General Stormwater Information

What is Stormwater?
        Stormwater is surface flow water from precipitation that accumulates in and flows through natural and/or man-made conveyance systems during and immediately following a storm event.
 
Why is Stormwater an issue?
 
        As stormwater travels through a conveyance system, such as catch basins, culverts, pipes, and open ditches, it collects and carries significant sources of pollution to streams, rivers and lakes. Common pollutants carried in stormwater include oil and heavy metals, bacteria, grease, pesticides, herbicides, excess nutrients, trash, yard waste, cleaning agents, industrial chemicals, soil/silt, toxins, sand and salt.
 
        Although pollution conveyed by stormwater has historically been overlooked due to the complications associated with identifying and treating the contaminants, it is one of the most significant sources of stream and lake water quality degradation. Lack of proper stormwater management can lead to:
 ~ Impaired water bodies which limit swimming, fishing and other forms of recreation (Lake Champlain beach closings)
 ~ Polluted drinking water supplies (the community's stormwater discharges ultimately go to Lake Champlain which is also the source of the Town's drinking water supply)
 ~ Increased flooding due to clogging of streams
 ~ Degraded wildlife habitat, as erosion washes silt into streams
 ~ Increased algal blooms in the Lake due to high levels of phosphorous and fertilizers
 ~ Loss of tourist revenue as streams become polluted and the Lake is no longer viewed as "clean" or "environmentally safe"
 
What benefits can be expected from improved storm-water management?
  
 ~ Decreased flooding ---- increased safety and reduced property damage
 ~ Improved surface water quality ---- potential increase in recreation/tourism
 ~ Improved/preserved animal habitats
 ~ Land preservation due to erosion control measures ---- less property loss
 ~ Increased viability for fish ---- preservation of fishing industry
 ~ Improved drinking water quality
 ~ Improved wetland and estuary habitats for water fowl/ other animal life
 ~ Preservation of natural resources for future generations
 
State and Federal Involvement
 
        The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted in 1972 and directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulations and programs to improve the water quality of the nation's waterways.  The Act also requires states to identify and publish a list of waterways that  are impaired due to stormwater runoff from existing development.  Two of these are partially in Essex - Indian Brook and Sunderland Brook.  The remaining streams are currently "unimpaired" and a key objective of the Town stormwater program is to maintain good water quality in those streams and to prevent those streams from becoming impaired.
   
        EPA developed regulations in 1990 under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) that address the water quality impacts of stormwater.  The regulations apply to land developments and "municipal separate storm sewer systems" (MS4's).  EPA imposed these stormwater regulations on large communities in 1990 (Phase I).  In 1999, EPA expanded these mandates to smaller municipalities under their Phase II program.  In Chittenden County, the affected MS4 Phase II entities are: Burlington, Colchester, Essex, Essex Junction, Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston, Winooski, the Burlington International Airport, the University of Vermont and the VT Agency of Transportation.  Recently, the Towns of Milton, Jericho and Underhill have been added.
   
        The objective of the USEPA Phase II program is for the municipalities to develop effective, site-specific storm water management programs that reduce the discharge of pollutants from the MS4s to the maximum extent possible.  The Town of Essex has incorporated the following elements into its stormwater management program:
 ~ Government coordination
 ~ Legal authority and comprehensive planning
 ~ Funding and Staffing
 ~ Public education and participation
 ~ Best management practices (BMP's)
The Town's program has the following goals:
 ~ To reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent possible
 ~ To protect water quality
 ~ To satisfy the water quality and legal requirements of the Clean Water Act
   
        EPA has delegated the responsibility for administering the Vermont stormwater program to the State Agency of Natural Resources.  The State has developed and published two technical manuals defining the standards for construction of facilities.
Volume I is the Vermont Stormwater Management Manual for Watershed Improvement Permits (Stormwater Treatment Standards) and Volume II Technical Guidance.  These documents can be obtained from the Agency of Natural Resources, via the stormwater section of the State link at the following address:   
http://www.vtwaterquality.org
   
        The Agency of Natural Resources administers the legal aspects of the federal NPDES stormwater program through a series of permits.  These permits will drive the community's stormwater program for the foreseeable future and have a direct impact in the following areas:
 ~ An increase in Town staff workload and workforce to effect permit compliance
 ~ Increased municipal budget costs as the best management practices are put into place
 ~ Complicate the sale of property until the responsibility/obligation under old permits is fixed
   
This is the official site of the Town of Essex, Vermont