What is Stormwater Pollution?
Stormwater pollution is one of the nation’s leading causes of water pollution. As stormwater runoff flows over impervious and other hardened or disturbed surfaces like streets, parking lots, driveways, rooftops and construction and grading sites it picks up trash and debris, chemicals, sediment and pollutants.
These pollutants are carried into Swift Creek, Old Town Creek, the Appomattox River, local ponds, lakes and streams by way of natural conveyances and the City’s storm sewer system. These pollutants and toxins adversely affect the quality, increase the peak stormwater flow rates, and cause erosion and further deteriorate the health of our waters, many of which are a source of drinking water.
Stormwater Management Program
The City’s Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) was established citywide to address and improve the control, operation, inspection, maintenance and oversight of the City’s stormwater runoff and storm sewer system. A commitment to controlling and improving stormwater runoff can help with mosquito control, control flooding, improve customer service and reduce flooding-related incidents, protect property values, reduce long-term capitol costs through proactive maintenance of the storm sewer system and facilitate the master planning process to anticipate future needs. The stormwater program is administered through the City’s Department of Public Works.
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 set a precedent for the Nation’s clean water regulations. Though the scope of the Act has been considerably broadened since its inception, its basic features included the designation of water quality standards and anti-degradation policies for ensuring these standards. One of the subsequent enforcement tools of the Act is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permitting Program, which requires municipalities to obtain a permit to discharge their stormwater runoff into surrounding waters. Under the terms of these permits - called Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits - municipalities are required to take certain actions to control and\or mitigate the pollutants that are collected in stormwater runoff. Penalties for noncompliance can include fines as high as $25,000 per day.
Colonial Heights holds an MS4 permit that became effective in December of 2002. Subject to annual reporting and reviews of the City’s SWMP by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the permit remains effective for five years and may be reissued at the elapse of each 5 year term, subject to these reviews. The current permit, reissued in 2018, is effective through 2023.
Under the MS4 permit, the City is required to draft and administer an Implementation Plan that addresses six programmatic components, also known as six Minimum Control Measures (MCMs). These include:
- Public education and outreach
- Public involvement and participation
- Illicit discharge detection and elimination
- Construction site runoff control
- Post-construction stormwater management
- Pollution prevention/good housekeeping
Chesapeake Bay Act
Other regulatory drivers that impact Colonial Heights SWMP are those related to the Chesapeake Bay Act. Adopted in 1988, the Bay Act is intended to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants entering the Bay and has sought to restore its health. Colonial Heights is located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so many of the regulatory actions related to the Bay also directly impact Colonial Heights.