Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and modified in 1987, the quality of our Nation’s waters has improved dramatically. Despite this progress, degraded waterbodies still exists. According to the 2000 National Water Quality Inventory (Inventory), a biennial summary of State surveys of water quality, approximately 40 percent of surveyed U.S. waterbodies are still impaired by pollution and do not meet water quality standards. A leading source of this impairment is polluted runoff. In fact, according to the Inventory, 13 percent of impaired rivers, 18 percent of impaired lake acres and 32 percent of impaired estuaries are affected by urban/suburban stormwater runoff.
Phase I of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) stormwater program was promulgated in 1990 under the CWA. Phase I relies on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage to address stormwater runoff. In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, these regulations are known as the KPDES (Kentucky Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) and range from: (1) “medium” and “large” municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) generally serving populations of 100,000 or greater, (2) construction activity disturbing 5 acres of land or greater, and (3) ten categories of industrial activity.
The Stormwater Phase II Final Rule is the next step in EPA’s effort to preserve, protect, and improve the Nation’s water resources from polluted stormwater runoff. The Phase II program expands the Phase I program by requiring additional operators of MS4s in urbanized areas and operators of small construction sites, through the use of NPDES permits, to implement programs and practices to control polluted stormwater runoff. See Fact Sheets 2.0 and 3.0 for overviews of the Phase II programs for MS4s and construction activity.
Phase II (the City of Cold Spring is a Phase II community) is intended to further reduce adverse impacts to water quality and aquatic habitat by instituting the use of controls on the unregulated sources of stormwater discharges that have the greatest likelihood of causing continued environmental degradation. The environmental problems associated with discharges from MS4s in urbanized areas and discharges resulting from construction activity are outlined below.
Stormwater discharges from MS4s in urbanized areas are a concern because of the high concentration of pollutants found in these discharges. Concentrated development in urbanized areas substantially increases impervious surfaces, such as city streets, driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks, on which pollutants from concentrated human activities settle and remain until a storm event washes them into nearby storm drains. Common pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers, oils, salt, litter and other debris, and sediment. Another concern is the possible illicit connections of sanitary sewers, which can result in fecal coliform bacteria entering the storm sewer system. Stormwater runoff picks up and transports these and other harmful pollutants then discharges them – untreated – to waterways via storm sewer systems. When left uncontrolled, these discharges can result in fish kills, the destruction of spawning and wildlife habitats, a loss in aesthetic value, and contamination of drinking water supplies and recreational waterways that can threaten public health.
Uncontrolled runoff from construction sites is a water quality concern because of the devastating effects that sedimentation can have on local waterbodies, particularly small streams. Numerous studies have shown that the amount of sediment transported by stormwater runoff from construction sites with no controls is significantly greater than from sites with controls. In addition to sediment, construction activities yield pollutants such as pesticides, petroleum products, construction chemicals, solvents, asphalts, and acids that can contaminate stormwater runoff. During storms, construction sites may be the source of sediment-laden runoff, which can overwhelm a small stream channel’s capacity, resulting in streambed scour, streambank erosion, and destruction of near-stream vegetative cover. Where left uncontrolled, sediment-laden runoff has been shown to result in the loss of in-stream habitats for fish and other aquatic species, an increased difficulty in filtering drinking water, the loss of drinking water reservoir storage capacity, and negative impacts on the navigational capacity of waterways.