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New Stormwater Rules Costly to Norwalk

Nov 07, 2016

By Robert Koch | The Hour

{Water from storm drains on Second Street in East Norwalk runs into Long Island Sound through this drainpipe. The Norwalk Department of Public Works is turning to outside help to navigate through more stringent state and federal guidelines for stormwater management. Photo: Andrew Sullivan / Hearst Connecticut Media File}

NORWALK — The Norwalk Department of Public Works is turning to outside help to navigate through more stringent state and federal guidelines for stormwater management.

While Norwalk Director of Public Works Bruce J. Chimento estimates that compliance with the new rules could cost Norwalk $500,000 annually, he and other officials want to get a better handle on that number and what will be required of the city.

On Tuesday evening, the Common Council’s Public Works Committee recommended hiring Environmental Partners Group, Inc. of Quincy, Mass., to provide engineering services related to the MS4 Permit Gap Analysis and Mock Audit.

“It’s to retain a consultant to do an audit in review of all of our (storm-water) systems,” Norwalk Director of Public Works Bruce J. Chimento said Thursday. “We just want to see if we meet all the requirement of the MS4 from the feds and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.”

The council will consider the contract Tuesday evening.

The new MS4 permit and regulations take effect July 1, 2017.

Mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and first issued in 2004, the MS4 General Permit requires municipalities to take steps to ensure that stormwater entering sewer systems is clean before moving into water bodies such as Long Island Sound.

The new permit requires municipalities to follow six best management practices: public education and outreach; public participation; illicit discharge detection and elimination; construction storm-water management; post-construction storm-water management; and pollution prevention and good housekeeping.

That means, among other things, instituting regular street sweeping, cleaning catch basin on a regular basis, and controlling rainwater runoff from buildings.

Chimento said his department tries to sweep Norwalk streets at least once a year — downtown streets are swept on a regular basis — and cleans catch basins with its vacuum truck.

“We have a program where we do all these things but we don’t get to all of them each year,” Chimento said. “We need more men and equipment.”

Pointing to the magnitude of the work, the public works director said Norwalk has roughly 15,000 catch basins.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which lobbies on behalf of 162 towns and cities statewide, challenged the new regulations as they were being developed and negotiated with the DEEP to have them altered.

“While CCM is encouraged that DEEP appears to be moving away from portions of the onerous and costly unfunded administrative mandate, many serious and extremely costly issues remain,” CCM Director of Public Policy and AdvocacyRon Thomas wrote in January 2014. “CCM estimates the cost of the current proposal to be $100 million statewide.”

CCM asked for, among other changes, a reduction in the street sweeping and catch basin maintenance requirements and allowing additional time to comply with the new regulations.

“While there are remaining municipal concerns, this federally required permit will have to be adopted in some capacity,” CCM wrote in its November 2015 news bulletin. “CCM’s focus has been to ensure that the most unrealistic and burdensome requirements be eliminated or modified. Overall, the final permit is demonstrably better and less burdensome than previous versions.”

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said the final permit requirements resulted from discussions with CCM and its member municipalities.

“There were changes from what we originally proposed in an effort to make the permit requirements more manageable for cities and towns while at the same time still achieving important environmental gains,” Schain said.

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Contact:

Robert Koch

[email protected]

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