," management of construction site runoff, management of development and redevelopment runoff, and "good housekeeping in municipal operations."
Public comment is open on the draft until 11:59 p.m. on April 15. A public hearing on the draft is scheduled for March 14 at the Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.