Stormwater is Everybody's Business
In order to clean-up the water ways of our country, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) instituted a program called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) MS4 Permit. East Whiteland Township was required to apply for and obtain a NPDES permit for the stormwater system that collects rainwater from our streets and roads and ultimately delivers it to a stream that drains to either the Schuylkill or Delaware Rivers, depending on where it is in the Township. These storm water discharges are considered "point sources" of pollution because they discharge storm water into discrete conveyances such as swales and tributaries that lead to creeks that then drain into the rivers. The "pollution" is the materials such as oils, salt and other contaminates carried from the roads by rainwater into these drainage systems.
Monitoring the Compliance
The USEPA has assigned the task of monitoring the compliance with the NPDES permits to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PaDEP). The Phase II Rule defines a storm water management program for a small MS4 as a program composed of 6 elements that, when implemented together, are expected to reduce pollutants discharged into receiving waterbodies. These 6-program elements, or minimum control measures, are:
- Public Education and Outreach on Storm Water Impacts
- Public Involvement/Participation
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- Construction Site Runoff Control
- Post-Construction Storm Water Management in New Development and Redevelopment
- Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations.
The Township has had Ordinances since the mid 1970s requiring property owners and developers to control Erosion and Sedimentation from leaving their properties during a storm event. That Ordinance was accompanied by a Stormwater Management Ordinance that requires property owners to detain water running off of paved surfaces on their property during a storm event and to either infiltrate the Stormwater into the earth, or to release it at a slower rate to reduce flooding downstream.
Best Management Practices
The recent trend in storm water management is something called Best Management Practices (BMPs). These measures are intended to "clean" the water of pollutants prior to the water coursing toward a stream. The Township adopted a new Stormwater Management Ordinance in 2006 to require BMPs as part of all new storm water detention system designs.
Nonpoint source pollution is our nation's largest remaining water quality problem. It is not caused by discharges from big factories or from sewage treatment plants. Rather, it is generated by all of us, a product of millions of actions that we take each day, including activities such as applying pesticides, fertilizing our lawns, or the manner in which we dispose of oil. While most of our individual actions have relatively small impacts on water quality, the cumulative impacts of how we choose to interact with our land and water are huge. However, by becoming more aware of the effect of our actions on our rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans, we can all develop more water-friendly habits and practices that will enable us to protect and restore the quality of these waters.
Everyday Behavior Changes
Homeowners can help by making changes to how we handle everyday behaviors. These common individual behaviors have the potential to generate storm water pollution:
- Disposing of pet-waste
- Applying lawn-chemicals
- Washing cars, changing motor-oil on impervious driveways
- Household behaviors like disposing leftover paint and household chemicals