Federal officials brief state legislators on storm water permit

Noting that “55% of our waterways in Massachusetts are impaired by stormwater,” New England’s EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spaulding briefed a group of state legislators yesterday on the pending storm water permit.  The seminar, hosted by Representative Carolyn Dykema and Senator Jamie Eldridge, took place at the State House and also included brief talks by MassDEP Commissioner Marty Suuberg and EPA Stormwater Coordinator Thelma Murphy.

Curt Spaulding and Thelma Murphy of EPA Region 1

Curt Spaulding and Thelma Murphy of EPA Region 1

Spaulding said that the new permit, which was issued in draft form in September (and replaced an earlier draft that was never finalized), will be issued in final form in “six to eight weeks,” or by mid-January.  The permit will cover about 263 communities in the state (Boston and Worcester have separate permits, and very small towns are not subject to the permit).

According to Spaulding, the EPA received 160 comment letters on the draft permit during the public comment period. The letter comprised 1,700 pages, and the agency is still working on its response to the 1,400 separate comments.

Murphy gave a broad overview of the permit, which has six main kinds of requirements:

  1. Public education and outreach.
  2. Public participation.
  3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination (gettting sewage out of storm water)
  4. Construction management.
  5. Management of new and redevelopment post-construction.
  6. Good housekeeping (street sweeping, catch-basin cleaning, etc.)

Spaulding, Murphy, and EPA’s Ecosystem Planning Director, Ken Moraff, all noted that the agency carefully considered the comment letters and changed some aspects of the final permit in response to municipal concerns.  Legislators’ echoed their constituent’s concerns, with questions about the cost to municipalities.  Moraff said the agency has estimated the additional cost for most towns to comply with the new permit will be between $15,000 and $180,000/year.  Legislators in attendance said their towns’ consultants had come up with much higher numbers  – over $1M, in at least one case.  Moraff reminded the group that the final version of the permit will be different from the draft, and Spaulding also noted that costs during the five-year term of this permit will be relatively low, as many of the requirements will be for planning.

Finally, Representative Dykema noted that “every drop of water has been on the planet for 4.5 billion years,” and good water management is about preserving the health of our water for our children and grandchildren.