Although the federal Clean Water Act was passed way back in 1972, some of its provisions are only now beingimplemented. First, water quality regulators focused on controlling the visible point sources of pollution, such as the effluent pipes of factories and wastewater treatment plants. To do this, they developed a complex system of permits (the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) to require the reduction of pollutant loadings from these sources.

Now regulators are turning their attention to more diffuse, nonpoint sources of pollution, such as stormwater runoff from streets and farm fields. Two new sets of regulations will help control such sources:

U.S. EPA Phase II stormwater regulations

By 2002, most communities in urbanized areas will be required to have stormwater permits. Under these permits, communities will, at a minimum, require the development, implementation, and enforcement of a stormwater management program designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants from a regulated system to the maximum extent practical and protect water quality. Communities will be required to adopt six minimum control measures:

  • Public education program (addressing behaviors that cause water pollution, such as not picking up pet waste or dumping oil down storm sewers).
  • Public involvement program to involve all segments of the community.
  • Program to identify and eliminate illicit connections of sanitary and storm sewers (some homes and businesses are unknowingly, or intentionally, dumping sewage into storm sewers). Surveys have shown that about 8 percent of storm sewer outfalls in the NEORSD district may have illicit sanitary connections.
  • Program to require construction sites of an acre or more to install best management practices to control erosion and sediment runoff (sediment running off of construction sites has been identified as the single largest cause of impaired water quality in rivers).
  • Program to ensure the long-term responsibility for the operation and maintenance of practices controlling water runoff from development sites.
  • Municipal program for pollution prevention and good housekeeping (addressing issues such as frequency of street sweeping and road salt application).

Watershed-based pollution limits

Another factor in the future regulation of local stormwater is Ohio EPAs development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterway can receive without water quality standards being violated. The pollutant can come not only from traditionally regulated sources (such as industrial and municipal treatment plant discharges), but also from land surface runoff, storm sewers and air emissions.

Strict enforcement of TMDLs could have far-reaching consequences. Its possible, for example, that EPA could deny permission to build a new housing subdivision in a particular watershed if there were already too much sediment pollution impacting a local stream. Or power plants might be forced to reduce lead or mercury emissions so lakes can meet standards for heavy metals.


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3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003

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