TO: Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. James Albis, Chairmen,
Testimony from Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
We are aware that many towns have raised loud objections to DEEP’s new stormwater rules. But, as the testimony of Connecticut Fund for the Environment indicates, it is odd for a legislature to direct an administrative agency not to enforce an apparently valid permit. Moreover, stormwater is the leading polluter of the state’s rivers and the Sound. I hope the Committee will play a constructive role in establishing good stormwater management. We would be pleased to assist, and have several suggestions, including bringing the DEEP Stormwater Manual up to date.
Comments from Rivers Alliance of Connecticut on the MS4 Draft General Permit for Stormwater
TO: Chris Stone, CT DEEP
FROM: Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
DATE: January 8, 2015
It is our understanding that DEEP will be making major revisions to this proposed permit, therefore I will not go into much detail.
The Department of Corrections, Curtis Read in Bridgewater, and most other commenters make a persuasive case that the proposed permit has too many new requirements. These requirements should be better supported by an analysis of how well the existing permit has served water protection and how it could most effectively be improved. Absent feedback on progress (or not) in the past few years, it is understandable that towns object to many of the new reporting requirements. Skepticism toward the value of the work proposed in the draft permit could be allayed by an explanation of how past data has been used, how new data will be used, how the required tasks will protect water quality, and what degree of improvement is expected.
Many of the comments in opposition are not entirely negative but include positive recommendations, such as a management-plan template, limits on the use of lawn treatments, a focus on the worst places for stormwater damage (perhaps with a requirement for retrofits in these places to manage the first flush). We know that you will consider these recommendations, and we look forward to your report on reasons for accepting or rejecting them.
Negative comments based on the complaint that the entire permit is an unfunded mandate seem detached from the everyday reality that legally and ethically one is not supposed to send waste and debris onto another’s property. If wastewater from my failing septic system is bubbling up on a neighbor’s property, I can’t refuse to repair the damage on the grounds that my neighbor is imposing an unfunded mandate. Similarly a community should expect to be asked not to sluice contaminated stormwater downstream to some other community. Most, perhaps all, towns understand this and make some sort of effort to be good neighbors.
Rivers Alliance is not unmindful of the importance of cost in local management. Thus, we agree with the objections to the new requirement for using engineers. The requirement is consistent with a recent state trend to outsource work to professionals having some set of credentials that supposedly will guarantee a good outcome. The result too often is impressive, costly paperwork but not effective work in the field.
As Connecticut Fund for the Environment illustrates in its power point, the state needs an effective stormwater permit as soon as possible. Downstream harm from rain and snow runoff continues at unacceptable levels, culminating in contaminated waters and dead zones in LI Sound. CFE in its intervention asks for clear standards, specific goals, effective testing, and compliance assurance consistent with the Clean Water Act. CFE argues for the need to pay more attention to cleaning up contamination by bacteria. The EPA comments ask for more attention to other stormwater contaminants, not mentioned by CFE or in the general permit. We support these recommendations.
Greenwich has questions about the status of a TMDL within a Phase II NPS program. Rivers Alliance has similar questions on point-source programs compared to NPS programs, and looks forward to clarification.
Note that DPH asks for greater protections for drinking water sources; EPA wants more protection for impaired waters; and Rivers Alliance now asks for greater protection for high-quality natural streams and wetlands, which are being rapidly destroyed. This pretty much covers all waters.
We recommend a more pointed use of the CWA anti-degradation principle, which should benefit all waters.
We believe that all stormwater should be subject to some sort of decontamination process, preferably by filtration in natural vegetation and healthy soils.
The Navy makes a strong case for defining more of the key terms, and EPA asks you to scrap “to the maximum extent practicable” as undefined.
On ancillary issues, we join others in strongly urging DEEP to revise its stormwater-management manual to reflect current storm data and new technologies. We believe DEEP should consider mustering more state support for the creation of stormwater utilities.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment. We would be happy to help, if we can, in the revision of this draft stormwater permit.
Dec. 12, 2014
New Municipal Stormwater General Permit
Photo courtesy Town of Groton, CT
A revision of this permit will be presented at a Public Hearing on December 17, 2014.
Written comments on the general permit will be accepted at the hearing and following the hearing until January 9, 2015. Each commenter at the hearing will be allowed 3-5 minutes, and public and elected officials will get to go first. DEEP describes the process thus:
"The hearing will consist of informational presentations by the parties, a discussion of possible revisions to the proposed general permit, and the collection of public comment on the record. Based on the significant number of comments received to date and comments anticipated from the public hearing, Department staff will work with petitioners and intervenors after the December 17 public hearing on mutually acceptable revisions to the proposed general permit to resolve as many issues as possible."
As of Thursday, Dec. 11, there were three insignificantly different versions of the draft revised permit on DEEP's website in three locations. Click here for the most recent.
Click here for the old permit that has been in use for 15 years.
On July 7, 2014, CT DEEP issued their Public Notice, posted the draft of the revised General Permit Fact Sheet.
On August 6, 2014, DEEP held an Informational Meeting with a presentation.
Click here for a presentation from the CT River Coastal Conservation District about the new rules.
Long Island Sound Study shared a link on their Facebook page from The Ridgefield Press: "Cost of clean water rules worries town"
The Hartford Courant wrote a supportive editorial on November 10. Courant editorial Hate That Dirty Water
Rivers Alliance is still studying reasons for changing the current permit and most practical way of achieving results. Certainly the first step should be to reduce the volume of stormwater by arranging for it to soak into the soil before reaching stormdrains.
The Northeast is getting more rain than it can handle, and we should expect more of the same and worse. The National Climate Assessment released in June by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that this region is experiencing increasing frequency of intense, heavy rain events. Between 1958 and 2010, there has been a 70 percent increase in the precipitation falling in strong storms. The Assessment predicts this trend will continue. Yet Connecticut is still using data from 1961 in designing septic leach fields, detention basins, stormwater pipes, dam spillways, and other critical infrastructure related to stormwater management. Engineers are allowed to use precipitation projections in TP 40 (Technical Paper 40) issued by the National Weather Service in 1961. Using old data holds down costs of construction and repair but raises the likelihood of sewage overflows and flooded streets and homes. It’s time to start building for now and the next 50 years.
By Martha Smith, Analyst, Southwest Conservation District