National Research Council Says EPA Stormwater Program Needs Significant Changes
The National Research Council (NRC), Water Sciences and Technology Board just released a new report, Urban Stormwater Management in the United States, that recommends significant changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) stormwater permit program. The report is the product of a 2-year process undertaken by a 15-member committee of national experts.
The study was commissioned by EPA in 2006 to evaluate the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater program and make recommendations for improvement of the program.
The 513-page report provides a description of the history of stormwater management in the United States; an overview of stormwater regulations and the federal regulatory program; and information on a number of relevant scientific and technological issues such as hydrology, geomorphology, biology, monitoring and modeling. The report also provides a number of significant findings and recommendations on how stormwater management in the United States should be improved to achieve better environmental outcomes.
Specifically, NRC recommended that all stormwater and wastewater discharge permit be based on watershed boundaries instead of political boundaries and called for an entirely new permitting structure that would place the authority and accountability for stormwater discharges at the municipal level. Currently, stormwater and wastewater regulations require separate permits; within stormwater regulations, different types of permits exist for municipalities, industries, and construction sites. The report suggests that the stormwater program be reconfigured to bring construction and industrial sites under the jurisdiction of their associated municipalities, referred to as "integration" by the committee. According to the NRC, federal and state permitting authorities do not have sufficient personnel to inspect and enforce stormwater regulations on more than 100,000 discrete point source facilities discharging stormwater. A better structure would allow operators of municipal storm sewer systems to act as the first tier of control.
The committee recommended that the federal government provide more financial support to state and local efforts to regulate stormwater. Funds for the wastewater program greatly outnumber the stormwater program, even though there are five times more stormwater permit holders than wastewater permit holders.
The report also said EPA should integrate stormwater management and land management practices, and focus less on chemical pollutants in the stormwater and more on controlling flows.
A copy of the report is available on the Internet at http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12465.
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