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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released new guidance for municipalities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that is likely to bring significant changes to storm water management requirements for builders and developers in the seven-state region — especially those working in urban and suburban infill projects.
Unlike most EPA guidance documents, nobody has signed it and no office has acknowledged its part in developing the document.
The Urban Stormwater Approach includes 11 specific provisions that are expected to be reflected in the state’s required Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) “to the fullest extent possible,” according to the EPA guidance.
But the timeline is short. WIPs are due to the EPA by Sept. 1 for its review and approval. Home builders associations are urged to quickly contact state environmental officials and offer suggestions for compliance with the guidance to help ensure flexibility, said Glynn Rountree, environmental policy analyst for NAHB.
“There is very little time for the states to develop language for those provisions in the WIPs,” he said, but some will have a significant impact on building in the watershed, including the sections that cover post construction performance standards, retrofitting for existing discharges, water quality monitoring requirements and, especially, issuing permits with clear and measurable provisions.
“The states may have had some early warning of what the EPA would publish in this new document, but I doubt that anyone thought that the document would prohibit the common permitting terms of ‘practicable’ and ‘feasible,’ which are there to help ensure that that storm water management practices don’t become cost-prohibitive,” he said.
HBAs can suggest alternatives for compliance with the storm water requirements, including harvesting the rainfall for use on site or for infiltration, off-site mitigation opportunities, tree plantings and a fee-in lieu as a last resort, Rountree suggested.
Confusion in the Watershed
Since many states work on new Construction General Permit requirements that reflect the EPA’s new rule on the effluent limitation guidelines, the groups affected by the sweeping new regulations are worried about the lack of coordination among rules for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), state implementation plans and federal permit requirements, which makes it difficult for state and local government entities to comply or give the right advice to builders and developers seeking construction permits.
Stakeholders have also raised questions about the cost of compliance and the data used to conduct scientific analyses of the impact by new development, agriculture, municipal sewer systems, future population growth and other areas affected by the regulations.
Also on the Chesapeake Bay regulatory timeline:
- A new national storm water rule to be proposed in 2011 on post-construction requirements.
- Another new national storm water rule will be proposed in 2012 addressing the creation of federal storm water management permits for Combined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the Chesapeake Bay. These large-scale meat and poultry businesses are key to reducing the nutrient load in the watershed.
- By June 2013, the EPA will produce a model program and recommendations to reduce septic system pollution.
- During 2017, the midpoint of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program, the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay modeling will incorporate, for the first time, the changes expected in the bay due to climate change.
Last week, NAHB weighed in on the state of Maryland’s plans to reissue storm water management permits for the construction and development industry. For the first time, the proposed permits include Effluent Limit Guidelines (ELG), a new federal requirement that previously only applied to industries that send pollutants into the watershed via drainpipes, as opposed to storm water leaving a job site.
In addition to commenting on issues raised in NAHB’s petition and lawsuit on the federal ELG rule — including the costs of implementation and the questionable environmental effect of using coagulants to bind sediments — the association asked the state to delay its plans.
“The Chesapeake Bay TMDL to be proposed in September 2010 could require that the Maryland construction permit be reopened again,” the letter said.
“The state’s storm water requirement roller coaster of amendments and revisions must stop.”
For additional information, e-mail Glynn Rountree, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8662.
“Storm Water Permitting: A Guide for Builders and Developers,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides a starting point for builders and developers to use in locating and understanding storm water permitting requirements.
The publication has been prepared to help builders comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stormwater requirements, and includes information on state permitting programs and more than 50 of the most commonly used Best Management Practices.
Also included are tips on compliance, including how to handle visits from inspectors.
To view or purchase this guide online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.