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EPA Planning More Stringent Standards For Stormwater at Newly Developed Sites

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

By Amena H. Saiyid  

 

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to propose that new developments have greater stormwater retention ability than what would be required for redeveloped sites, an agency official said April 30.

Speaking at a webinar on stormwater rulemaking, Christopher Kloss, green infrastructure and stormwater coordinator in the EPA Office of Water, said, “We will have differential standards” in the upcoming proposed rule on post-construction stormwater.

The purpose of proposing more stringent standards for stormwater at newly developed sites versus relatively relaxed standards at redeveloped sites is to create an incentive for businesses to invest in redevelopment projects in cities, he explained.

“Right now, we recognize the current situation where we have [stormwater] standards within [municipal separate storm sewer systems], and not outside,” Kloss said, adding that the situation makes for “an unequal playing field.”

He said the agency would like to capitalize on trends that are showing a movement toward redevelopment in the urban centers, he said.

EPA is under a 2010 consent agreement with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to propose a post-construction stormwater rule by June 10 and to finalize the rule by Dec. 10, 2014 (Fowler v. EPA, D.D.C., No. 1:09-cv-5, 5/11/10).

Kloss said he expects the agency will set at least a 90-day period for comments because of the complex nature of the rulemaking.

The webinar was organized by the U.S. Water Alliance, the Mayors Innovation Project, and the Clean Water for Healthy Communities Coalition.

Not for Combined Sewer Systems

The post-construction stormwater rule would apply to developed and redeveloped sites inside cities and towns with municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) but not to cities with combined sewer systems for both stormwater and wastewater, according to Kloss.

Kloss explained the goal of the post-construction stormwater rule is to reduce the volume of stormwater runoff that transports pollutants into nearby waters, causing impairments. By retaining a portion of the rainfall on these sites through the use of performance standards, be they green infrastructure or natural features, “you basically eliminate the discharge of any pollutants for that particular volume,” he said.

He said EPA was considering performance standards to retain stormwater discharges at sites between one and five acres. He said the agency is yet to decide on a threshold for performance standards.

Moreover, Kloss said EPA would give local governments flexibility in meeting the performance requirements to retain stormwater on sites. For instance, Kloss said, a locality could comply with national standards if it already has a mix of green infrastructure, such as porous pavements and grassy swales, and gray infrastructure practices in place to retain stormwater.

Implications for Land Use

Also speaking during the webinar were Mayor David Pope of Oak Park, Ill., and Kevin Shafer, executive director of Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Pope said the upcoming stormwater rule would have broader implications for land use planning in cities, particularly cities like Oak Park that adjoin major metropolitan centers like Chicago. He said cities would have to make decisions about infrastructure investment and about adjusting their land ordinances

Shafer said “there ought to be separate standards for new development and redevelopment, very much like what Mayor Pope was taking about.”

Shafer also emphasized that local governments ought to be given flexibility in deciding how to meet performance standards.

After the webinar, Shafer told BNA he was “relieved” to hear that EPA is considering different standards for developments occurring within and without the MS4s.

By Amena H. Saiyid  

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