STONINGTON — The town intends to revive its Stormwater Task Force as a step toward complying with a state pollution mandate.
The statewide MS4 General Permit, or General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, originated in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement as part of its 1999 Stormwater Phase II rules. The permit also requires town implement public education programs concerning stormwater pollutants in an effort to reduce contaminants. The new general state permit went into effect in July 2017.
The cost of implementing a compliance program in Stonington is estimated at $400,000 over a five-year period, First Selectman Rob Simmons at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The State of Connecticut, which is broke and some would say broken and has been cutting back on funding to municipalities like Stonington, has not let up when it comes to unfunded mandates,” Simmon said.
Scot Deledda, town engineer, said he researched how other communities were working to meet the MS4 requirements. “What I received is a mixed result of how these communities are adapting, evolving and dealing with these mandates,” he said.
Area towns have task forces, advisories or commissions populated with residents and town staff members from several departments. “It’s a mixed bag and it’s whatever works for your community,” he said.
Deledda recommended the town revive its six-member advisory Stormwater Task Force, which also included members of the town’s staff.
“The purpose was to help support and guide various stormwater management initiatives that town personnel were working on, so why recreate the wheel, we already have the structure set up,” he said. “It’s important that this is a working advisory group because we need people to assist with the day-to-day operations and the public outreach.”
Deledda said the first step was to contact the former task force members to gauge their interest, and if some seats were open, to also talk to members of the Harbor Management, Shellfish, Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning commissions, and possibly Clean Up Sound and Harbors, a Stonington-based environmental organization.
Since the town has a joint stormwater management plan with Stonington Borough, someone from the borough should be also on the task force, Deledda said.
The permit includes new requirements, such as reducing impervious surfaces on town properties and redevelopment properties.
Compliance will require zoning enforcement of the stormwater systems, Deledda said. “We’ll need follow-up on these systems and see if responsible parties are doing the maintenance,” he said.
He said the permit will also require a huge effort from the town’s Department of Public Works to check catch basins and pipe systems. Compliance will also require help from the town’s sanitation department and the Water Pollution Control Authority
Deledda said he would talk this month to the current task force members and field any candidates who could fill open seats. “Let’s get a start-up meeting in April, that’s my goal,” he said.
The town may also become part of a regional group, the Southeast Stormwater Collaborative under the aegis of the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District.
Deledda said the collaborative is planning to apply for a grant, which would provide money for a group effort to come up with public outreach tools and other systems that would help in the program’s implementation. The cost of joining the group is free.
“It’s a great opportunity to offset some of the $400,000, over a five-year period of time,” said Simmons.
Deledda said the cost represents the workload required under the permit that cannot be accomplished in-house. “My goal is to offset those costs through efforts at collaboration and any other efforts we can do internally,” said Deledda.