In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that it will determine whether or not the Upper Susquehanna River in NY, into which Oneonta discharges its treated sewage, will become a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, waterway. The reasons for this are rooted in the rationale behind efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
This determination could precipitate the designation of the City of Oneonta as a Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System or MS4. In simpler terms, this would mean that the City of Oneonta may have to take steps (listed below) to reduce the amount of pollution in its stormwater that enters the river.
Normally this happens when a community reaches a population density of 1,000 people per square mile or over 50,000 people. This is not the case in Oneonta. However, with a new TMDL designation, the DEC may require the City to gain coverage under its General Permit GP-0-080-002 which states:
“MS4s must develop, implement, and enforce a stormwater management program (SWMP) designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants from small MS4s to the maximum extent practicable (MEP) to protect water quality and to satisfy the appropriate water quality requirements of the Environmental Conservation Law and the Clean Water Act. SWMP’s must include six minimum control measures, with measurable goals, and select and implement management practices to achieve those goals”. The six minimum measures include:
1. Public Education and Outreach
2. Public Involvement and Participation
3. Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
4. Construction Site Runoff Control
5. Post-Construction Runoff Control
6. Pollution Prevention and Good Housekeeping
In order to help prepare City and Town officials to react and adapt to
these potential changes, the District has been implementing its “Oneonta Stormwater Program”. This program, cost-shared by the DEC, is intended to provide municipal official with mapping tools designed to identify and assess every piece of stormwater infrastructure within the City and Town, perform public outreach to residents of the City on the importance of stormwater to our environment and provide an opportunity for officials to learn more about the potential regulations and what will be expected from each department should the MS4 designation become a reality.
Turbid runoff from the city entering the a River in April.
What is stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff occurs when rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, roof tops and streets concentrate the water and prevent it from naturally soaking into the ground.
Why is stormwater runoff a problem?
Stormwater picks up debris, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants and transports them into storm sewer systems or directly into waterbodies such as lakes, streams and wetlands. Stormwater entering a storm sewer system is released untreated into these waterbodies and can effect swimming, fishing and drinking water. Stormwater also concentrates flows and can lead to erosion of stream and creek banks.
The effects of stormwater pollution -
Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals and people.
Sediment can cloud water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment can also destroy critical aquatic habitat.
Excess nutrients can cause algal blooms. Nutrients act as a fertilizer for these microscopic plants. When the algae die, it sinks to the bottom of the waterbody and decomposes – a process that reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms cannot survive in water with low levels of oxygen.
Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards.
Debris and litter like plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles and cigarette butts get washed into waterbodies where they can choke, suffocate and disable wildlife such as ducks, fish, turtles and birds.
Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, motor oil and other fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick from eating contaminated fish or ingesting polluted water.
Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drink water treatment costs.
Residential stormwater pollution solutions -
Recycle or properly dispose of household products that contain chemicals – don’t pour them onto the ground or in stormwater drains.
LAWN CARE - Excess fertilizers and pesticides applied to lawns and gardens wash off and pollute streams. Yard clippings and leaves can also wash into storm drains and contribute nutrients and organic matter to streams.
Don’t overwater your lawn. Consider using a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler.
Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. When use is necessary, use these chemicals in the recommended amounts. Use organic mulch or safer pest control methods whenever possible.
Compost or mulch yard waste. Don’t leave it in the street or sweep it into storm drains or streams.
Cover piles of dirt or mulch being used in landscaping projects.
SEPTIC SYSTEMS - Leaking and poorly maintained septic systems release nutrients and pathogens (bacteria and viruses) that can be picked up by stormwater and discharged into nearby waterbodies. Pathogens can cause public health problems and environmental concerns.
Inspect your system every 3 years and pump your tank as necessary (every 3 to 5 years).
Don't dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.
AUTO CARE - Washing your car and degreasing auto parts at home can send detergents and other contaminants through the storm sewer system. Dumping automotive fluids into storm drains has the same result as dumping the materials directly into a waterbody.
Use a commercial car wash that treats or recycles its wastewater, or wash your car on your yard so the water infiltrates into the ground.
Repair leaks and dispose of used auto fluids and batteries at designated drop-off or recycling locations.
PET WASTE - Pet waste can be a major source of bacteria and excess nutrients in local waters.
When walking your pet, remember to pick up the waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method. Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local waterbodies.
RESIDENTIAL LANDSCAPING -
Permeable Pavement—Traditional concrete and asphalt don’t allow water to soak into the ground. Instead these surfaces rely on storm drains to
divert unwanted water. Permeable pavement systems allow rain and snowmelt to soak through, decreasing stormwater runoff.
Rain Barrels—You can collect rainwater from rooftops in mosquitoproof containers. The water can be used later on lawn or garden areas.
Rain Gardens and Grassy Swales – Specially designed areas planted with native plants can provide natural places for rainwater to collect and soak into the
ground. Rain from rooftop areas or paved areas can be diverted into these areas rather than into storm drains.
Vegetated Filter Strips —Filter strips are areas of native grass or plants created along roadways or streams. They trap the pollutants stormwater picks up as it flows across driveways and streets.
Commercial stormwater pollution solutions -
Dirt, oil, and debris that collect in parking lots and paved areas can be washed into the storm sewer system and eventually enter local waterbodies.
Sweep up litter and debris from sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, especially around storm drains.
Cover grease storage and dumpsters and keep them clean to avoid leaks.
Report any chemical spill to the local hazardous waste cleanup team. They’ll know the best way to keep spills from harming the environment.
Construction stormwater pollution solutions -
Erosion controls that aren’t maintained can cause excessive amounts of sediment and debris to be carried into the stormwater system. Construction vehicles can leak fuel, oil, and other harmful fluids that can be picked up by stormwater and deposited into local waterbodies.
Divert stormwater away from disturbed or exposed areas of the construction site.
Install silt fences, vehicle mud removal areas, vegetative cover, and other sediment and erosion controls and properly maintain them, especially after rainstorms.
Prevent soil erosion by minimizing disturbed areas during construction projects, and seed and mulch bare areas as soon as possible.
For construction sites disturbing more than one acre, contractors are required to gain coverage under the DEC’s General Permit GP-0-08-001. For more information visit the DEC website at: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/43133.html
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON STORMWATER, VISIT THE NYS DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION’S WEBSITE AT