Boston — EPA is releasing for public comment draft general permit for small “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems” (MS4) located in Massachusetts. The new permits, when finalized, will update efforts in as many as 260 municipalities, better protecting rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and wetlands across the state, EPA said.

EPA previously released draft general permits for small MS4s in North Coastal Watersheds in 2010 and in the Interstate, Merrimack and South Coastal Watersheds in 2011. In response to many of the public comments submitted previously, and the availability of new technical and census information, EPA has revised the two general permits into one document and is now releasing the revised draft general permits for public input. EPA has also made changes to the newly proposed draft permit in response to public comments seeking more clarity, guidance and flexibility in meeting permit requirements.

Regulated MS4s include traditional cities and towns, state and federally owned facilities such as universities and military bases, and state transportations agencies. The general permits will apply to all MS4s located in an urbanized area as defined by the 2010 census. The previous permit applied to MS4s located in an urbanized area based on the 2000 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 expects to receive complete waiver requests in the near future and will review and respond to them in the near future. EPA will release an individual permit for Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Highway Division later this year. Other MassDOT divisions are eligible for the general permit.

The draft general permits require regulated small MS4s to develop, implement and enforce a “Stormwater Management Program” designed to control pollutants to the maximum extent practicable, protect water quality, and satisfy appropriate requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.

The draft permit requires implementation of six minimum control measures which include illicit discharge detection and elimination, 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 draft permit also includes requirements that address waste load allocations associated with approved total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for bacteria, phosphorus and nitrogen and requirements that address discharges to impaired waters without an approved TMDL.

The requirements contained in this draft permit build on the requirements of the previous general permit issued in 2003. The draft permit identifies four target audiences for public education, details specific procedures to locate and remove illicit connections, encourages low impact development practices, and identifies practices to address nutrients, bacteria, chloride, sediment, metals and oil and grease. EPA has provided a suggested format for the notice of intent information which can be submitted electronically. EPA will provide templates for the Stormwater Management Program and the annual reports.

EPA has estimated the costs associated with implementation of the minimum control measures, but does not have sufficient information to reasonably estimate those associated with achievement of water quality based limitations. Actual municipality costs will vary depending on a number of factors including, but not limited to, population (1,000 to 150,000), resources, infrastructure (number of catch basins, road miles), size of the urbanized area, and work completed during previous permit term. As drafted, EPA estimates the cost to meet the requirements associated with implementation of the six minimum control measures to be between $78,000 and $829,000 per year averaged over the permit term.

EPA received over 500 comments on the draft permits first issued in 2010 and 2011, and EPA has modified the current draft permit in response to many of the submitted comments. Some changes include (1) additional time for completion of required tasks; (2) provides opportunities for optimization of activities such as catch basin cleaning rather that mandating a set frequency; (3) reduced the required frequency of street sweeping; (4) reduces costs associated with monitoring by allowing the use of field test kits; (5) includes provisions to address approved total maximum daily loads (TMDLs); and (6) clarified requirements for discharges to impaired waters.

The notice of availability of the general permit is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Sept. 30, 2014. The public comment period is 90 days, ending on Dec. 29, 2014. A public hearing will be held on Nov. 19, 2014 in Leominster. EPA will also host a series of public meetings, including one on Oct. 28 in Haverhill, to explain the permit requirements and answer questions. Other public information meetings will be scheduled. More detail on the public hearing and public informational meetings will be posted at the Web link below.

The draft general permit, a detailed fact sheet, and information on public meetings and public hearing are available at www.epa.gov/region1/npdes/stormwater/MS4_MA.html

Comments