The Town of Elon is facing the problem of stormwater runoff as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), Phase II Stormwater Program, commonly referred to as the Phase II Rule. Mandated by Congress under the Clean Water Act, the NPDES Stormwater Program is a comprehensive two-phased national program for addressing non-point sources of stormwater discharges which adversely affect the quality of our nation's waters. The program uses the NPDES permitting mechanism to require the implementation of controls designed to prevent harmful pollutants.
Polluted stormwater runoff is a leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies which do not meet water quality standards. Over land or via storm sewer systems, polluted runoff is discharged, often untreated, directly into local water bodies. When left uncontrolled, this water pollution can result in the destruction of fish, wildlife, and aquatic life habitats; a loss in aesthetic value; and threats to public health due to contaminated food, drinking water supplies, and recreational waterways. To learn more about stormwater runoff pollution and solutions, go to www.stormwatersmart.org.
The Phase II Rule sets forth the following three primary requirements for the Town of Elon and adjacent urban areas:
1. To develop, implement and enforce a stormwater management program designed to minimize the discharge of pollutants into receiving waters
2. To ensure that the program includes provisions to address six minimum measures to promote pollutant load reduction:
- Public education - this includes the distribution of educational materials and performing outreach to inform citizens of reasons to control stormwater runoff
- Public participation and involvement - this includes providing opportunities for citizens to participate in stormwater program development and implementation
- Illicit discharge detection and elimination - this element includes developing and implementing a plan to detect and eliminate illicit discharges to the stormwater system
- Construction site runoff control - this includes developing, implementing, and enforcing a sediment and erosion control program for construction activities
- Post-construction runoff control - this element includes developing, implementing, and enforcing a program to address discharges of post-construction runoff and specifies appropriate best management practices (BMPs)
- Pollution prevention and good housekeeping - this includes developing and implementing a program with the goal of preventing or reducing pollutant runoff from municipal operations
3. To identify appropriate BMPs with measurable performance criteria
What is stormwater runoff?
Stormwater discharges are generated by runoff from land and impervious areas such as paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops during rainfall and snow events that often contain pollutants in quantities that could adversely affect water quality. Most stormwater discharges are considered point sources and require coverage by a NPDES permit. Point source pollution can be directly traced back to a particular source like an industrial park, gas station, or wastewater treatment facility. The primary method to control stormwater discharges is through the use of best management practices (BMPs).
The most dramatic consequence of stormwater runoff is flashflooding and the damage it brings.
As land is built up and developed, more and more stormwater runs off directly to streams or rivers - way more water than streams and rivers can hold- the additional water overflows and flood streets, businesses and homes. Yet flooding is not the only impact! Stormwater runoff also carries dirt, grime, fertilizers, oil, gas and everything else we leave on the ground directly to our water bodies. This results in rivers, lakes, and streams that may be too dirty to fish in, swimming, or water too dirty to drink; lots of fecal bacteria in the water; and excess nutrients in the water causing algae blooms and fish kills.
Why do I have to pay for it?
Everyone contributes to stormwater pollution problems therefore everyone must be part of the solution. All real property experiences stormwater run-on and runoff regardless if a drainage concern exists on that specific piece of property or not. Even if your property has never flooded, the stormwater that flows off your property must be managed so that it does not contribute to flooding or pollution in areas downstream. Whether you live in a condominium, a suburban home or in an urban setting, stormwater is an issue.
How Can I help with the Stormwater Problem?
- Spills and leaks: All spills or leaks should be cleaned up using a dry absorbent such as cat litter or other absorbent material and disposed of appropriately;
- Car washing: Wash cars away from storm drains, in grassy areas, and biodegradable cleaners, or at a commercial carwash;
- Fluid leaks: Repair fluid leaks as soon as possible to reduce loss to the environment.
- Fertilizer application: Proper application of fertilizers can help to reduce the quantities of nutrients reaching receiving waters. Sweep up the excess from driveways and other impervious surfaces.
- Use and dispose of household hazardous materials properly.
- Yard waste: Yard debris can clog storm drains. Grass trimmings, yard waste and leaf litter can be controlled by composting or by community curbside collection programs.
Pet Waste Disposal: Pet waste deposited on yards, sidewalks and streets can be carried by runoff into storm drains.