DEEP: DEEP Releases Revised Requirements for Storm Water Systems - New Proposal Will Protect Waters at Lower Cost to Municipalities

2015 Press Release
January 26, 2015
DEEP Releases Revised Requirements for Storm Water Systems
New Proposal Will Protect Waters at Lower Cost to Municipalities
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) today released revisions to a proposed permit for the management and oversight of municipal storm water systems that offer municipalities and institutions less costly and more flexible requirements for compliance.
“After carefully reviewing the draft requirements we originally proposed with the concerns of local officials in mind, we have developed new approaches that will achieve environmental and public health objectives with lower costs for our municipal partners,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. 
Commissioner Klee said, “We believe cities and towns can realistically and cost effectively implement the type of revised requirements we are now proposing – which will safeguard the quality of our waters and aquatic life and make certain they are attractive and safe for people to enjoy for swimming, fishing, and boating.” 
The revised requirements of the proposed permit:
  • Adhere more closely to requirements the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently proposed in other states, such as Massachusetts, where it directly administers the storm water permit.
  • Minimize capital and labor intensive requirements by providing larger communities and state and federal institutions covered by the permit extended timeframes for implementation and more flexibility in steps that must be taken to comply when it comes to street sweeping, leaf management, catch basin cleaning, and water quality testing.
    • Examples of revisions resulting in significant cost savings:
      1. Street sweeping/catch basin cleaning requirements have shifted from a prescriptive schedule to one that allows municipalities maximum flexibility to determine the appropriate schedule based on inspection observations and other relevant information.
      2. Leaf management requirements have been clarified to reflect that municipalities are not required to implement a leaf pickup program.  The language now clearly indicates a management program will be consist of actions determined by a town/ city to best prevent the deposition and disposal of leaves on roads and storm sewers.
      3.  Discharge monitoring program has been significantly revamped to focus on a more targeted approach – only testing discharges to impaired waters for the pollutant/ pollutants associated with degraded water quality.  The use of field testing kits, where available, is also included to reduce lab costs.
  • Focus on a few key areas for 49 new, smaller communities that would be covered by the permit:
    • Preventing illicit connections to storm water systems
    • Reviewing and revising local land use ordinances to minimize future storm water runoff from future development in order to prevent the degradation of healthy, high-quality waters.
    • Conducting basic inspection and maintenance, as necessary, of roads and drainage systems.
Next Steps in Process
DEEP has shared the proposed new requirements with those formally participating in the matter and is seeking to collaborate with them to finalize the new permit.  DEEP staff, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Council of Small Towns, the Town of Willington, and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment will discuss the status of these talks and the most appropriate next steps at a Feb. 4 meeting with the hearing officer assigned to this issue.
“With the revised draft permit as a starting point, it is our hope that discussions between DEEP staff and the organizations involved in this process will lead to agreement on the final permit language and requirements,” said Commissioner Klee.  “That would be the most efficient and effective way to put this new permit in place and to ensure future cooperation and compliance with it by cities and towns.”
Background on the Storm Water General Permit
Cities and towns that operate storm water systems are required to register for a General Permit with DEEP that establishes operating requirements for them.  DEEP has initiated a process to revise requirements of this General Permit, which was first put in place in 2004, to meet water quality objectives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to incorporate “best practices” for management of storm water.  The proposed changes to the General Permit first proposed by DEEP staff last July were the subject of a public hearing at DEEP on December 17, 2014. 
  • There are 113 municipalities currently covered by the existing Storm Water General Permit.  They would all continue to be covered by the proposed new permit.  In addition, eight new municipalities would also be covered because they now meet certain federally-defined population thresholds.  Collectively, this group of regulated municipalities is referred to as Tier I towns. 
  • Only some requirements of the proposed new permit would also apply to 49 other smaller, so called Tier II towns in the state.  These focus on common-sense “housekeeping” practices and revisions to land use ordinances to encourage Smart Growth or “green infrastructure” techniques to limit future storm water runoff.
Background on Water Quality Impacts of Storm Water Discharges
Permit requirements for storm water systems have been put in place because waters they discharge carry contaminants – everything from oil and gasoline residues to excess nutrients and bacteria from animal feces - into lakes, rivers, streams, and Long Island Sound. This has a significant impact on water quality and is a major reason why many water bodies are classified as impaired and unsuitable for fishing and swimming.
The issue has become even more central to the environmental quality of Connecticut, through the growth and development of the state.  This has increased the amount of area with hard and impervious surfaces, where storm water systems have replaced the natural infiltration processes that allowed storm water to be absorbed back into the ground.  This means increasing amounts of polluted storm water runoff is being carried into our waterways – degrading water quality, threatening recreational opportunities, and putting habitats and aquatic species at risk.