Collaborating to Build Stronger Stormwater Pollution Permits

Did you know Upper Missouri Waterkeeper works with state officials and local, municipal leaders to prevent water pollution?

It’s true!  One unique role Upper Missouri Waterkeeper plays is that of a public advocate for clean water in stakeholder groups at the state, regulatory level.  These stakeholder  are opportunities to improve the terms of key pollution controls so that, moving forward, good science, economics, and law are reflected in each pollution permit.

In 2015-2016 one of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper’s campaigns is helping regulators and city leaders build a better municipal separate storm sewer system pollution permit (AKA an “MS4 permit”).  MS4 permits are mandated, nationwide, for cities and urbanized areas that average at least 10,000 in population because these areas contain massive amounts of impervious surfaces (e.g., surfaces that stormwater drains off like pavement, rooftops, etc.)

Stormwater, the seemingly innocuous runoff caused by precipitation, scours pollutants from streets, highways, parking lots, rooftops, and other impervious surfaces and carries them to local streams, lakes, rivers, and local waters. Often, this polluted water is carried through storm sewer systems owned and operated by municipal, county, or state governments and their agencies. Recognizing the severity of the pollution caused by stormwater, the federal Clean Water Act prohibits many of these discharges unless they are covered by a permit which requires the agency to take specific actions to reduce or eliminate sources which contribute pollutants to stormwater.

In collaborating with state officials and municipal leaders, our role is that of a clean water law expert. We help advise stakeholders, in each of our monthly meetings, on the minimum requirements of federal and state law and what those requirements mean – as applied – in a pollution permit implemented on the local community level.  On one hand this results in an open dialogue about the importance – and terms – of important pollution permits, and on the other hand our participation helps build local stakeholder awareness (and willingness) to address stormwater pollution controls head on, to responsibly manage local urban water pollution!

For example, our stakeholder meetings this February and March focused on the nuts n bolts of what constitutes proper “post construction stormwater” pollution controls in a permit given to a city or county.  Put another way, we worked with the state and stakeholders to flesh out exactly what type of pollution prevention projects are required in new or redevelopment, what type of controls are necessary, the scope of those controls, and the timing of such controls.

Our common goal, the protection of our shared waterbodies from stormwater pollution, can be directly served through our concerted efforts to overhaul weak, unresponsive municipal permits. This can be achieved through informed, effective, and vigilant citizen action – the first step of which is helping the state build a more effective, clear, pollution permit!