EPA Funding Down 3.2% From 2011 Levels
At the end of December, President Obama signed H.R. 2055, an omnibus fiscal year (FY) 2012 spending bill. The bill outlines federal government funding, allotting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $8.4 billion — a 3.2% reduction from FY 2011 funding. The bill allocates $1.47 billion to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), a slight reduction from last fiscal year’s $1.5 billion. Within the Clean Water SRF, 10% is set aside for green infrastructure and water or energy efficiency improvements.
Utilities Prepare for Wet Weather in a Changing Climate
A recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives, “Stormwater Strategies: Cities Prepare Aging Infrastructure for Climate Change,” discusses how utilities can adapt to more-intense wet weather events. Heavier rainfall is expected to increase sewer overflows and associated health risks. The article, by Rebecca Kessler, discusses what some cities are doing to prepare and highlights trends toward green infrastructure and other innovative approaches. Toronto, for example, is upgrading its storm sewers to handle larger flows, despite those pipelines being well within their useful lifespans. Also, check out Chapter 7.3 on stormwater management plans within Rethinking Our Water Ways, a guide to water and watershed planning in the face of climate change in British Columbia, Canada.
WEF Stormwater Committee Leadership Makes a Splash at Midyear
The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Stormwater Committee presented the group’s Strategic Plan for Stormwater to the Committee Leadership Council at the WEF Midyear meeting in New Orleans on Jan 26. This plan provides a listing of the Committee’s vision and mission statements as well as an outline of goals and prioritized strategies for the first three years. The documents will be posted at the Stormwater Committee site in the near future.
EPA Delays Release of Stormwater Rulemaking Schedule
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Jan. 31 that additional time is needed to develop the stormwater rulemaking schedule, pushing the release back from Jan. 30 to March 16. This short-term extension gives the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (Annapolis) and EPA officials more time to negotiate the terms of the rulemaking schedule. Considering this latest delay and the time required for Office of Management and Budget review, the proposed rule is expected no sooner than this fall. Analysis to support the rulemaking will continue through this short-term extension. Read more
EPA To Release Construction General Permit Without Numeric Turbidity Limits
By mid-February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to release a final construction general permit (CGP) for 2012. It will not include numeric turbidity limits, and states not using EPA’s CGP will not be required to incorporate the limit and associated monitoring requirements into their permits. EPA stayed the numeric turbidity limit of 280 nephelometric units to correct a calculation error when establishing the 2009 effluent limitation guidelines. To devise a new limit, the agency is seeking more data on the cost, feasibility, and effectiveness of technologies for controlling turbidity in construction discharges, especially regarding passive treatment. Comments are due March 5. See the Federal Register notice.
Study Shows Cost Efficiency of Nutrient Trading in the Chesapeake Bay
According to a preliminary report by nonprofit research group RTI International (Research Triangle Park, N.C.), nutrient trading could reduce the multibillion-dollar costs of restoring the Chesapeake Bay by 25%. The report, given to the Chesapeake Bay Commission on Jan. 5, stated that achieving nutrient reductions through agricultural best management practices would be significantly less costly than achieving reductions through urban and suburban stormwater controls. To achieve this 25% cost reduction, programs would need maximum flexibility, with a watershed-wide trading program between point and nonpoint sources, according to the report.
EPA Looks to Sarasota Bay Success
Nancy Stoner, acting administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recently visited Florida's Sarasota Bay. The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program succeeded in meeting water quality standards, after being listed as nutrient impaired. The program achieved a 64% nitrogen reduction from 1988 and has restored critical marine habitat. Stoner visited several projects aimed at reducing nonpoint source pollution. One was the Celery Fields Stormwater Facility, a celery farm converted into a freshwater wetland that has become a major bird watching attraction. Sarasota County also is connecting homeowners to sanitary sewers, in a massive effort to remove nearly 14,000 septic systems. Stoner was particularly interested in the Honore Avenue low-impact development project, as it provided the community with multiple benefits. Rather than widen the road, the city built traffic circles along with drainage ponds, vegetative buffers, and bioswales using Florida-friendly landscaping.
EPA and ACWA Develop TMDL 10-Year Vision
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formed a workgroup with the Association of Clean Water Administrators (Washington, D.C.) to develop a 10-year vision and goals for the agency’s total maximum daily load program. Tentatively, the group expects to release a draft early this year, with a finalized version by June. Through the vision, the program may take a more holistic approach that addresses point and nonpoint source pollution from a watershed rather than waterbody-specific perspective. In addition, the program will emphasize more-effective state implementation through watershed prioritization and load-reduction strategies based on water quality information.
New York City Makes 1,200-Acre Catskill Purchase
New York City’s Department of Environmental Conservation recently purchased 485 ha (1,200 ac) of land within the Catskill Mountains to protect the New York City watershed. The purchase cost the city $5.6 million from its Environmental Protection Fund. The land originally was slated for a ski resort, time shares, a golf course, and other development. However, the purchase downscaled the development and will help minimize stormwater runoff into the Ashokan Reservoir. The purchase is part of a 1997 agreement between New York City and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect the watershed rather than use filtration to ensure the safety of drinking water. Since 1997, the city has protected more than 48,000 ha (19,000 ac) of watershed-sensitive land. Read more
MMSD Announces 2012 Regional Green Roof Initiative
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) announced its 2012 Regional Green Roof Initiative. The district will provide funding of as much as $54/m2 ($5/ft2) of approved green roof projects within its service area. Milwaukee is home to many green roofs, including the largest in Wisconsin covering 4645 m2 (50,000 ft2) of roof space. Built by Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. with an $800,000 grant from MMSD, the roof is designed to capture 4900 m3 (1.3 million gal) of water annually. Learn how much rainfall you could capture on a green roof, bioswale, or cistern, using MMSD’s H2O capture calculators. Also, check out greenroofsTV to see more green roof projects and perspectives.
Minnesota GreenStep Program Encourages Efficient Stormwater Management
More cities are signing on to Minnesota’s GreenStep Cities— a voluntary program designed to help cities adopt sustainable practices. In order to become a GreenStep city, municipalities must adopt a certain number of best practices. The 28 best practices are divided into five categories, one of which is environmental management. Efficient stormwater management falls under this category, with best practices such as creating a stormwater utility, establishing an ordinance to retain 1.5 in. (38 mm) of rainfall on construction sites, and more. In the stormwater category, cities must also achieve activities detailed in the Blue Star certification and award program, which offers public recognition for cities excelling in stormwater management.
Check It Out!
During a recent Water Environment Federation webcast, “Evaluating Stormwater Outreach: Is Anyone Listening?” many viewers asked where they could get a sample outreach and education plan. Developed in California, the Model Urban Runoff Program is a how-to guide for addressing polluted urban runoff in small municipalities with populations less than 100,000. For more, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s page on developing an outreach strategy.