MA DEP Joins EPA in Stormwater Permit Delay

The Massachusetts Office of Environmental Protection recently announced it has aligned with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in upholding a one-year delay in the implementation of a stormwater permit for Massachusetts communities.

Originally scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2017, the 2016 Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems General Permit, known as the “MS4”, updates a previous stormwater permit from 2003 by establishing stormwater management requirements for approximately 260 municipalities across the state, including nearly all North Shore communities. The MS4 permit was co-issued by EPA and MA Department of Environmental Protection, under the federal Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program that regulates discharges of pollutants into the nation’s waters.

The revisions in the new permit include more specific requirements for municipalities to monitor stormwater discharges, identify and eliminate illicit discharges of runoff from pollution sources, manage stormwater from construction sites, implement better housekeeping practices to prevent stormwater pollution, provide public outreach on the value of managing stormwater runoff, and involve the public in developing and implementing stormwater management plans.

Many non-profit organizations and governmental agencies have been helping communities meet the requirements of the MS4 permits since 2003 and are poised to assist with the new permit requirements. The Ipswich River Watershed Association is a founding and active partner in the Greenscapes North Shore Coalition, a coalition that provides assistance to communities in meeting the outreach and education requirements of the stormwater permit as well as requirements in water withdrawal permits. Since 2007, the Greenscapes Coalition has partnered with 26 North Shore communities.

EPA delayed issuance of the new permit after it was appealed by several Massachusetts municipalities and organizations that challenged the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act to expand the requirements of the 2003 permit. The effective date for the new permit is July 1, 2018.

Stormwater runoff is the most significant source of pollution to the Ipswich River. Water from rain, snowmelt, and irrigation can flow across roads and parking lots where it picks up oil, fertilizers, pet waste, and other pollutants and deposits them in our rivers and streams. Untreated runoff includes contaminants such as bacteria that result in closures of shellfish beds and beaches and nutrients such as fertilizers that contribute to pollution of our streams, ponds and the Ipswich River.

The Greenscapes Coalition believes the enhanced stormwater management requirements contained in the 2016 MS4 permit are needed to address water quality issues created by pollution from stormwater.