Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework
Key Development: EPA issues final integrated planning approach
framework, allowing municipalities to modify permits, plans, and enforcement
orders to allow better management of stormwater and sewer overflows.
Potential Impact: The framework is expected to give municipalities the
flexibility to modify plans to suit their needs rather than being locked into
What's Next: EPA will publish practical examples of how this approach
can be implemented by municipalities.
By Amena H. Saiyid
Municipalities will be allowed to modify permits or enforcement orders for
managing combined sewer overflows and stormwater under an integrated planning
framework released June 12 by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework contains
a provision that allows municipalities for the first time to modify a plan, a
permit, or an enforcement order to comply with Clean Water Act obligations.
The provision also gives municipalities the opportunity to identify,
evaluate, and select new projects and make changes to ongoing projects and
This provision, which is supported by the municipal wastewater treatment
community, was absent from the earlier draft version of the framework that EPA
released in January (43 ER 151, 1/20/12).
The final integrated planning framework responds to concerns by cash-strapped
municipalities that are hard-pressed to build or upgrade water infrastructure to
manage stormwater and wastewater overflows.
This approach offers municipalities the option to use either their existing
Clean Water Act permits or enforcement orders to meet state water quality
standards that might be violated owing to sewer and stormwater overflows. Most
importantly, the approach allows municipalities to use green infrastructure,
such as grassy swales and permeable pavement, to manage stormwater instead of
requiring the use of traditional storm drains and other “gray” infrastructure.
The approach also allows municipalities to use water quality trading to meet
stormwater runoff requirements.
The framework, which was released in the form of memorandum to EPA regional
administrators, was jointly written by Nancy Stoner, EPA's acting assistant
administrator for water, and Cynthia Giles, EPA's assistant administrator for
enforcement and compliance assurance, who signed the document June 5.
In the memo, EPA identified six elements of an integrated plan. The
flexibility provision is the final element.
The six elements are:
description and identification of human health threats, water quality
challenges, and future requirements, such as new water quality-based
requirements arising from a total maximum daily load set for nutrients;
description of existing wastewater and stormwater systems that would be part of
an integrated plan;
process for enabling public participation in an integrated process;
process for identifying alternative means of compliance, such as the use of
process for measuring and monitoring effectiveness of controls, compliance, and
alternative measures such as green infrastructure; and
process for identifying, evaluating, and selecting proposed new projects or
modifications to ongoing or planned projects and implementation schedules based
on changing circumstances, and if this requires modification of a plan, permit,
or order, collection of appropriate supporting information.
In the memo, EPA said it will provide further guidance and practical examples
of how municipalities implement the integrated approach on its website in the
EPA also emphasized that municipalities will have to work closely with states
that implement National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. The
agency said the responsibility for developing an integrated plan rests with the
municipality, which will set priorities for water projects and include a
rationale and description for how these priorities reflect the impact on human
health and a municipality's financial capability.
Chris Hornback, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies' senior
director of regulatory affairs, told BNA that an initial read of the document
revealed some positive changes.
Hornback said the vast majority of the document remains unchanged. But he
said the addition of the provision allowing modifications should a utility's
circumstances change is very significant. “It will allow utilities to be
adaptive instead of being locked into a 20-year plan,” Hornback said.
Benjamin Grumbles, president of Clean Water America Alliance, told BNA, “EPA
is taking a good and important step towards integrated, 'one water' management,
but the broader journey won't be complete until many more miles are traveled and
other aspects, such as drinking water requirements and actions, are taken into
Drinking water utilities, represented by the Association of Metropolitan
Water Agencies, have told EPA and Stoner that an integrated approach that allows
utilities to prioritize wastewater compliance needs will divert already scarce
funds away from drinking water obligations.
The Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach
Framework is available at http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/integrated_planning_framework.pdf.