BOSTON – Today, EPA issued final general permits updating requirements for small “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems” (MS4) located in Massachusetts. The new permits will update stormwater management efforts across Massachusetts, better protecting rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and wetlands from pollutants including elevated levels of nutrients, which are causing algae blooms and other problems in many Massachusetts communities. At the same time, the permit maximizes flexibility for individual municipalities to tailor their efforts to individual needs and local conditions.
“Updating these permits is a critical step to ensuring that Massachusetts continues to enjoy clean water and a healthy environment,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Addressing stormwater pollution is a major problem in our communities here in New England. EPA has listened to the input of local experts and we have developed an effective and state-of-the-art permit that allows flexibility for municipal leaders to tailor their efforts to their needs, which will mean better protection for Massachusetts’ lakes, streams and other water bodies.”
The updated permits will require covered municipalities to develop, implement and enforce a “Stormwater Management Program” to control pollutants to the maximum extent practicable, protect water quality, and satisfy appropriate requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. The final permits maximize flexibility and planning time for municipal officials. For example, the final permit becomes effective July 1, 2017, allowing affected municipalities adequate time to budget and plan for program implementation.
The requirements in the general permits build on the previous general permits issued in 2003. The permits require implementation of six minimum control measures which include the detection and elimination of illicit sewage discharges, public education and outreach, public participation, management of construction site runoff, management of runoff from new development and redevelopment, and good housekeeping in municipal operations.
The updated permits include requirements that address identified water quality problems, including stormwater discharges to waterbodies with approved Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for bacteria, phosphorus and nitrogen, and requirements that address discharges to certain impaired waters without an approved TMDL where stormwater discharges are contributing to the impairment.
Regulated MS4s include traditional cities and towns, state and federally owned facilities such as universities and military bases, and state transportation agencies (except Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which will receive an individual permit).
The general permits will apply to all MS4s located in an urbanized area as defined by the 2010 census. There are 260 municipalities located in an urbanized area as defined in the 2010 census, of which 17 municipalities are potentially eligible for waivers from the permitting requirements. Waiver eligibility is based on the population within the urbanized area (less than 1,000) and the municipality’s potential to contribute pollutants to an interconnected MS4 or an impaired water.
EPA has developed and will continue to provide tools to help municipalities implement the permit, including tools to standardize and streamline required information submittals. For example, EPA has provided a suggested format for the “Notice of Intent (NOI)” which can be submitted electronically and is due 90 days after the permit effective date. EPA plans to provide templates for the Stormwater Management Program and the Annual Reports required by the general permits. To facilitate budget planning, EPA commissioned an estimate of compliance cost, including spreadsheet tools municipalities can use to estimate their own compliance costs based on their specific circumstances. The cost estimate and associated spreadsheet estimators are available on EPA’s website.
EPA released the draft general permits in Sept. 2014 for public comment. The Agency received over 160 comment letters and responded to all comments as part of finalizing these updated permits. Many comments focused on flexibility of program implementation, and the final permits incorporate additional flexibility and planning time for municipal officials which will help ensure compliance and program effectiveness.
EPA will hold four workshops in May, and will be scheduling other workshops in coming months, to help municipalities become familiar with the updated permits and learn how to utilize EPA tools to assist compliance.