News | March 21, 2000

PART II: EPA Details Six ‘Minimum Control Measures' Needed for Permit

Editor's note: The following is the second in a series of articles detailing the Phase II portion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's NPDES storm water regulations. The articles are based on a nationwide videoconference sponsored by EPA and the American Public Works Association. More than 2,000 public works people tuned in for the all-day session, which originated in Kansas City, MO, near APWA headquarters. The first article featured an overview of the regulations presented by Michael Cook, director, EPA Office of Wastewater Management. Today's feature will be a discussion of the minimum control measures required. Future installments include information on the EPA Phase II "tool box," and a case study of how one community is approaching the challenge.

Although a list of best management practices regarding the implementation of Phase II of the NPDES storm water rules is not due out until October, small municipalities across the country are already gearing up to meet the permitting standards.

In order to meet the new standards, which aim at cleaning up this nation's waters, EPA has provided a list of six minimum control measures which are to be implemented using BMPs released by individual permitting authorities. EPA is expected to provide a guide in October for each state to pattern its practices based on each state's individual needs.

With Phase I already in effect for large municipalities, Phase II will encompass small municipalities with municipal separate storm sewer systems that serve less than 100,000 people and small construction sites that disturb or move earth within one to five acres.

Doug Harrison, general manager for the Fresno Metro Flood Control District, Fresno, CA, led the discussion on the six minimum control measures that must be addressed in order to qualify for application for a permit no later than March 10, 2003.

At the current time, EPA is not requiring numeric limit enforcement but rather looking for evidence that each municipality is employing the technology necessary to reduce storm water pollution "to the maximum extent practicable."

In order to do this, the permitting authority, generally the state, will address the six control measures. They include public education, public involvement, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site runoff, post construction storm water management, and pollution prevention by following good house keeping practices.

The BMPs for storm water quality fall into two categories: non-structural and structural. The non-structural include preventive actions and are by far the least expensive to implement. The structural are forms of treatment facilities, which, of course, are the more costly of the two. Within each measure, Harrison cautioned the municipalities to be keenly aware of the rules that are "musts" and the ones that a municipality "should" perform.

Public education is a must
The first measure discussed is a non-structural step geared at making sure the community is aware of storm water pollution and how it can be prevented. The "must" rule is that each municipality must implement a public education program to distribute educational materials, or equivalent outreach, that describes the adverse impact of storm water and steps to take to reduce it.

In the "should" column, communities are encouraged to inform households and individuals about steps they can take to prevent pollution such as:

  • proper septic tank maintenance
  • proper use and disposal of garden chemicals
  • steps to take for local stream and habitat restoration
  • proper disposal of household hazardous material

Individual communities are encouraged to target appropriate groups within each community that need to be particularly aware of how they are polluting. These may include restaurants, auto service facilities, and carpet cleaning services. Communities are also encouraged to address the viewpoints of all "sub-communities" such as minority groups, disadvantaged children, government entities, and the like. "They need to be brought into the program to become stakeholders," Harrison said.

Public involvement and participation related
The second measure is not the same as education but related. The primary "must" is that the municipality must comply with state and local public notice requirements regarding adoption of plans, policies, ordinance, etc.

A municipality also "should" involve the public in developing, implementing and reviewing the storm water management program. Harrison stressed it was essential that the public buy into the program in order for it to work.

Involvement may take the guise of a citizen storm water advisory panel, public hearings, or volunteer programs such as stenciling storm drains with warnings not to dump pollutants

Illicit discharges must be detected
This third control measure may be the most extensive but also the most effective. There are five "musts" which must be adhered to. A community must:

  • Develop, implement and enforce program to detect and eliminate illicit discharges. This applies to "unknown parties distributing unknown stuff" into the storm water system, according to Harrison.
  • Develop storm water system maps, which show the location of all outfalls and names of receiving waters.
  • Effectively prohibit non-storm water discharges into the system using ordinances and enforcement actions.
  • Implement a plan to detect and address non-storm water discharges and illegal dumping.
  • Inform public employees, businesses and citizens of hazards and dangers of illegal discharges.

The "shoulds" included under this measure include: coordinating these requirements with the public education measure; visually monitor outfalls, identify priority areas likely to produce discharges, and trace and remove discharge sources.

Construction site runoff must be addressed
To meet this fourth measure a community "must":

  • Control construction sites of one acre or larger if they have not obtained a waiver.
  • Pass an ordinance or other regulatory mechanism to control erosion and sediment.
  • Control construction site waste material such as excess building materials, concrete washout, and sanitary waste. Harrison noted that often rain washing off of a stockpiled material will release contaminants from that material into the system. This needs to be monitored, he said.
  • Include in program the requirement for construction site owners to implement BMPs.
  • Adopt procedures for site plan review of water quality impacts.
  • Adopt procedures to receive and consider public input.
  • Adopt procedures for inspections and enforcement.
  • Set sanctions to ensure compliance.

Regarding construction sites, a community "should" review pre-construction site plans, conduct site inspections and enforcements, and require a site-specific storm water pollution prevention plan. All of these may blend with the "musts."

Post-construction management needed
Once construction is completed, a community "must" require that a program be instituted to address potential storm water runoff. The program must include:

  • strategies for structural and non-structural BMPs
  • an ordinance or regulatory mechanism
  • a way to ensure long-term operation and maintenance
  • a way to ensure that controls are in place that prevent and minimize water quality impacts

Harrison noted that the municipality needs to take responsibility for seeing that new development or re-development does not contribute directly or indirectly to overall storm water pollution. "We can no longer afford to depend on homeowners associations and citizens groups to enforce these measures," Harrison said.

Watershed planning highly recommended
Related to this control measure, EPQ highly recommends developing watershed planning with stakeholders for entire area. Examples of non-structural BMPs include:

  • policies and ordinances to protect natural resources
  • policies which direct growth away from sensitive areas such as wetlands
  • ways to minimize amounts of impervious surfaces
  • plans to maintain open space
  • methods to minimize disturbance of soils and vegetation

Structural BMPs recommended include:

  • storage facilities such as detention and retention ponds
  • filtration facilities such as grassed swales, sand filters, filter strips
  • infiltration facilities such as recharge basins and porous pavement

Harrison admitted there were natural tendency for there to be tension between the goals of protecting water and land use development.

Good housekeeping policies urged
Initially municipal facilities such as maintenance barns were exempt from the rules but Phase II negates that. Therefore, they are required to adopt the number six minimum control measure.

To meet this one, Harrison warned the public works people, you may have to change some of the ways you do business. An operation and maintenance program must be developed and implemented that prevents and reduces pollutant runoff from municipal operations.

Employees must be trained in park and open space maintenance, fleet and building maintenance, storm drain system maintenance, and new construction and land disturbance procedures.

Departments will need to step up their maintenance schedules and activities. Controls to prevent littering in streets and parking lots will also have to be introduced. Proper disposal of waste removed from storm drains needs to be practiced. And a constant monitoring program should be instituted.

The EPA people admitted that some of the measures suggested may or may not work effectively. "This is the first step in a journey," one official said. Harrison agreed that the program was still very much in the experimental stage with many unproven procedures. Therefore, assessing and reporting will be very important in determining the success of the measures taken.

The next article in this series will focus on a "tool box" EPA has provided to assist communities. Watch for it.

By Joyce Jungclaus, Editor, Public Works Online