What is stormwater?
Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that doesn't soak into the ground but runs off across the ground surface and into waterways. It flows from rooftops, over paved surfaces and bare soil, and through sloped lawns while picking up a variety of materials and pollutants on its way. The quality of runoff is affected by a variety of factors and depends on the season and upon activities which lie in the path of the flow.
Why is stormwater a problem?
As it flows across the ground surface, stormwater runoff collects pollutants and transports these pollutants to surface waters. Although the amount of pollutants from a single residential property, a single commercial / industrial site, or a small construction activity may seem unimportant, the combined concentrations of contaminants from all of these sources threaten our lakes, rivers, wetlands, and other water bodies. Pollution conveyed by stormwater degrades the quality of drinking water, damages fisheries, and impairs the habitat of plants and animals that depend on clean water for survival. Pollutants carried by stormwater can also affect recreational uses of water bodies by making them unsafe for wading, swimming, boating and fishing.
What are examples of stormwater pollution?
There are many examples of stormwater pollution around us every day that we might not recognize as hazardous to our surface waters. Some of these sources of pollution include:
- Nutrients found in fertilizers, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, can lead to overgrowth of algae. Too much algae growth can deplete the oxygen in surface waters, which can be harmful to other aquatic life.
- Oil and grease from automobiles cause sheen and odor in surface waters, which makes transfer of oxygen difficult for aquatic life.
- Sediment from earth disturbance and construction activities can cloud surface waters and interfere with natural habitats of living things that depend on those waters.
- Bacteria from animal wastes and illicit connections to drainage systems can make nearby surface waters unsafe for wading, swimming and propagation of edible fish.
- Careless applications of pesticides and herbicides contribute dangerous chemicals into surface waters which cause ecosystem imbalances and affect the health of living organisms.
- Even litter can damage aquatic life by introducing chemical pollution and destroying the beauty of our waterways.
How is Broome County involved in controlling stormwater pollution?
The urbanized center of Broome County is within a designated MS4 area. MS4 stands for "Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems", and any MS4 designated urban area within the United States is regulated under federal law commonly known as EPA's Phase II Stormwater Rule. This regulation is part of the Clean Water Act.
As a designated MS4, Broome County is required to develop and implement a Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) Plan which addresses certain minimum control measures. These measures are designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants into surface waters to the maximum extent practicable to protect water quality and to satisfy water quality requirements set forth in the Environmental Conservation Law and the Clean Water Act.
Minimum control measures are listed below with more detail included in the Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) Plan.
MCM-1: Public Education and Outreach
MCM-2: Public Involvement and Education
MCM-3: Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
MCM-4: Construction Site Runoff Control
MCM-5: Post-Construction Stormwater Management
MCM-6: Pollution Prevention / Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations
Broome County manages and regulates it’s stormwater program through the joint efforts of the Planning Department and DPW-Engineering Division. The County’s Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) Coordinator and Local Stormwater Public Contact is:
Leslie G. Boulton, P.E.
What is IDDE?
IDDE is Illegal Discharge Detection and Elimination, and Broome County is required to develop, implement, and enforce a program to systematically find and eliminate illicit discharges within the MS4. An “illicit discharge” is defined as any discharge into the stormwater system that is not composed entirely of stormwater. An illicit discharge could be the result of improper plumbing, or illegal dumping of oil or vehicle fluids into a storm drain, or equipment wash water, or flow from a failed septic system. Anything besides stomwater runoff being purposefully put into the storm drain system is considered illicit discharge.
If you see something that you believe might be an illicit discharge, you can report it by calling the Environmental Health Hotline at 607-778-2887, or by completing an online report form by following the link below:
IDDE Public Reporting Form
What can you do to help protect local waters from stormwater pollution?
You can begin keeping our water systems clean by not dumping or disposing any debris into the storm drains. Any vehicle or equipment maintenance should be done inside or over a pervious surface where any toxins can infiltrate into the ground. Impervious surfaces like asphalt that do not help infiltrate water into the ground can be cut back by switching to permeable pavement or a gravel driveway. Ensuring your roof drains lead to the grass or directly underground can help deter the water from impervious surfaces all together. Cut down on the amount of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides applied, pickup after your pets and keep animals out of streams. Keep natural vegetation alongside streams and ponds to act as a natural buffer before entering the water system. If you are on a septic system, maintain the system because a backup could cause pollution of nearby lakes and streams. Refer to the County’s Department of Public Works – Solid Waste Division website for information regarding hazardous waste disposal and the landfill guidelines.
Broome County is part of the Broome-Tioga Stormwater Coalition, where the counties have been working together to improve the water quality within the MS4 boundary. “Water from Rain” was developed by the BTSC as an educational campaign with advertisements on the radio and TV commercials. Visit www.waterfromrain.org to contact the BTSC or find more ways to help reduce stormwater pollution.