SW Editor's Blog
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:00 AM
Here is an overview of some upcoming webinars from Forester University that will be relevant for those in the stormwater industry, and more broadly for anyone involved with erosion and sediment control as well. You can earn Continuing Education Units or Professional Development Hours for all Forester U webinars, and past webinars are now available as webcasts so you can view them—and receive credit—on your own schedule. Click here for a complete list of webcasts. Starting April 23: Sediment and Erosion ... More...
Tuesday, April 08, 2014 7:00 AM
Last week, the novelist Sheng Keyi published an editorial in the New York Times about her recent visits to her hometown in China, Huaihua Di on the Lanxi River. In this small village of about a thousand people, she writes, there have been 86 cases of cancer in the last decade. She blames the pollution in the Lanxi River. Factories and farms discharge industrial and biological waste into the Lanxi. As the river has become more and more contaminated, people who once depended on it as a source of drinking ... More...
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 10:25 AM
Sea foam: It’s the kind of pleasant name you might find on a paint swatch. It’s also the stuff of many seaside photos and watercolors. And yet it’s often an indicator of a water-quality problem—one that washes in from the ocean but that typically originated on land, a stormwater issue coming back to us in a roundabout way. Sea foam is sometimes created by the breakdown of algal blooms—a big problem in many areas, including the Gulf of Mexico, where nutrients from fertilizers have created large dead zone... More...
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 7:00 AM
EPA has issued its final rule on effluent discharges for construction and development. This page has links to the rule, a brief fact sheet, and some background on its development. The bottom line: There are still no numeric turbidity limits. As you might remember if you’ve been following the ins and outs of the rule over the last few years, it has been a long, contentious road to get to this point. EPA first developed effluent guidelines for the construction and development industry in 2000, but withdre... More...
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 7:00 AM
This column , published last month in a San Diego newspaper, highlights a problem facing any number of US cities: the high cost of dealing with stormwater. As the article reports, San Diego has said that complying with stormwater regulations will cost as much as $4 billion over the next 17 years. By comparison, the city’s revenue in 2013 was $2.75 billion. Its unfunded pension liability—another cost many cities are facing—is $2.3 billion. By some estimates, stormwater utility fees for homeowners and bus... More...
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 10:26 AM
We’ve occasionally run articles in Stormwater magazine on the relationship between stormwater infrastructure and vector-borne disease. Unfortunately some of the very structures we rely on for flood control and water quality can make ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The guest editorial in our March/April issue looks not just at the problem but at what we can actually do about it, and it offers the possibility something stormwater professionals don’t often receive: help from outside their own agenci... More...
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 7:00 AM
California’s drought may be giving green infrastructure a boost in places where it has not caught on strongly before. A series of drought-relief measures totaling almost $700 million is in the works, and as this article notes, some of them promote the capture and storage of rainwater. There is a difference, of course, between capturing water to use and simply retaining it onsite to keep it from entering the storm sewer system. In the stormwater field, low impact development and green infrastructure prac... More...
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 7:00 AM
As the debate over whether to ban plastic bags continues, and as many cities have already enacted such bans, researchers may have found an alternative solution: turning plastic bags into fuel. Bags are one source of the plastic litter that ends up in waterways and ultimately in the oceans. Those who study the problem and its effects say it is getting worse . Fish, birds, and marine mammals ingest plastic, and although much of the debris breaks down into smaller pieces—which easier for animals to mistake... More...
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 7:00 AM
As in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Second Stain” , something of a mystery surrounds a possible second leak from a North Carolina power plant. Last week EPA began testing runoff and sediment on the Dan River, following a February 2 spill from a Duke Energy ash pond. The energy company says a stormwater pipe located underneath a 27-acre ash pond at its retired Dan River power plant in Eden, NC, broke, but that the breach has now been plugged. Up to 39,000 tons of coal ash entered the ri... More...
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 7:00 AM
Although it was reported at the time it happened, it’s only recently that an attack on a California power substation is getting significant attention, both in the press and from Congress. Last April, PG&E’s Metcalf substation near San Jose was attacked during the night by armed intruders who fired more than 100 rifle shots into the equipment, disabling 17 of the 20 transformers. This substation provides electricity to Silicon Valley, and although PG&E was able to reroute power and avoid a blacko... More...
Monday, February 03, 2014 1:13 PM
To all the ways water-quality managers have to detect pollutants, add another: kelp. About a month after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, scientists began detecting radioisotopes in kelp off the coast of Southern California, apparently from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Levels of radioactive iodine up to 250 times greater than before the accident were detected. The iodine 131 that California scientists were measuring has a half life of about eight days and did not cause any significa... More...
Monday, January 27, 2014 5:40 PM
With many parts of the US and Canada experiencing unusually low temperatures, there is one situation that was bound to come up. This article on safety from Stormwater includes many useful points for designers to consider when planning a retention or detention pond. Many of these involve protecting the public from themselves by making the ponds inaccessible (such as with fencing) or by making them easy to get out of should someone fall in, with features like shallow perimeters and mild sideslopes. One ci... More...
Monday, January 20, 2014 3:31 PM
Street sweeping has gained traction as a stormwater BMP—no longer just a way to improve the appearance of city streets by removing trash and debris, but also as a means to significantly reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff. Previous articles in Stormwater magazine have looked at the relationship between sweeping and pollutants—see for example “Street Dirt” in the March/April 2010 issue and “The Role Street Sweeping Must Play in Achieving Numeric Pollutant Limits” in the November/December 2011 issue. A... More...
Monday, January 13, 2014 1:16 PM
There is a growing trend in the US toward multiuse stormwater projects—a stormwater detention area that in dry periods serves as a soccer field, or a greenspace that incorporates running and biking trails, for example. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this idea has been taken a step further with a multipurpose tunnel designed to solve two of the city’s major problems: traffic congestion and seasonal flash flooding. It may not be the first place such a thing has been constructed, but at a little over 6 miles i... More...
Monday, January 06, 2014 1:28 PM
Flood insurance is changing—and like it or not, those changes are affecting thousands of homeowners across the country. In the wake of several major hurricanes, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the National Flood Insurance Program is now more than $24 billion in debt. Upcoming changes to the program include those mandated by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act, which was signed into law in 2012 just a few months before Sandy and which calls for a move toward risk-based insurance rates. The act is a... More...
Monday, December 16, 2013 1:20 PM
In Texas, a joint project involving the US Army Corps of Engineers, The Nature Conservancy, and Texas A&M University will restore oyster populations at Half Moon Reef along the Gulf Coast. The current project is part of a larger $5.4 million effort to restore more than 50 acres of the reef. Why oysters? In part, it’s the economic aspect: harvesting oysters to supply restaurants is a $30 million industry in Texas. The restoration should also improve habitat for other species; Matagorda Bay, where the... More...
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 10:59 AM
After announcing just last June that it had reached a milestone of 500 professionals accredited in the use of the Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System, the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure announced last week that it has now reached 1,000. Envision, launched in 2012, is a rating system designed to address the sustainability of infrastructure projects. Although it applies to projects in both the public and private sectors, ISI says professionals in the public sector make up about 20% ... More...
Tuesday, December 03, 2013 11:00 AM
A recent EPA study shows that levels of mercury in the blood of women of childbearing age has decreased 34% over the last decade or so. That’s the good news. The study concludes, however, that the reduction is likely not because there is less mercury in the waterways or in the fish themselves, but because there is greater public awareness of the problem: Women are eating fish with lower concentrations of mercury and avoiding the now-well-publicized species (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish)... More...
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 11:57 AM
An article in the current issue of Stormwater takes a look at the concept of resilience as it relates to community planning. Now, just over a year after Hurricane Sandy, is a good time to revisit this idea and see what others are doing to prepare for the inevitable. The article looks at how two different communities—Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley—are planning for natural disasters, including flooding, that so many areas eventually face. It often takes a catastrophic event, or ... More...
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 11:25 AM
Having access to information is one thing; actually understanding what you’ve got can be something else entirely. When the subject is water—where it is, who owns the rights to it, whether groundwater is threatened by pollutants—the issue can become even trickier, especially in a water-scarce state. A group in California, a state that has notoriously complex issues with water rights, is trying to simplify things and make these types of data more accessible. Although much of the information is now availab... More...
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 1:32 PM
Plastics have been in the news lately, especially those that find their way into our waterways. By one estimate, 20 million tons of plastic reaches the oceans, lakes, and rivers each year, where some of it is ingested by fish, birds, and other wildlife. The city of San Jose, CA, is hosting the Bay Area Trash Summit this week to address the problem of plastics and other pollutants, such as the estimated three billion cigarette butts that are discarded in the region every year. Entities from around the Sa... More...
Tuesday, November 05, 2013 1:12 PM
There is just one week left to submit an abstract to present at StormCon 2014. The conference will be held next year in Portland, OR—home of the Green Streets program and many other stormwater innovations—from August 3 – 7, 2014. We are seeking abstracts in seven conference tracks: • BMP Case Studies • Green Infrastructure • Stormwater Program Management • Water-Quality Monitoring • Industrial Stormwater Management • Advanced Research Topics • Coastal Protection Detailed information on the conference tr... More...
Monday, October 28, 2013 4:08 PM
Adding fuel to the ongoing debate over whether or how far the Clean Water Act should apply to agricultural operations, last week a federal court decided in favor of a West Virginia poultry farmer who had sued EPA for threatening to levy fines against her. In the lawsuit she filed last year, the farmer, Lois Alt, claimed EPA had threatened a fine of $37,500 for each stormwater violation unless she obtained an NPDES permit. The CWA does have an exemption for agriculture, but, as EPA argued, concentrated a... More...
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:10 AM
We know some of the damage algae blooms can cause—eutrophication and oxygen depletion in the water, and subsequent harm to ecosystems—but recent research indicates that blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) might also pose a specific threat to human health. Scientists in Australia and the US have discovered a relation between a toxin the algae produce and certain types of motor neuron disease. The cause of most cases of motor neuron disease, about 90%, is unknown. (It’s called motor neuron disease in the UK ... More...
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 2:06 PM
In a case that has some parallels to past decisions regarding the Clean Water Act, the US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that EPA does have the ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Among other questions raised in the case was whether carbon dioxide can be considered a pollutant under the CAA. However, the court will further review the question of permitting—specifically, whether EPA has made “unreasonable demands” on utilities seeking federal air permits by requiring mor... More...
Tuesday, October 08, 2013 2:49 PM
San Diego may be joining the ranks of cities making a real effort to put stormwater to use, rather than trying by one means or another to get it out of the way. A task force is looking at ways the city can reduce its water consumption and is recommending recycling stormwater and wastewater—including making wastewater available for potable use. As this article on the effort points out, the Water Policy Implementation Task Force chairperson notes that stormwater is less polluted than wastewater and theref... More...
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 10:10 AM
Last week we mentioned that EPA is seeking public comments on a draft report on streams and wetlands , which will be the basis for clarifying the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. On Friday, EPA announced it’s seeking comments on another draft—this time an update to the Multi-Sector General Permit, commonly known as the industrial stormwater permit. The MSGP was last issued in 2008 and expired on September 29, 2013. The agency says the changes from the 2008 permit are minor, mainly to correct errors ... More...
Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:33 AM
EPA has just released a draft report titled “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of Scientific Evidence.” The report synthesizes recent scientific literature and will be used by EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers in an upcoming joint rulemaking session in December to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. EPA is asking for public comments on the report; comments must be received by November 6, 2013, to be considered by the joint rulemaking pane... More...
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 3:05 PM
A number of webinars are coming up for those who need continuing education units in stormwater, hydrology, construction-site management, and erosion and sediment control. Here are a few of the highlights Forester University will be offering over the next three months: “ Hydraulics 101 (for Those Who Skipped It in College) ” will take place on Tuesday and Thursday, September 24 and 26. Taught by former IECA president David T. Williams, the class covers the fundamentals of hydraulics, definitions of terms... More...
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 3:00 PM
Planners in New Orleans continue to reexamine how the city should cope with the waters that threaten it. Traditionally, the plan has been to keep it out at any cost, with levees surrounding the low-lying area and elaborate pumping systems to remove rainfall as quickly as possible. And although projects to pump water from the city to Lake Pontchartrain are still continuing, the current thinking is that keeping it where it falls might be a more workable strategy. A few weeks ago we mentioned options the c... More...
Tuesday, September 03, 2013 1:42 PM
Some cities have looked at the possibility of stormwater harvesting only to conclude that, on a large scale, the investment required may not be equal to the benefits gained . That may be the case in arid or semi-arid climates, especially if you’re counting on harvesting to significantly reduce potable water use. But if you look at the problem on a much smaller scale, as a town in North Carolina is doing, you might find you have more water than you need, and for a relatively small investment. The town of... More...
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 12:04 PM
Last Thursday we wrapped up StormCon in Myrtle Beach, SC, where we had one of the highest attendances ever with about 1,200 participants. We’ll be following up on some of the sessions in upcoming issues of the magazines, as well as with webinars from Forester University featuring some of the conference presenters. Thanks to all the attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors who helped make the event a success. I also want to send a sincere thank you to all of you who moderated sessions at the confere... More...
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 1:14 PM
Several of us from Forester are at StormCon this week in Myrtle Beach, SC. We hope to see many of you there. For those who won’t be joining us—or for those of you who want to earn some additional educational credits after the conference—there are several relevant webinars coming up from Forester University. Next week, on Tuesday, August 27, a free webinar will be held titled “ Erosion Control Systems and Their Role in Green Infrastructure Designs .” Sponsored by Tensar North American Green, it focuses o... More...
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 11:12 AM
Last week, Los Angeles County—and potentially many other stormwater permittees—suffered a setback when a federal appeals court ruled against it in a high-profile case about who is responsible for the pollutants in its waterways. More than a year ago we noted that the US Supreme Court was set to hear the case, which many in the stormwater field expected would have nationwide repercussions no matter which way it was decided. But the Supreme Court sent the case back, and last Thursday a federal appeals cou... More...
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 2:10 PM
A court of appeals last week ruled that the Jackson, MI, stormwater utility fee is an illegal tax. This is bad news for the utility, of course, as well as for other cities that might be looking to set up their own utilities as a source of revenue. Many stormwater utilities are still opposed on the grounds that the money collected is in fact a tax—which cities often do not have the authority to levy—rather than a fee for service. This summary of the issue from several years ago still holds today, as does... More...
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 4:51 PM
Repairing the levees after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was just a first step for New Orleans, which is still rethinking its relationship with water—both the gulf that keeps eating away at Louisiana’s coast and the rain that falls on the city. Planning efforts are underway to bring in new ideas, some from other US cities and some from the Netherlands, which has a long and successful history of holding back the ocean. As this article describes, Louisiana is looking at new ways to manage its stormwater... More...
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 12:01 PM
The Department of the Interior has just released an online tool called Streamer that might make your job easier—or, at the very least, should provide some brief diversion as you check it out. Its purpose is simple, and something you may have already done on your own for the streams and rivers in your own area. The interactive map allows you to trace a stream in either direction—upstream to its source or downstream to where it ultimately empties. It also shows statistics for the stream, such as its lengt... More...
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 12:16 PM
If you’re planning to attend this year’s StormCon conference in Myrtle Beach, SC, you have just over a month to register. And if you’re already signed up, here are some of the events to look for. The conference will take place August 18 – 22 at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel. Nearly 200 vendors will be on hand in the exhibit hall, displaying the industry’s latest technologies and BMPs. Presentations will take place in six conference tracks on Tuesday through Thursday, August 20 – 22: ... More...
Tuesday, July 09, 2013 3:06 PM
If you were waiting for the new national stormwater rule to be issued last month, you’ve probably noticed that, like Godot, it once again failed to arrive. The question—this time, as with past deadlines—is what happens next. We’ve covered some of what we expect to be included in the rule here and here , based on statements and presentations by EPA representatives. The rule is expected to place more emphasis on using green infrastructure, as well as on using retrofits to address stormwater discharge on a... More...
Tuesday, July 02, 2013 5:38 PM
The news that had stormwater programs rejoicing a couple of years ago is looking a little tarnished these days. A federal law passed early in 2011, sponsored by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, requires federal facilities to pay local stormwater fees. As we noted at the time, the law was expected to generate about $2.6 million of revenue a year just in Washington DC—which has more than the average number of federal facilities—and to boost the funding of stormwater utilities around the country. Nationw... More...
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 12:55 PM
Are you a dog owner? This article takes a look at some of the things communities around the world are doing to encourage people to clean up after their pets. Although the focus here is more on aesthetics than on water quality—and these are probably far beyond the means of most stormwater programs—there are some fairly creative ideas here. Pet waste can contribute to a number of water-quality problems—most commonly elevated bacterial levels in receiving waters, but also in some cases phosphorus levels . ... More...
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 12:34 PM
Notice something different about the lawns in your neighborhood? As this article points out, synthetic turf grass has moved beyond the stadium, and manufacturers are trying to make it more appealing to homeowners. Residential sales have been increasing about 30% a year for the last five years, according to the article, as new features are introduced, such as grass that looks and feels more realistic. The editor of our sister publication Water Efficiency wrote about programs in Nevada and other states th... More...
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 11:06 AM
A two-part article published recently in Stormwater has received tremendous response from readers. Parts 1 and 2 of “Rainwater Harvesting” by Steve Goldberg ran in the March/April and May 2013 issues and covered a range of issues, from technologies to the questions of water rights, financial feasibility, and pollutants in harvested water. One commenter questioned the article’s use of the terms use and reuse when referring to rainwater harvesting. As he correctly points out, reuse means to use water—grey... More...
Tuesday, June 04, 2013 12:16 PM
One consequence of FEMA’s new flood maps is that insurance rates for many mortgage holders have gone up. Those in newly designated high-hazard areas—which FEMA defines as having a 26% chance of flooding sometime during a 30-year mortgage period—are required by most lenders to purchase insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. As this article points out, homeowners with so-called jumbo mortgages—loans exceeding $417,000 or $625,500, depending on where the home is located—might need to purch... More...
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 1:21 PM
As President Obama this week revisits areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, a debate is still going on about the possibility of rebuilding some homes that were damaged or destroyed. Although many tourist spots—boardwalks and beaches—have been rebuilt and reopened, the fate of some homes is still up in the air—in more ways than one. FEMA is classifying some areas as being at higher flood risk than they were previously; homes in those areas will have to be raised on pilings to comply with FEMA’s new guidelin... More...
Monday, May 20, 2013 5:25 PM
Last week, I attended the APWA’s Sustainability in Public Works Conference in San Diego. The program had something for people in just about all facets of public works, from stormwater to wastewater to transportation to energy. Some of the most thought-provoking presentations I sat in on, though, focused on resiliency and planning for the unprecedented. This is a new area for many people in the public works arena, or at least an aspect of planning beyond what many of us have dealt with before. As one spe... More...
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 1:07 PM
Here in the US, many stormwater programs are concerned with—or in fact under a consent decree to deal with—the effects of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) on surface water quality. It’s interesting and sometimes instructive to look farther afield at how other countries are coping with their own water-quality issues. Some places, such as Chennai, India , are dealing, as the US has, with illegal dumping—sometimes on a grand scale—of trash and other waste products into storm channels. In India, with its sea... More...
Tuesday, May 07, 2013 2:27 PM
The program for StormCon 2013 is now online at www.StormCon.com . The conference will be held in Myrtle Beach, SC, from August 18 – 22 at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel. On Tuesday through Thursday, August 20 – 22, you’ll find well over a hundred presentations in the six conference tracks: BMP Case Studies, Green Infrastructure, Stormwater Program Management, Water-Quality Monitoring, Advanced Research Topics, and Erosion and Sediment Control. In addition, several full-day courses wil... More...
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 1:13 PM
Stormwater professionals have long acknowledged the water-quality problems associated with car washing, not only with centralized car washing services that direct water to the storm drains, but also with individuals who wash their own cars in their driveways or in the street. In both cases—unless the car wash either recycles the water or directs it to the sanitary sewer, and unless the person washing a car in the driveway has some means to capture the water—the detergent and whatever else comes off the ... More...
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 3:58 PM
People standing in line for stormwater? It’s happening in Sydney, Australia, where folks are actually competing for tickets to enter a storm drain. Officials in Sydney open the “Tank Stream” twice a year, offering just 320 tickets each time, and thousands of people apply for them. The Tank Stream is the site of a more-than-two-century-old water supply line, and an important piece of the city’s history. The brick-lined belowground channel is part of a tributary of Sydney Cove, first used as a water sourc... More...
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 11:31 AM
It’s not unusual to read about lawsuits over stormwater runoff, particularly in cases where water flows onto someone’s property as a result of construction, new development, or diversion. That was the case recently with a New York homeowner, who received a $1.6 million settlement after a developer mistakenly diverted water onto his 40-acre property, turning it into a “wetland,” according to the suit. This case has a twist, however: Instead of just the usual claims of property damage or loss of use of th... More...
Tuesday, April 09, 2013 11:55 AM
Rain gardens are now a common sight in many cities, but finding the right mix of plants to include in a rain garden can be challenging. For the people whose homes or businesses they occupy, the plants’ attractiveness is usually a priority. In some areas, you need to make sure the plants can withstand dry spells ; you don’t want to end up irrigating your rain garden. It’s been suggested that rain gardens be used to grow vegetables, and at first glance this seems to be a good two-birds-with-one-stone solu... More...
Tuesday, April 02, 2013 2:55 PM
Last month, the mayor of Seattle, WA, announced a goal for managing the city’s stormwater using green infrastructure measures, or “natural drainage systems,” as the city is calling them. Rare among US cities, the executive order calls on city departments to coordinate their use of such systems—bioswales, for example—with the intent of managing 700 million gallons of runoff each year solely through the use of green infrastructure. Mayor Mike McGinn hopes the city will reach this goal by 2025. The city ma... More...
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 3:38 PM
According to a new government report, nearly 40% of us are putting ourselves in harm’s way—and more of us will do so in the next several years. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report says that, based on figures from the 2010 census, 39% of the US population, or 123 million people, live in coastal areas. That’s expected to increase by 2020 to 134 million people. Those coastal counties represent only about 10% of the land area of the US but they have, on average, six times the popu... More...
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 11:48 AM
Sinkholes are in the news these days, both for their sudden and frightening appearances and for the implications they have for surface- and groundwater quality. This article from the New Yorker has a detailed and fascinating history of how and where they occur. It recounts, among other events, the 1999 disappearance of Florida’s Lake Jackson; the 4,000-acre lake emptied “like a bathtub emptying into a drain,” although the drain in this case was an 8-foot-wide sinkhole. Sometimes the la... More...
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 1:32 PM
The problem of plastic in the ocean—where it lasts for decades and gets eaten by birds, fish, and other animals—is nothing new; in fact, it’s getting worse . Now, two years after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Hawaiian islands are receiving an extra share of plastics and other debris. By some estimates, about a million and a half tons of debris was washed out to sea during the tsunami; some has landed in North America. Hawaii, though, which is sometimes described as the “comb” of the Pacific b... More...
Tuesday, March 05, 2013 2:47 PM
Earlier this week, EPA said it will not appeal a potentially precedent-setting decision in a Virginia lawsuit. In January, a federal court ruled that EPA had exceeded its authority when it tried to control the flow of water to Virginia’s Accotink Creek in an attempt to manage sediment pollution. The state of Virginia and Fairfax County filed a lawsuit, arguing that, since water is not a pollutant, EPA did not have the ability to regulate it. Virginia’s attorney general also claimed that complying ... More...
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 1:43 PM
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a site in Washington state where nuclear waste is stored, has been in the news quite a lot in the last few weeks. First, the Department of Energy announced that as much as 300 gallons of radioactive waste is leaking from the site each year, then the state’s governor confirmed that six storage tanks (of 177 at the site) are leaking. This is a problem in any number of ways, but one big concern is for the groundwater and surface water—particularly the Columbia River—that th... More...
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 2:58 PM
Are there drugs circulating in your local lake? An article in Stormwater a couple of years back looked at the question of pharmaceutical products in surface waters. Some of them come from discharge from wastewater treatment plants, which are not designed to filter out all these products; another potential source is drugs that people dispose of in the trash. Although their presence in measurable—though usually very small—quantities is disturbing, it has been unclear exactly what effect, if any, the... More...
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 11:43 AM
If you need professional development credits—or even if you don’t—a couple of upcoming webinars at Forester University are must-attends. Two of the most well-known and respected professionals in the stormwater field will be teaching these online classes: Voodoo Hydrology—Pitfalls of Urban Hydrology Methods & What You Need to Know Presenter: Andy Reese , P.E., LEED AP, Vice President, AMEC Environment & Infrastructure Thurs., Feb. 21 st @ 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST, 1-1.5hrs Credits: 1 PDH / 0.1 CE... More...
Tuesday, February 05, 2013 4:54 PM
Here’s a website worth exploring if you live in a coastal community: NOAA’s Coastal Services Center has a tool called Digital Coast that, among other things, lets you explore different sea level rise scenarios for your area. It’s a somewhat similar idea to EPA’s CREAT , although Digital Coast has different features and focuses only on coastal regions. Not every region is mapped, but more are being added. There is also a feature called Coastal County Snapshots, which provides graphic information on... More...
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 1:41 PM
EPA has just made available a new version of its Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool, or CREAT 2.0. Intended for operators of stormwater, drinking water, and wastewater facilities, the tool is designed to help evaluate the risks to these utilities from threats like increased flooding, drought, rising sea levels, and other climate-related changes. The tool might have an added appeal right now, as many regions are still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The software provides region... More...
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 11:41 AM
A recent editorial by the executive director of the Southern California Water Committee calls for capturing stormwater to augment local water supplies. Southern California imports water, obtaining much of its supply from the Colorado River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Although the writer, Richard Atwater, does not specifically refer to green infrastructure or low-impact development, these are the types of infiltration strategies he seems to recommend when he states “Billions of gallons of... More...
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 1:27 PM
It’s an unpleasant surprise many businesses and organizations have faced—huge stormwater fees. Some school districts in California are now grappling with the question of how to pay. Los Angeles County is considering a property tax—a stormwater parcel tax—to fund stormwater monitoring and treatment. It expects to bring in $275 million a year, some of which would be given to cities within the county. The amount a given parcel would be charged depends on the amount of impervious surface. The county e... More...
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 12:29 PM
Last week, a federal court ruled on a stormwater question many cities and states have been closely following for the last six months. The court found EPA exceeded its authority in attempting to control the flow of water to a Virginia’s Accotink Creek as a means to manage sediment pollution. The lawsuit against EPA was filed last July by the state of Virginia and Fairfax County. Beyond its consequences for this watershed, the case has been of interest for its larger implications for stormwater mana... More...
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 11:58 AM
After all the problems reported, here and elsewhere over the years, with getting stormwater utilities up and running, and with keeping them alive in the face of legal challenges, it’s refreshing to hear about one that’s successful—even more successful than expected. When the city of Lynchburg, Virginia, began collecting stormwater fees last July, it expected to bring in about $2.7 million during the first year. As this article reports, however, revenues are about 15% higher than anticipated,... More...
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 11:15 AM
This is the last blog and newsletter of the year, and all of us here at Forester Media wish our readers a safe and happy holiday season. As we look back over the year, I’d like to share a few highlights from our 2012 issues and mention some of the articles that we’ll have coming up in 2013. Last winter, we ran a two-part article ( here and here ) on the question of road salt and stormwater—the difficulty in finding effective alternatives for deicing streets, and the effects all that salt can have ... More...
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 10:14 AM
On Tuesday, December 4, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that has potentially far-reaching implications for stormwater management. The lawsuit was brought against the Los Angeles County Flood Control District by two groups, the National Resources Defense Council and L.A. Waterkeeper. At issue is who is responsible for pollutants in runoff that’s ultimately discharged into the ocean via the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers—the cities within Los Angeles County where the runoff originates, ... More...
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 10:22 AM
Thousands of Phase II stormwater programs have spent a great deal of time and money to get a few simple messages out to the public as part of their education and outreach efforts. One of the most basic is not to dump dangerous or toxic substances—used motor oil, for instance—down the storm drains, because of the effects on downstream waters and possible toxicity to aquatic life. So South Carolina residents can be excused for perceiving a mixed message. It seems the city of Columbia has for years been pu... More...
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 1:40 PM
Water-quality trading programs are well established in many places. The idea, in general, is that if you can’t meet water-quality requirements on your own property—such as retaining a certain amount of runoff or limiting pollutants—or if it would be prohibitively expensive to do so, you can purchase water-quality credits from a property that is doing more than its share. Perhaps one business has space to inexpensively construct a larger basin than its runoff actually requires, thus earning credits, whic... More...
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 12:48 PM
A recent New York Times article profiles a Texas resident whose rainwater harvesting system easily saw him through the state’s recent record drought with water to spare. “A good rain is just like a deposit to a bank,” John Kight says in the article. His sophisticated system even includes ultraviolet disinfection to make the water drinkable. Then again, it also has a 41,000-gallon storage capacity—something far beyond the budget and space constraints of the average homeowner. How feasible is it, re... More...
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 1:12 PM
Two months ago, well before Hurricane Sandy, the New York Times ran an article about flood protection in New York City. Although it notes that the city is doing many things right, such as installing stormwater BMPs and expanding wetlands to accommodate storm surges, the article also notes “critics say New York is moving too slowly to address the potential for flooding that could paralyze transportation, cripple the low-lying financial district and temporarily drive hundreds of thousands of people ... More...
Tuesday, November 06, 2012 2:47 PM
One of the most widely reported effects of Hurricane Sandy was the flooding of the New York City subway tunnels. Some subway lines are now up and running, but cleanup is still underway. Flooding of any type—especially in a city like New York with so much underground infrastructure—can be devastating. In coastal areas, however, there is an extra element to the problem: salt. With flooding of inland structures and facilities, cleanup is largely a matter of removing the water and whatever debris it carried... More...
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 1:40 PM
As of Tuesday morning, with Hurricane Sandy moving away from the East Coast, those in the affected areas have started to assess the damage. At least 28 deaths have been reported, and many areas will be without power for up to a week. Coastal towns in seven states are flooded, and a broken levee caused four New Jersey towns to be completely underwater. A major disaster has been declared for the New York City area. The New York subway system is expected to remain shut down for several days, following floo... More...
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 10:29 AM
Environmental education has gotten more sophisticated over the years, but there’s still no substitute for getting kids out of the classroom and letting them get their feet wet, so to speak. This Stormwater article , for example, describes the “Leaf Pack” program in use in some New York schools. Developed at the Stroud Water Research Center, the program helps students assess the condition of streams and forests by studying the macroinvertebrates colonizing the leaf litter in the streambeds. Programs can ... More...
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 10:37 AM
This month, the Clean Water Act turns 40. EPA is marking the occasion with a list of milestones —and there have been many significant achievements in the last four decades. Stormwater magazine has been reporting on many of them since our first issue in 2000. There have also been some setbacks; Elizabeth Cutright, the editor of our sister publication Water Efficiency , details here some of the threats to the CWA and attempts to weaken it over the years. However, with EPA set to release ... More...
Tuesday, October 09, 2012 6:02 PM
Several cities in the US and around the world have already banned the use of plastic bags, and more are considering such a ban. The Wall Street Journal ’s special section on environmental issues Monday included a debate on the issue. Daniella Dimitrova Russo, the co-founder and executive director of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, argued in favor of the ban. Plastic bags not only clog storm drains, pollute the waters, and endanger marine life—as we’ve covered here —but also cost cities “mil... More...
Tuesday, October 02, 2012 1:20 PM
Getting a stormwater utility approved can be difficult enough—that’s a struggle most stormwater programs that choose to pursue this form of revenue are anticipating and, ideally, are prepared to deal with. The utility in Richmond, VA, faces a different sort of problem, one that officials probably didn’t expect when the utility started up three years ago. It’s not that people are necessarily arguing against the stormwater fees—they’re simply not paying them, and the utility now has millions of doll... More...
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 1:24 PM
A White House conference last week, “Municipal Stormwater Infrastructure: Going From Grey to Green,” brought together some major players from the regulatory community and the stormwater industry, drawing attention to what is still, in many places around the country, a strange new concept in stormwater management. Stormwater magazine has an exclusive report on the conference, which took place on Thursday, September 20. For many in the stormwater industry, the term green infrastructure and the conce... More...
Tuesday, September 18, 2012 3:05 PM
We’ve covered the increasing number of cases of West Nile virus and the response, in some areas, of increasing inspection and maintenance of stormwater structures that can provide ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Other diseases that are also spread by mosquitoes, such as malaria, yellow fever, and dengue, are less common in the US but still widespread elsewhere. About 50 million people are infected each year with the dengue virus, and although most cases are no more serious than the flu, abo... More...
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 2:48 PM
The call for papers for StormCon 2013 is now open. The conference will take place in Myrtle Beach, SC, August 18 – 22, 2013. StormCon 2013 includes the following conference tracks: * BMP Case Studies: Examples of structural and nonstructural best management practices to achieve water-quality goals * Green Infrastrucure: Low-impact development (LID) techniques as well as smart growth and other green infrastructure practices * Stormwater Program Management: Funding, public education and outreach, staffing... More...
Tuesday, September 04, 2012 3:09 PM
The Centers for Disease Control reports that, as of the last week of August, 1,590 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the US this year; that’s the highest number of cases since the virus was first detected in the US in 1999. The potentially serious virus is carried by mosquitoes. Just six states—Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan—account for more than 70% of the cases, and Texas alone has had more than 45% of the cases this year. Legislators in other states a... More...
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 1:12 PM
StormCon 2012 in Denver last week was a huge success. Thanks to all who participated: the speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, and especially the attendees. I also want to send a special thank you to the session moderators who helped us keep the 45 individual sessions on Tuesday through Thursday running smoothly. Some of you have been volunteering for years and others were stepping up for the first time; some of you took more than one session. We’re grateful for your help! Mahbub Alam, Washington Depa... More...
Tuesday, August 21, 2012 1:04 PM
Earlier this month, proposed new guidelines were released for stormwater management in the nation’s capital. A major goal of the new guidelines is to reduce pollutants entering the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek. The District aims to do this by reducing runoff through greater use of infiltration techniques and green infrastructure. One of the interesting points of the proposed guidelines is their use of credits and trading to encourage property owners and businesses to voluntarily install s... More...
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 2:11 PM
More and more communities are adopting green infrastructure and low-impact-development techniques to help manage stormwater runoff—to capture rainfall onsite, to reduce the quantity of runoff that reaches the stormwater system, and therefore to reduce the pollutant load associated with larger amounts of runoff. Some cities with combined sewer overflows are finding green infrastructure a more cost-effective way to deal with the problem than traditional methods, such as trying to separate the storm ... More...
Tuesday, August 07, 2012 11:53 AM
As of Tuesday morning, Tropical Storm Ernesto seemed just on the brink of becoming a hurricane, predicted to make landfall in Mexico Tuesday night as a Category 1 hurricane. And overall, meteorologists are predicting a rough late hurricane season , with several more tropical storms and hurricanes developing in the Atlantic before mid-September. Although not all make landfall, they can increase rainfall and flooding as they pass by. Predictions have gotten eerily specific, including the number of anticip... More...
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:54 PM
If, like many of us, you’ve been watching the Olympics, you’ve been hearing the stories and profiles of many of the athletes. Here’s a back story you might not be familiar with, although in the last few days you’ve probably seen plenty of photos of the star: Olympic Park. Four years ago the one-square-mile park, which now houses Olympic Stadium, the Aquatic Center, the Basketball and Water Polo Arenas, and other venues, as well as Olympic Village where the athletes are housed, was a contaminated brownfi... More...
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 5:08 PM
Here is a brief summary of what you can expect at StormCon in Denver—less than a month away. For all of you who plan to attend the conference, we are looking for moderators for a number of the technical sessions. As a moderator you’ll have a chance to meet with attendees and introduce the speakers for a 60- or 90-minute session. There are still openings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, August 21 – 23—see the details below. How Will New Regs Affect You? At the opening general session, six panelists wi... More...
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:46 PM
Among the many courses and special events that will be happening at StormCon 2012 in Denver, one will be of particular interest to those in Colorado and the many other states that have experienced wildfires this year—and to those who want to be prepared, just in case. A new full-day course, “Fire and Rain: Rapid Assessment and Emergency Mitigation Measures Following Wildfires,” will take place on Tuesday, August 21. Its focus is how to deal with the immediate aftermath of a fire and prevent the damage f... More...
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 2:54 PM
For those of us in the US who are working under NPDES permits and various local regulations, it’s sometimes useful to take a look at how other countries are coping with similar water-quality problems. For example, have you dealt with public education and outreach as part of your Phase II permit? Did you find it an onerous part of your job? Were you able to gauge the response to the messages you were sending? Here’s a little perspective in a news article from Chennai, India, where local officials a... More...
Tuesday, July 03, 2012 11:09 AM
Who owns the pollution that’s generated someplace else but that ends up in your watershed? We might soon have—legally speaking, at least—an answer. Last week the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that originated in California but will have implications for many water-quality programs nationwide. Los Angeles County is appealing a decision that holds it responsible for polluted runoff that discharges to the Pacific Ocean via two of its waterways, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. The coun... More...
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 11:05 AM
Here is the sort of news item you never, ever want to hear coming from your program’s jurisdiction: Last week near Duluth, Minnesota, which has been experiencing record floods, an eight-year-old boy somehow fell into a storm sewer and was carried downstream. Fortunately, he survived with relatively minor injuries. It’s not clear exactly how the child actually entered the storm sewer; according to witnesses, it wasn’t raining and the street wasn’t heavily flooded, but apparently there was some standing w... More...
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 11:45 AM
Las Vegas has had people taking shelter in its stormwater tunnels. A somewhat less frightening prospect showed up last week in an Australian storm pipe: a wombat. If you’re responsible for maintaining stormwater pipes, finding and fixing leaks, or detecting illegal connections, you’ve likely used video cameras to inspect the system, and that’s just what staff in the city of Launceton, Tasmania, were doing when they discovered the critter. Wombats are stocky little marsupials, mostly nocturnal, tha... More...
Tuesday, June 12, 2012 3:36 PM
An editorial last week in the Colorado Springs Gazette seems to support the idea that the best time to convince the public to pay for stormwater services is during rainy season: A storm on Wednesday caused so much flooding that 40 people had to be rescued from stranded vehicles. (Brant Keller, who was instrumental in starting Georgia’s first stormwater utility and one of the earlier ones in the country, recognized this phenomenon when he showed photos of flooded streets to Griffin, Georgia’s City ... More...
Tuesday, June 05, 2012 4:09 PM
How much is cleaner water worth? Almost every stormwater program struggles with the question when setting priorities and trying to meet permit requirements, but the question is being framed in a different way in Florida, where a new $1.5 billion Everglades restoration plan was just presented on Monday. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection has proposed the plan for EPA approval, following charges that it has failed to meet water-quality standards for stormwater that enters the Everglades. P... More...
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 3:55 PM
Can a $31,000 fish help curb water pollution? Last week the SHOAL Consortium began testing robotic fish off the coast of Spain. The 5-foot-long fish-shaped devices have chemical sensors and can sample and analyze water samples for a number of parameters themselves in real time, rather than transporting those samples to an onshore lab. They transmit the data to a shore-based station. Equipped with artificial intelligence, the fish can navigate their surroundings and find their way back to shor... More...
Tuesday, May 22, 2012 3:17 PM
Various types of permeable pavements—including pervious concrete, porous asphalt, and permeable interlocking concrete pavers—have long been recognized means for reducing runoff and pollutant load. They have become a staple in the low-impact development and green infrastructure toolbox. We’re all familiar with the most common uses of permeable pavement and porous asphalt: in parking lots, alleyways, and residential streets. Until now, it’s been widely assumed that such materials are limited to these low-... More...
Tuesday, May 15, 2012 3:12 PM
A couple of weeks ago, an oceanographer announced that the amount of plastic debris in the ocean is about two and a half times more than previously estimated—we just weren’t looking deep enough for it. Now, scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography are saying that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has increased 100-fold in the last 40 years and is now roughly the size of Texas. In addition to the dangers the plastic poses to birds, fish, and marine mammals, which swallow it (Scripps ... More...
Tuesday, May 08, 2012 2:49 PM
Yet another city is in the news this week for its combined sewer overflow situation—and more specifically, how to pay for fixing it. Officials in Portland, Maine, have committed $94 million to the problem already and are guessing they’ll need at least $170 million more before they’re through. Although there has been much discussion of using green infrastructure to reduce stormwater management costs, and particularly to remedy CSOs, that’s not the only means of dealing with the problem. For the las... More...
Tuesday, May 01, 2012 12:51 PM
We’ve all heard at various times about the problem of plastic debris in the ocean: Birds and marine animals eat it, and larger items can entangle and even strangle fish and sea mammals. In part, the danger to animals has led to bans on plastic bags in some cities—although discarded items and even the plastic pellets used in manufacturing plastic goods can pose an even bigger threat. Now, an oceanographer and a researcher at the University of Delaware have discovered there is more plastic &nb... More...
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 3:08 PM
Whether it arrived years ago and called itself low-impact development or appeared more recently under the name green infrastructure, chances are that, almost anywhere you are in the US, you’ve encountered it. Techniques ranging from bioswales and rain gardens to permeable pavements to green roofs are changing the way—at least in part—we manage stormwater runoff. More and more cities are adding green infrastructure to their arsenals as a way to supplement the traditional grey infrastructure of gutters an... More...
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 3:06 PM
What does the character of your neighborhood—particularly its pedestrian-friendliness—have to do with stormwater runoff? This article, “ Watersheds, Walkability, and Stormwater ,” published last year in the magazine examines the relationship between development density and stormwater. Author John Jacob explores the sometimes-counterintuitive relationship between higher density and pollutants on a watershed scale, noting, “for a given population, the total pollutant load may be much less at higher densit... More...
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 3:05 PM
Most of us concerned with funding stormwater programs probably agree that stormwater fees are a practical and equitable way to generate money—and we’re also familiar with the many objections that businesses and property owners raise when those fees are put in place. The predicament of a landowner in Washington state is currently breeding a lot of sympathy—not only from fellow property owners but also from the mayor of the town that’s charging him a fee. His story exemplifies the ways things can ge... More...
Tuesday, April 03, 2012 10:52 AM
We’ve periodically covered the International Stormwater BMP Database in Stormwater , including in this article in our current issue. As many of you know who have used the database or contributed to it, it’s a huge project begun about 16 years ago under a cooperative agreement between the American Society of Civil Engineers and the US Environmental Protection Agency, and supported by a number of agencies and organizations including the Water Environment Research Foundation, the American Society of ... More...
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 3:21 PM
Of all the low-impact-development techniques and green infrastructure strategies in the toolbox, the one that gets put to use least often, at least in the US, is perhaps the green roof. There are reasons for this. Green roofs usually cost more than other measures like bioswales or rain gardens, and not every building can be retrofitted for one. In addition, although a green roof can help reduce peak flows, it doesn’t infiltrate water as other LID techniques do, instead holding only what it can in the gr... More...
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 10:20 AM
Nitrate pollution is getting a lot of attention in California. Even as other states—notably Florida—enact TMDLs for nutrients, California’s Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board recently adopted new rules for agriculture, requiring ag operations to reduce nitrate and pesticide pollution. Just before the new rules were announced, the University of California–Davis released a study showing that in some areas of the state, 96% of the nitrate contamination in groundwater is a result of fertilizer and a... More...
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 12:23 PM
We’ve covered the issue of pavement sealants before, first in this 2006 article and in various updates; just two weeks ago I mentioned several new studies that report on the risks such sealants pose to the environment and human health. The city of Austin, TX, banned the use of coal-tar-based sealants early in 2006, based on water-quality studies it had carried out in conjunction with the US Geological Survey concerning water quality and PAH levels in local creeks. Tom Ennis, who, as the director of Aust... More...
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 2:58 PM
At EC12, the International Erosion Control Association’s annual conference, in Las Vegas last week, Greg Schaner of EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management discussed some key points of the newly released general permit fro construction-site discharges. He fielded questions from the audience at the conference’s general session and explained how EPA decided on some of the permit’s provisions. The permit is as notable for what it doesn’t include as for what it does: You won’t find a numeric limit for constru... More...
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 11:28 AM
Last week the US Supreme Court reached a decision in a case that has implications for the Clean Water Act—or doesn’t, as it turns out. The case itself had really nothing to do with water quality, but instead turned on the definition of “navigable waters.” A little background on the case, PPL Montana LLC v. Montana: The state of Montana had tried to charge rent to a power company that has hydroelectric dams on three Montana rivers. The Montana Supreme Court awarded the state nearly $41 million in rent fo... More...
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 11:19 AM
A handful of new studies supports what some in the stormwater industry have maintained for years: coal tar-based pavement sealers pose risks to the environment, and to human health as well. The city of Austin, TX, pioneered research in this area. This article in the May/June 2006 issue of Stormwater chronicles the detective work the city did to determine why PAH levels in some city creeks were so high. Working with the US Geological Survey, the city eventually tested runoff from a number of ... More...
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 7:05 PM
When is a ski resort not a ski resort? When it’s a water park, or perhaps a conference center. An article in the Burlington Free Press reports on new developments at Vermont’s Jay Peak Ski Resort, designed to make the area a year-round destination rather than just a winter playground. For example, a heated indoor water park with a pool, water slides, and artificial waves for surfing is crowded even when it’s freezing outside. Plans also call for additional ski trails to be built, along with amenities li... More...
Tuesday, February 07, 2012 8:00 AM
For all of us who’ve ever felt a little smug (and even trendy) about doing the right things for the environment, this article is a gentle poke in the ribs. Its premise is that many middle-class or affluent people feel better about themselves for such acts as buying a new fuel-efficient car or for becoming “locavores”—eating only food that’s produced within a short distance of where it’s consumed, thereby saving energy costs to transport it. But the author cautions against false savings and hidden ... More...
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3:03 AM
As we mentioned last week, many cities are turning to green infrastructure , at least in part, to remedy their combined sewer overflows. One of the most recognizable aspects of green infrastructure or LID, at least to the general public, is the rain garden. “Rain garden” has become a household term in many areas, with homeowners enthusiastically constructing them in their yards and developers sometimes including them on new properties as an amenity. (Green roofs are also a recognizable—and attractive—LID... More...
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 6:53 AM
Combined sewer overflows are becoming a serious problem for more and more cities. Davenport, Iowa , is currently looking at increasing sewer fees to fund studies and repairs to its infrastructure to improve its CSO situation—but at different times, it might be any of dozens of cities in the headlines for similar reasons. The reasons for the CSOs are diverse. Many older cities have combined sanitary and separate sewer systems that route everything to wastewater treatment plants, which have too little cap... More...
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 6:16 AM
We’ve run several articles in Stormwater exploring the potential stormwater benefits of high-density development, from a case study in Grand Rapids to this article examining the relationship between per capita pollutants and density on a watershed scale. Although areas of denser development tend to have a higher percentage of impervious area, from a watershed perspective, high-rise living can actually result in less impervious area per person—and certainly more preserved open space—than the same n... More...
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 1:38 PM
Last week, on January 3, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register asking for additional data and feedback on several issues related to the numeric effluent limits for construction sites. As you may remember, the agency published effluent limitation guidelines in late 2009 calling for a limit of 280 nephelometric turbidity units (NTUs) from most construction sites 10 acres or larger. The guidelines also called for other erosion and sediment control measures, such as using perimeter controls and mini... More...
Tuesday, January 03, 2012 10:11 AM
For decades, the focus of stormwater management and flood control was to get the water out of the way—treating it as a waste product rather than a resource. When streets are impassable and basements are filling up, that seems like a reasonable strategy. But the last several years have shown a growing trend toward stormwater reuse, in many forms and for many different reasons. In Florida, despite some past setbacks, efforts are underway to capture water to help solve the state’s water shortages. As this&... More...
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:40 AM
All of those “Do Not Dump—Drains to Lake” signs on storm drains and the programs to collect household hazardous waste in many communities really do have an effect, as one of EPA’s nonpoint success stories shows. Fosdic Lake in Fort Worth, TX, was so polluted that the state banned the possession of fish taken from it, concerned about harmful chemicals at concentrations high enough to be dangerous to people who consumed them. Although many of the chemicals had long since been banned by the time the Texas ... More...
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 12:12 PM
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden—the second-oldest in the country—calls itself “America’s Greenest Zoo,” and it has some impressive credentials to back up that claim. It has several LEED-certified buildings , for example, including its new entrance complex constructed a few years ago. It uses solar panels on many of its buildings and geothermal pumps for heating and cooling. And now it’s undertaking a huge stormwater project—built into an exhibit under construction—to retain 70% of runoff onsite.... More...
Tuesday, December 06, 2011 1:34 PM
Last week, a former EPA administrator, William K. Reilly, published an editorial in the New York Times marking the upcoming 40 th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. He notes the many successes under the act—in 1972 when it came into being, he says, two-thirds of the country’s waters were not “swimmble and fishable”—and, just as then-Administrator Carol Browner did in the very first issue of Stormwater magazine 11 years ago, he cites the notorious event that helped spur the creation of the Environmental... More...
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 12:17 PM
There is just under a week left to submit abstracts for StormCon 2012, which will take place next August in Denver. This year’s conference features five tracks: BMP Case Studies, Green Infrastructure, Stormwater Program Management, Water-Quality Monitoring, and Advanced Research Topics. More detail on each track is available on the call for papers page , where you can also submit an abstract online. The BMP track includes information and detailed case studies on a wide variety of stormwater best managem... More...
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 12:17 PM
As I mentioned last week , the Idaho Supreme Court has rejected the city of Lewiston’s stormwater fee, declaring it to be an unconstitutional tax. That decision is having a couple of repercussions, both in Lewiston and beyond. First, FEMA had recently awarded the city a nearly $1.6 million Pre-Disaster Mitigation Competitive grant to improve its stormwater system and reduce flood risk. The FEMA grant represented 75% of the cost of the total improvement effort, and the remaining 25% was to come from fees... More...
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 12:18 PM
Last week, a potential stormwater charge in another city ran into trouble. The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the city of Lewiston’s fee is actually a tax and therefore unconstitutional. We’ve had many discussions of the difference between a fee and a tax in the magazine and online ; for years the issue has been a common stumbling block for would-be stormwater utilities. Cities generally have the ability to collect fees but not the authority to assess taxes. In many cases, a fee is defined as money coll... More...
Tuesday, November 08, 2011 1:30 PM
When Tropical Storm Irene hit New Hampshire just over two months ago, most residents were either evacuating or hunkering down and protecting their property, glad at least that the storm no longer had hurricane strength. For some researchers at Plymouth State University, though, the storm was an opportunity to study the long-term effects of floods . Hydrologists and geologists from the university’s Center for the Environment spent days collecting water samples throughout the Pemigewasset River watershed.... More...
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 1:29 PM
Much has been written about the great Plastic Vortex covering perhaps half a million square miles in the Pacific Ocean, and others not quite as large in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Manufactured items from bags to toys to shoes that are not recycled eventually find their way to sea. Birds and aquatic animals ingest them, often fatally; Dutch scientists found that some seagulls averaged 30 pieces of plastic in their stomachs. As the plastic degrades it can release toxins, or sometimes just break into ... More...
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 1:29 PM
We know that excess nutrients in surface waters are a problem in many parts of the US, but improving the situation sometimes requires more information—and more authority—than we have available. A publication by the US Geological Survey helps with the information aspect, at least. “Nutrients in the Nation’s Streams and Groundwater, 1992-2004” is a comprehensive assessment of the sources, distribution, and effects of nutrients throughout US waters. The 174-page publication, issued last year, covers the su... More...
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:20 PM
We know that excess nutrients in surface waters are a problem in many parts of the US, but improving the situation sometimes requires more information—and more authority—than we have available. A publication by the US Geological Survey helps with the information aspect, at least. “Nutrients in the Nation’s Streams and Groundwater, 1992-2004” is a comprehensive assessment of the sources, distribution, and effects of nutrients throughout US waters. The 174-page publication, issued last year, covers the su... More...
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 1:27 PM
Many parts of the world have seen heavy storms and flooding this year, and this week, Thailand’s capital is one of them: on Tuesday, water was heading into Bangkok from several directions. Volunteers are filling sandbags—the city’s governor appeared on television Monday to urge citizens to fill at least a million of them by Wednesday—and are attempting to build a dike along the Chao Phraya River. At least 315 people are reported to have died in the flooding. Since the monsoon season began in July, as mu... More...
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 1:26 PM
Many of EPA’s recent stormwater efforts have revolved around the Chesapeake Bay—cleaning it up and protecting it from further pollution—and the Bay has also been a test bed of sorts for measures EPA might eventually undertake elsewhere. In 2010 EPA established the Chesapeake Bay TMDL to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reaching the Bay, setting what it called “aggressive targets” for pollutant reduction. Part of the Chesapeake Bay’s problem is that it receives runoff from so many different juri... More...
Tuesday, October 04, 2011 1:26 PM
A new report, released today by the organization Green for All, advocates investing in America’s water-related infrastructure. That’s nothing new—the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers , among others, have long been urging the same thing. What’s different here is the effect the report predicts this investment would have on employment, and how those numbers were calculated. The report, Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Envi... More...
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 1:25 PM
Despite stormwater utilities becoming a major source of funding for municipal stormwater programs over the last decade or so, there is still fierce resistance to them in many communities. Attempting to introduce a so-called “rain tax” to an area that hasn’t had one before brings out surprising emotions to this day, and a glance through the nation’s news sites turns up many examples of the battle being reenacted almost every week. In South Carolina, for example, the Berkeley County Council has just rejec... More...
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 1:24 PM
An article in last Monday’s Wall Street Journal , “ How to Build a Greener City ,” included a prominent photo of the green roof atop Chicago’s City Hall. Constructed in 2000 as a demonstration project, this may be the most publicized green roof in the country—part of Chicago’s effort to become “America’s greenest city” with efforts like the Green Alley Program and many others. But the inclusion of a stormwater technique within a larger context, especially in an article promoting long-term investment in ... More...
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 1:23 PM
Last Thursday, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers announced the winners of its Picture a Better America photo contest. The contest, part of AEM’s “I Make America” campaign, was intended to call attention for the need to invest in US infrastructure improvements and to encourage public investment in infrastructure . The contest featured four categories. “One Bumpy Ride” sought photos of decaying roads or bridges, and the winning photo , by Julia Hoskins of Oregon, showed Hawaii’s Pi’ilani Highway.... More...
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 1:22 PM
A new tool from the US Geological Survey aims to help those dealing with excess nutrients in surface waters—specifically, helping them find regional models that describe nutrient transport. Excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus can lead to algae blooms, oxygen depletion, and dead zones like the ones currently spreading in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay, and elsewhere. Several regional models have been developed using SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes). USG... More...
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 1:21 PM
The extremely well-attended EPA session last Wednesday at StormCon in Anaheim provided an overview of the stormwater rule that EPA plans to unveil in September. Jeremy Bauer, an environmental scientist with USEPA’s Office of Wastewater Management, Water Permits Division, gave a presentation outlining the rule and fielded audience questions afterward. Elements of the New Stormwater Rule Among the rule’s key provisions: *It will quantify performance standards for new development and redeveloped sites, bas... More...
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 1:20 PM
As many of us head off to StormCon in Anaheim this week, EPA has just announced that it is withdrawing the proposed rule that would have revised the numeric effluent limit for runoff from construction sites. The agency withdrew the proposal on August 12, with the intent of collecting more data before reaching a final decision. What does this mean in the long term for stormwater management on construction sites? It’s unclear, although some groups—the National Association of Home Builders and the Associat... More...
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 1:18 PM
StormCon 2011 begins next week in Anaheim, as many of you who are attending are aware. There is still time to sign up for many of the events. Among the highlights that are open to all attendees: Panel Discussion At the Opening General Session on Tuesday morning, August 23, five panelists from various areas of stormwater management will discuss “Changing the Rules: How Will New Stormwater Regulations Affect Municipal Programs?” The panel includes • Paul Crabtree, P.E., president of Crabtree Group Inc. • ... More...
Tuesday, August 09, 2011 1:17 PM
Last week’s blog took a look at nutrient pollution, eutrophication, and dead zones in the US and elsewhere. The Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are both experiencing larger-than-usual dead zones, although the problem in both places—as well as in other coastal areas—is ongoing. A big contributor of nutrients is runoff from agricultural lands. And although we’ve worked for centuries to build levees and contain the river, we’ve also recognized the consequences of containing it. The high water levels,... More...
Sunday, August 07, 2011 8:00 PM
Triton Stormwater Solutions a recurring sponsor; thanks once again for the support! Please visit the Triton Cyber Café located in the Grand Ballroom at StormCon in Anaheim . Check out the complete 2011 Conference Guide with all of this years exhibitors, sponsors and advertisers. About Triton Stormwater Solutions Established in 2007 and headquartered in Brighton, Mich., Triton Stormwater Solutions manufactures the next generation of stormwater chamber management systems. In virtually every metric t... More...
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 12:43 PM
Algae blooms and dead zones are an annual occurrence for many water bodies, and this year seems to be worse than many. A dead zone developing in the Chesapeake Bay could turn out to be the largest one ever experienced there; it covers about a third of the bay and is still expanding. Another is developing in the Gulf of Mexico, as heavy rains and snowmelt in the Mississippi River Valley are sending more polluted runoff to the gulf than usual. Dead zones are caused mainly by nutrient pollution. Nitrogen a... More...
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 12:42 PM
Need continuing education units? Almost everyone does, and Forester University—the arm of Forester Media, Stormwater ’s publisher, that offers webinars and other educational opportunities—is now offering online training for people in many different fields. Forester University has launched a new website with a new schedule of events, where you can earn CEU/PDH credits, get expert information in your field, and join community discussions. The next event coming up is a free preview of the StormCon conferen... More...
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:41 PM
Last week the House of Representatives voted to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. H.R. 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011, extends the program and provides funding for it through 2016. It also establishes an advisory council to develop new mapping standards for 100-year flood insurance rate maps. There are many provisions in H.R. 1309—you can read the full text here —but a few notable ones are those that allow property owners a little leeway in whether and how a property is classifi... More...
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 12:40 PM
For those of you who will be attending the StormCon conference in Anaheim on August 21 – 25, here’s another reminder that we are still looking for moderators for a number of the sessions. This year’s conference has seven tracks: BMP Case Studies, Green Infrastructure, Stormwater Program Management, Water-Quality Monitoring, Advanced Research Topics, Erosion and Sediment Control, and Industrial Stormwater Management. Sessions in each of these tracks run concurrently on Tuesday through Thursday, August 23... More...
Tuesday, July 05, 2011 12:39 PM
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers is sponsoring a photo contest, seeking images related to American infrastructure. The “I Picture America” contest is intended to spur elected officials into investing more—and more wisely—in infrastructure improvement. More work on the infrastructure, of course, means more work for the people who make and use the equipment needed to repair, refurbish, and replace the roads, water lines, bridges, transportation systems, and other infrastructure elements, and tha... More...
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 12:38 PM
StormCon 2011 will take place in less than two months: August 21 – 25 in Anaheim, California. We’re happy to announce that the popular EPA session will return this year. We are also looking for moderators for a number of the conference sessions, so if you’re planning to attend and would like to lead a session, please see the details below. EPA Presentation On Wednesday, August 24, at 2:00 p.m., Jeremy Bauer, an environmental scientist with EPA in Washington, DC, will present “Overview of EPA Stormwater ... More...
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 12:37 PM
A few years back, we noted in Stormwater magazine that EPA’s Nonpoint Source Outreach Toolbox was available and highlighted some of the material contained there. It’s essentially a collection of public outreach materials—including media campaigns for print, television, and radio—that have already been created by and for local stormwater programs and that are available for other programs to use. Public outreach is one requirement of the Phase II permit that’s sometimes given lower priority and can be dif... More...
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 12:36 PM
Many cities and towns, as they’ve had to comply with federal clean water laws and get NPDES or similar stormwater permits, have objected—to the cost, or to requirements they considered excessive. The engineer for Franconia, Pennsylvania, a town of just over 13,000 people, went a bit farther during a meeting of the township’s board of supervisors last week, calling proposed new stormwater measures “eco-tolitarianism” and warning that individual property owners will feel their effects. As this article not... More...
Tuesday, June 07, 2011 12:36 PM
This week it’s the Missouri River that’s threatening to flood large areas of the Midwest. In Iowa, helicopters are dropping thousand-pound sandbags near a threatened levee in an attempt to protect the town of Hamburg. A small break appeared Sunday in the levee, and about half the town’s population of 1,200 was ordered to evacuate. It’s expected that the sandbags will only delay, not prevent, the failure of the levee, and the Army Corps of Engineers is attempting to build a secondary wall to protect the ... More...
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 12:37 PM
We’re used to hearing about the long-term effects of pollutants on water quality and aquatic organisms. A common measure of acute toxicity, LC 50 , indicates the concentration of a substance in water that will kill 50% of the organisms in the water sample in a single dose or exposure. The lower the LC 50 , the more toxic the substance is to the organism in question. The substance can be a chemical, such as a pesticide , or even the temperature of the water. An article in the Seattle Times last week poin... More...
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:37 PM
We knew that the costs of flooding along the Mississippi River would be huge, and that the choices of what to protect and what to sacrifice would be difficult. The Army Corps of Engineers opened spillways to release water into less-populated areas and prevent flooding in cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but at a price: Thousands of homes and many farms lie in the affected areas. A new financial study has pinned down some of those costs. More than 21,000 homes, worth over $2.2 billion, may be flo... More...
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:38 PM
People love contests. They’ve been a staple of advertising for ages, luring people into stores and onto web sites to enter drawings for free merchandise and discounts. They’re also a useful tool for public relations, as this Stormwater article on launching a successful media campaign illustrates. Almost as much as the free products, though, people like the thrill of winning and the recognition they get from it—even more so if they have to work for it. The city of Springfield, Missouri, understands this ... More...
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 12:39 PM
Washington state has banned coal-tar-based asphalt sealants—the first state in the nation to do so. Environmental reporter Robert McClure has an in-depth article on the state’s decision here . Previous research has shown that runoff from surfaces coated with these types of sealants can harm aquatic environments; more recent studies—which heavily influenced the Washington decision—link them to human health hazards as well. In 2006, Stormwater magazine ran an article by David Richardson about a similar ba... More...
Monday, May 02, 2011 8:00 PM
This week the US government announced a settlement with BP, requiring the oil company to pay $25 million in civil penalties for failing to maintain its equipment and causing an oil spill. This has nothing to do with the Gulf of Mexico, though—it’s the result of two incidents on Alaska’s North Slope in 2006. In March of that year, BP Exploration Alaska Inc. released more than 5,000 barrels of oil, and in August about 24 barrels, both resulting from a corroded pipeline.
In addit More...
Thursday, April 28, 2011 8:00 PM
We’ve run articles in Stormwater about safety issues associated with stormwater infrastructure, such as this one on designing safer retention and detention ponds.
We’ve also featured the occasional item about uses for stormwater pipes completely unintended and unanticipated by the cities that created them, such as hundreds of homeless people moving—furniture and all—i More...
Monday, April 25, 2011 8:00 PM
We’ve run articles in Stormwater about safety issues associated with stormwater infrastructure, such as this one on designing safer retention and detention ponds.
We’ve also featured the occasional item about uses for stormwater pipes completely unintended and unanticipated by the cities that created them, such as hundreds of homeless people moving—furniture More...
Monday, April 18, 2011 8:00 PM
Last week a reader pointed out that California Assembly Bill 1210, introduced in February, has the potential to profoundly change the way those who hold professional certifications in the erosion and sediment control and stormwater arenas are able to function on the job site. Here is an excerpt from the bill, as amended in assembly in March, which proposes additions to the Business and Professions Code: SECTION 1. Section 6730.4 is added to the Business and Pro... More...
Monday, April 11, 2011 8:00 PM
Drug-resistant bacteria have been found in surface waters in New Delhi, according to a British study. Reported in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, the study showed that NDM-1 bacteria (named for the city) were found in about one-fourth of the samples taken from drinking water supplies and from standing water on the streets. Scientists believe many people in the city are carrying bacter More...
Monday, April 04, 2011 8:00 PM
A week ago, the concern over radiation around Japan’s damaged nuclear plant centered on trace amounts of plutonium found in the soil and small amounts of radiation in the ocean several miles offshore. This week, workers are releasing tons of water into the ocean and struggling to locate and repair a crack that is allowing more to escape.
What will the effect be on th More...
Monday, March 28, 2011 8:00 PM
Here’s something that’s probably outside the scope of your job as a stormwater manager but that has nevertheless crossed your mind at least a couple of times in the last two weeks: How would you deal with reports of radioactivity in surface or groundwater?
The news from Japan about radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, has been sometimes confusing and contradictory, but as of Monday it seems that small amounts of plutonium More...
Monday, March 21, 2011 8:00 PM
At times during the last week and a half, news about Japan’s nuclear reactor crisis has nearly overshadowed the original events that started it all: the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. But these have nevertheless drawn attention to a system that has quietly been deployed and expanded over the last six years. DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami), developed over decades and funded with greater urgency after the Asian tsunami in 2004, provides real-time detection of a tsunami in the More...
Monday, March 14, 2011 8:00 PM
There probably isn’t one of us, by now, who is not familiar with the concept of low impact development and the rapidly growing discipline of green infrastructure. Familiar in a general sense, at least; while some are LEED Accredited Professionals, others are still finding ways to incorporate these ideas in practice and “on the ground,” so to speak, in day-to-day projects.
A new webinar helps do exactly that. “Designing With Nature,” a one-hour webinar from Forester More...
Monday, March 07, 2011 7:00 PM
When EPA began the process of setting numeric limits for nutrients in Florida’s waters, there was plenty of opposition throughout the state, and for a variety of reasons: some said jobs would be lost; others thought the cost of meeting the new limits was far to high. Some argued that EPA’s basis for setting the limits was not scientifically sound, and others objected to EPA setting rules for a specific state and for a specific pollutant, which it had never done before. There were requests for More...
Monday, February 28, 2011 7:00 PM
“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been” seems to be the word on the streets—the very wet streets—in much of the Midwest. Storms and flooding today, Tuesday, caused damage and killed at least four people in Ohio and Tennessee. But in Ohio the Blanchard River topped out at a lower-than-expected level—only 5 ½ feet above flood level—and to many who remember worse flooding a few years ago, that seemed like a relatively good outcome.
The combination of More...
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 7:00 PM
It’s no secret that, for many stormwater managers, one of the most frustrating parts of implementing the Phase II permit is dealing with the “public elements”: the requirements for public education and outreach and public participation and involvement. Gauging how to approach these two minimum control measures—and how to tell whether what you’re doing is having an effect—can be baffling. An upcoming webinar offers some help: “NPDES Phase II: The Public Elements – Promoting Sustainable Behavior” will tak... More...
Monday, February 14, 2011 7:00 PM
Earlier this year, there was good news for stormwater programs when the president signed a law requiring federal facilities to pay local stormwater fees. This month, though, brought a reminder that getting funding isn’t always easy and that stormwater utilities and user fees, although they’ve become more common, aren’t always a sure thing.
Once rare, stormw More...
Monday, February 07, 2011 7:00 PM
Just when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was beginning to seem like old news, a new study reveals that the chemical dispersants used against the oil are lingering longer than expected. What the long-term implications of that will be, exactly, is unclear, but it researchers say the chemicals are not degrading as rapidly as it was first believed.
About 771,000 gallons of dispersant was injected near the sea floor, directly into the oil flow. Researchers monitored one specific component of the di More...
Monday, January 31, 2011 7:00 PM
There are all sorts of ways to mess up a water body, and an Illinois company is finding just how expensive the consequences can be. Under a consent decree lodged this week, the Orval Kent Food Company will pay more than $32,000 to restock fish in the Spring River watershed. It will also pay a $390,000 civil penalty for polluting a 22-mile section of the Spring River that runs through Kansas and Oklahoma.
Monday, January 24, 2011 7:00 PM
Those of you planning on attending StormCon next August in Anaheim, California, will have some extra offerings to choose from. In addition to the seven regular conference tracks, Forester Media is adding a new component this year on coastal erosion. This smaller conference will take place on August 23 and 24 and will be located at the same venue, the Anaheim Marriott.
Coastal erosion has of course been a major concern for many cities, and an increasing number of cities and states are preparing More...
Monday, January 17, 2011 7:00 PM
Earlier this month, local stormwater programs got a much-needed and long overdue boost: A new federal law requires federal facilities—military bases, office complexes, federal prisons, and the like—to pay local stormwater fees just as privately owned facilities do.
In Washington DC alone, where federal facilities of course take up more space than in many other places, the additional stormwater revenue will be about $2.6 million per year. Lawmakers seem to have looked not only at the More...
Monday, January 10, 2011 7:00 PM
Eating fish is good for you, nutritionists keep telling us, but that advice comes with a big caveat: It’s good for you as long as the fish you’re eating doesn’t contain excessively high levels of mercury or other pollutants. The Food and Drug Administration and other agencies advise limited consumption for children and pregnant women, and recommend that they avoid some types of fish like More...
Monday, January 03, 2011 7:00 PM
The US Green Building Council is accepting public comments on its next version of the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. A draft was published in November, and this first comment period runs through January 14. Another comment period will be open July 1 through August 15, 2011, with more added if necessary.
Informally known as LEED 2012 (to distinguish it from LEED 2009, the last version, although the final rating system won’t carry a date), the draft in More...
Monday, December 20, 2010 7:00 PM
This week much of the world is getting a closeup look at stormwater in some form or other—here in California we’re getting record-setting rains, many of you in other parts of the country are deep in snow, and as I write this several airports in Europe are still virtually shut down by the weather.
A few things to track in the new year:
* The results of the 2010 census might redefine some federally designated urbanized areas, affecting NPDES Phase II permitting.
Monday, December 13, 2010 7:00 PM
An article in last Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot does a good job of explaining the stormwater pollution problem in the Chesapeake Bay: the sources of pollution, why it’s harmful to the bay, and what residents can do to help—or at least what they can do to stop contributing quite so much to the problem.
Stormwater is still a growing source of pollution to the bay, particularly More...
Monday, December 06, 2010 7:00 PM
Here is one last reminder that the deadline to submit an abstract for StormCon 2011 is next Tuesday, December 14. The show will take place in Anaheim, California, August 21 – 25, 2011. You can find more information about the conference tracks and submit your abstract online at www.stormcon.com.
The program for the 10th annual conference will include seven tracks:
BMP Case Studies foc More...
Monday, November 29, 2010 7:00 PM
Never underestimate the power of volunteers.
Savvy stormwater managers have long recognized that it’s not only their paid employees who put in dedicated labor for the watershed. There are others willing to collect water samples, stencil “No dumping” signs on storm drains, clear overgrown vegetation, and keep an eye out for sources of pollutants.
They might be members of environmental g More...
Sunday, November 21, 2010 7:00 PM
A discussion a couple of weeks ago on the NPS Information Exchange dealt with a question of terminology: What should we call the place where the stormwater goes?
The thread was started by someone who was in the process of creating a survey to gauge the public’s attitudes and behaviors about stormwater. She questioned whether the term “storm sewer,” which had been used in a previous survey, might be misleading, because it could suggest that water entering the storm sewer would More...
Monday, November 15, 2010 7:00 PM
This week, EPA signed the final numeric limits for nutrient pollution in Florida. This potentially precedent-setting move has implications for other states, as it is the first time EPA has set water-quality standards for a single state.
We’ve covered this issue before, while EPA was still holding public hearings on the standards. In summary, EPA had directed a number of states to set nutrient limits about More...
Monday, November 08, 2010 7:00 PM
Just a reminder that the StormCon call for papers is now open. The deadline to submit an abstract is December 14. The show will take place in Anaheim, California, August 21 – 25, 2011. The expanded program for the 10 th annual conference will include seven tracks: BMP Case Studies focuses on structural and nonstructural best management practices, including combinations of BMPs to achieve water-quality goals. Green Infrastructure —previously called the Low-Impact Development track—includes not only lot-l... More...
Monday, November 01, 2010 8:00 PM
We know what you’re thinking.
At least, we know quite a bit more than we did a few months ago, because you’ve told us. As we do periodically, this summer we conducted a reader survey to find out more about Stormwater’s readers. We want to know where you are, what you’re working on, what information you need now—and how you’re faring in the current economy. We use the information to plan upcoming articles and issues and to im More...
Sunday, October 24, 2010 8:00 PM
Coral reefs are fragile things, and there has been concern for years about the various ways human activities manage to inflict harm on them. Some are physical—over-collecting coral for aquarium use or damaging reefs while diving—and some more insidious, like acidification and warming of the oceans.
Two recent studies show renewed threats—some from warmer waters, and some from something a bit closer to home for those who deal with water-quality issues.
Last week, the More...
Sunday, October 17, 2010 8:00 PM
An article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “The Secret to Turning Consumers Green,” claims there’s a sure-fire way to get people to use fewer resources and be more environmentally responsible: guilt.
Last January, Washington DC began charging consumers a five-cent tax on each plastic and paper bag they received at retail stores throughout the dist More...
Monday, October 11, 2010 8:00 PM
The worst of all possible scenarios for the Danube might not come to pass, but cleaning up after the sludge spill in Hungary will still be a years-long process. Since the failure of a reservoir just over a week ago released toxic material from an aluminum plant, the focus has been on evacuating nearby towns and on building an emergency dam to prevent more sludge from escaping if another wall—which is already showing cracks—should fail.
The long-term question, though, is the water-qu More...
Monday, October 04, 2010 8:00 PM
StormCon, the North American Surface Water Quality Conference & Expo, is now accepting abstracts for presentation at the 2011 conference. The conference will be held in Anaheim, CA, August 21 – 25, 2011. Abstracts are due December 14, 2010, and can be submitted online at www.StormCon.com.
This is a pivotal year to take part. This will be the tenth StormCon conference, and those 10 years have seen some earthshaking changes in the industry and the r More...
Monday, September 27, 2010 8:00 PM
Pollutants from common sources, including some intended to make our lives better, are ending up in our waterways. Recent government efforts are aimed at reducing two of these: contamination from prescription and non-prescription drugs, and mercury from dental fillings.
Last Saturday, the US Drug Enforcement Agency, with support from the USEPA, sponsored “take-back events” for prescription and over-the-counter dr More...
Sunday, September 19, 2010 8:00 PM
Although BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico is finally capped, work continues to determine the full extent of the effects of the oil on gulf ecosystems.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a research vessel, the Pisces, currently deployed to track deep-water oil in the Gulf. A crew of 24 plus nine scientists from Texas A&M University and the University of California at Santa Barbara are onboard. They are taking samples to test for oil and methane, as well as experimen More...
Sunday, September 12, 2010 8:00 PM
Last week’s pipeline explosion in northern California set off renewed concerns about the state of the country’s infrastructure—especially those parts of it we can’t see. Gas pipelines, like much of the stormwater system, exist underground. Problems aren’t always obvious, and it’s difficult to convince the public to spend money on repairs and upgrades when—so far, at least—e More...
Monday, September 06, 2010 8:00 PM
EPA is calling for Florida to move faster in meeting nutrient standards for stormwater, part of the ongoing restoration efforts in the state’s Everglades. In doing so, the agency has endorsed a proposed deal between the state and US Sugar Corp., in which the state would purchase farmland from US Sugar that could be used to create stormwater treatment areas.
Monday, August 23, 2010 8:00 PM
Five years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In the months afterward, plenty of second-guessing took place—of the local and federal government response, the construction of the levees, and the wisdom of having settled in such a location as New Orleans in the first place. Today the Gulf Coast is dealing with other problems—the oil spill still topping the list—but a new system of flood protection for the city is within a year of being completed. This New York Times article , ... More...
Monday, August 16, 2010 8:00 PM
We’ve touched on the topic of development density and stormwater a few times in the magazine. Although it seems counterintuitive to many people that high-density development is good for stormwater management, it begins to make sense when you look at it from a watershed perspective rather than lot by lot. An article by Randel Lemoine a few years ago compared the amount of impervious surface per residence in higher- and l More...
Monday, August 09, 2010 8:00 PM
More than 1,100 people attended the StormCon conference last week in San Antonio—on par with the best-attended StormCons ever, and especially gratifying given the state of the economy and the difficulty some have had with travel funding.
Thanks from all of us at Forester Media to everyone who contributed: the speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. I want to give a special thanks to the many volunteers who acted as moderators for the 60- and 90-minute sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thur More...
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 8:00 PM
Last Saturday, towns in Iowa experienced the results of a spectacular dam failure. The Lake Delhi dam, overwhelmed by flooding from the Maquoketa River, gave way, and within hours the nine-mile-long lake had nearly drained, leaving boats resting on dry ground and lakefront properties perched precariously on the eroding shore. Portions of a road on top of the 55-foot-high dam were More...
Monday, July 19, 2010 8:00 PM
We’re less than two weeks away now from StormCon, which will be held this year in San Antonio, Texas. If you’ve thought about attending, there is still time to register, both for the regular program that runs Tuesday through Thursday, August 3 -5, and for the preconference workshops that take place on Sunday and Monday, August 1 and 2.
The regular program i More...
Sunday, July 11, 2010 8:00 PM
Keeping with a theme, here, I’m going to post one more time on the subject of mosquitoes before we move on to something else next week. An article in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal traces the history of malaria and the ongoing attempts—some more successful than others More...
Monday, July 05, 2010 8:00 PM
Researchers in Texas are predicting that Hurricane Alex will bring more than just rain and flooding: it will also bring more mosquitoes.
Scientists at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service distinguish between “floodwater” mosquitoes, which appear a week or so after a flood, and “standing-water” mosquitoes, which appear a few weeks later. The latter are the most dangerous, they say, because the spe More...
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 8:00 PM
Several weeks ago, during National Hurricane Preparedness Week, I mentioned the speculation about what effects a hurricane might have on the oil spill in the Gulf, and vice versa—could the spill itself affect the progress of a hurricane?
Now that we’re well into hurricane season, with a couple of tropical storms kicking around the region, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration h More...
Sunday, June 20, 2010 8:00 PM
StormCon is coming up in just a little over a month; it will take place August 1 – 5 in San Antonio. We are still looking for moderators for a number of sessions on Tuesday, August 3, through Thursday, August 5. If you’re planning to attend the conference and would like to be a moderator, you can see the conference program online . The session listings begin on page 19 of the program pdf. As a moderator for a 60-minute or 90-minute session, you would welcome the attendees, introduce the presenters, and ... More...
Sunday, June 13, 2010 8:00 PM
It’s a flood control manager’s nightmare, and it’s happening in more than one place in the Midwest. Some floods we can, to an extent, plan for, but others are far less predictable.
Last week, flash floods in Arkansas killed at least 20 people—the grim search continues, but on Monday rescuers found the 20th victim. The tragedy was that flood warnings were broadcast during the night, but most of those killed were at a campground near the Ouachita National Forest More...
Sunday, June 06, 2010 8:00 PM
With all the attention focused on the Gulf of Mexico and attention to the progress of BP’s latest effort to stem the flow of oil from the well, we’d like to take the time to acknowledge the storms that hit the Midwest this weekend.
Towns in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana experienced tornados, causing at least seven deaths as of Sunday. In Lake Township, Ohio, emergency services were temporarily offline when the roof was torn off the building housing the 911 dispatchers, causi More...
Monday, May 31, 2010 8:00 PM
Dams are incredible feats of engineering, and they never cease to hold a fascination for us. The Hoover Dam still draws more than 8 million visitors each year. But many of them are getting a lot of bad press, as they’ve either outlived their original purpose (or, worse, their original life expectancy, putting them in danger of failing) or perhaps were constructed with little regard for their effect on t More...
Sunday, May 23, 2010 8:00 PM
This is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The event takes place just before hurricane season, which for the Atlantic Ocean begins on June 1, and it’s intended to raise awareness and provide individuals and families with information they’d need if a hurricane struck their area: What’s the risk of a storm surge? What is our evacuation plan? What supplies should I have in my emergency kit? What should I do w More...
Sunday, May 16, 2010 8:00 PM
Water-quality managers in Florida have some unwanted guests—the kind that move in and just won’t leave. It’s another example of an invasive species taking over an ecosystem. However, unlike kudzu—once thought to be an ideal plant for erosion control, and now ubiquitous in the Southeastern US—or the water hyacinth, a pretty ornamental that was introduced to the US at the 1884 Cotton More...
Monday, May 10, 2010 8:00 PM
Although the recent study focuses on Charlotte, NC, the statement is probably true, to some degree, for many US cities: we’re losing our trees.
In the last 25 years, Charlotte has lost half its tree canopy. The nonprofit American Forests calculated the tree loss—about 50% of the tree canopy in the city, and about a third in Mecklenburg County—using its CITYg More...
Sunday, May 02, 2010 8:00 PM
Desperate times call for desperate—or at least somewhat bizarre—measures, and the situation in the Gulf of Mexico is looking increasingly desperate. You’ve probably been following the progress of the oil leak, which as of Monday is estimated to be adding 200,000 gallons or more of oil to the gulf daily.
One organization is taking action by collecting a substance that absorbs oil, hoping to manufacture enough absorbent mats and oil booms to collect a significant amount of oil b More...
Monday, April 26, 2010 8:00 PM
Last week, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, officials believed oil from the platform was contained. Today the situation looks much different—it appears that more than 40,000 gallons of crude oil has leaked into the gulf, with potentially hundreds of thousands of gallons still to come.
The leak isn’t from the well itself but from a 5,000-foot pipeline leading to the rig that was damaged when the rig sank following the explosion. There is potential fo More...
Sunday, April 18, 2010 8:00 PM
An article in the May 2010 issue of Stormwater magazine discusses the issue of antibiotics and various other medications as well as personal care products—fragrances, sunscreens, cleaning products, and the like—ending up in surface waters and, potentially, in drinking water supplies. Removing these substances once they’re in the water is tricky, as several people interviewed in the article point o More...
Monday, April 12, 2010 8:00 PM
The Atlanta area has been hit with more than its share of weather extremes in the last couple of years: first drought and water shortages, then record flooding. Nature may not provide a happy medium, but some residents are looking to average things out themselves, in the form of decentralized rainwater harvesting.
In an More...
Monday, April 05, 2010 8:00 PM
An experiment underway in North Carolina will determine how well a new BMP of sorts works to control nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Artificial islands—about 400 square feet each, made of green fiberglass and planted with wetland vegetation—are floating in ponds at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science and at a local golf course. The plants are supposed to absorb nutri More...
Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:00 PM
Automotive brake pads have long been acknowledged as a source of copper in surface water. In high enough concentrations, it’s toxic to aquatic life, and numerous TMDLs for dissolved copper are in place around the country.
On March 19, Washington became the first state to regulate copper in brake pads for automobiles when Governor Chris Gregoire signed SB 6557 into law—beating California, which has been working on a similar bill (SB 346, which has not yet passed the state legislature More...
Monday, March 22, 2010 8:00 PM
Taking broader aim at drinking water contaminants, the EPA announced some new strategies—mostly aimed at source control and public water-treatment facilities, but which may have implications for stormwater as well.
In a speech to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies on Monday, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson outlined four main steps the agency is considering. One is to group similar contamin More...
Monday, March 15, 2010 8:00 PM
An article in a Michigan paper last week highlighted the potential benefits of a watershed-based stormwater program, the sort of thing the National Research Council recommended nearly two years ago.
The city of Holland, Michigan, with a population of around 35,000, is trying to limit phosphorus in stormwater runoff to Lake Macatawa just to its west. However, even as t More...
Monday, March 08, 2010 7:00 PM
Upset over recent Supreme Court decisions they say have weakened the government’s ability to enforce the Clean Water Act, local officials from across the country are traveling to Washington to encourage restoration of water-quality protections. They have also released a report, “Clean Water for All”, that details problems in nine areas of the country.
The prob More...
Sunday, February 28, 2010 7:00 PM
We focus so much on the pollutants in stormwater runoff that we sometimes forget about another source: those lurking underground. An article last week in an Allentown, Pennsylvania, newspaper highlights the problem of leaking underground tanks and their effect on groundwater.
In the 1980s, EPA got stricter about monitoring the condition of underground tanks that hold potentially hazardous su More...
Monday, February 22, 2010 7:00 PM
We’ve used them to search for underwater mines, we’ve tried to communicate with them, and now we’re looking to them to learn how the pollutants we’ve put in the water might affect our own health. Scientists are finding that diseases in dolphins—caused by contaminated seafood, polluted coastal w More...
Sunday, February 14, 2010 7:00 PM
Lots of people have objected to paying stormwater fees, but in South Carolina at least one city isn’t allowing any leeway. The city of Tega Cay is suing residents who are delinquent in paying their fees.
While the annual residential stormwater fee averages $96, the amount owed will increase to about $250 if the case goes through the court system, and the residents will have to pay the $80 court fee as well, according to an More...
Sunday, February 07, 2010 7:00 PM
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that in arid climates, the storm sewer system would be put to some other use during the dry spells. In Las Vegas, an estimated 300 homeless people are living in the tunnels under the city. Most are men, many are addicted to drugs, and some of them have been living there for as long as five years.
A few have even brought furniture—a quee More...
Monday, February 01, 2010 7:00 PM
Los Angeles is getting serious about runoff. An ordinance just approved by the city’s Department of Public Works would require new developments and some redevelopment projects to capture runoff for reuse or infiltration or to pay a mitigation fee.
Much of the Los Angeles area is known for its huge, open concrete-lined storm channels. You’ve seen them in chase scenes from Hollywood movies, if nothing else—remember Terminator 2? If the ordinance passes, the city will begin movin More...
Sunday, January 24, 2010 7:00 PM
We’ve reported before on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ongoing efforts to remap flood zones in the US, as well as on the protests from homeowners and business owners who suddenly find themselves sitting in a newly defined floodplain. Property in a floodplain can have higher insurance rates—and lower property value—than similar parcels.
FEMA has been using new computer model More...
Sunday, January 17, 2010 7:00 PM
Last week, the EPA set limits on phosphorus and nitrogen in Florida’s waters—the first time the agency has stepped in to set water-quality standards for a state.
EPA ordered states to set nutrient limits more than a decade ago, and Florida had been studying the problem and proposing some limits. However, in 2008 several environmental groups sued the federal government for not enforcing the Clean Water Act in Florida, leading EPA to set its own limits for the state. These are n More...
Sunday, January 10, 2010 7:00 PM
The warmer temperature of urban stormwater runoff is a problem more often than not: it raises the temperature of salmon-bearing streams in the Pacific Northwest and can alter entire aquatic ecosystems. Some waters are 303(d)-listed for temperature, and cities plant trees to try to shade runoff channels and prevent the urban hardscape from heating the water to unacceptably high levels.
Last week in Florida, though, a few critters appeared to be happy with the warmer stormwater flows. As temperat More...
Sunday, January 03, 2010 7:00 PM
This new year brings with it a multitude of new laws, ranging from a ban on texting while driving (Illinois) to a requirement for minors to wear seatbelts in all-terrain vehicles (Oregon) to limits on the amounts of trans fats in restaurant food (California) to smoking prohibitions in restaurants and bars (North Carolina) to restrictions on teenagers’ use of tanning beds (Texas).
In Washington DC, a new law requires stores that sell food or alcohol to charge a user fee on paper and plasti More...
Sunday, December 20, 2009 7:00 PM
We all buy shiny new things and are well aware of what we’re spending on them, yet many of us don’t like to think about what it’s going to cost us to keep them up over the long haul. Sometimes, in fact, we don’t maintain them, or we do so only sporadically. This is true for personal items from cars to appliances to gardening equipment, and, on another level, it’s certainly true for stormwater BMPs.
A research team is currently looking at maintenance costs for BMPs More...
Sunday, December 13, 2009 7:00 PM
Low-impact development has been widely adopted for stormwater management, but its use is still limited in some places by technical concerns (“Will permeable pavement work when it’s frozen?” for example) or by a zoning code that has yet to catch up to the new techniques.
Forester Media is offering a one-day program that shows how to overcome many of these obstacles. “Put the LID on Stormwater: Overcoming Technical and Policy Challenges of LID” will take place Januar More...
Monday, November 30, 2009 7:00 PM
The question of certifying stormwater BMP performance has been around as long as BMPs have been on the market. The issue recently arose again in Massachusetts; some developers and local authorities—and manufacturers—are wishing the state had more clear-cut guidelines for what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Because the state doesn’t have clear guidelines, some say, local authorities have a bigger job than they can handle trying to evaluate whether a particular device will More...
Sunday, November 22, 2009 7:00 PM
Those of you who deal with construction-site erosion and sediment control measures or with site inspections have probably been anticipating EPA’s Effluent Guidelines for Discharges from the Construction and Development Industry. The final rule was issued today, November 23. You can find links to both a brief EPA fact sheet and to the More...
Monday, November 16, 2009 7:00 PM
A reminder to all of you who are planning to submit an abstract for presentation at StormCon 2010: Abstracts are due in just over two weeks, on Wednesday, December 2. That comes right on the heels of the Thanksgiving break, so it will be easy to let the deadline slip by!
You can submit your abstract online at www.stormcon.com. This year we’re looking for presentations in five tracks:
* BMP Case Studies
* L More...
Sunday, November 08, 2009 7:00 PM
As the Federal Emergency Management Agency remaps flood zones—an ongoing project all over the US—it’s perhaps inevitable that those who own property in areas newly classified as floodplains are upset. Recently in Massachusetts, some homeowners have pledged to hire surveyors to dispute FEMA’s designations. More...
Sunday, November 01, 2009 7:00 PM
Our neighbors down under are facing many of the water shortages as many are here in the US. In drought-stricken Australia, a current controversy centers on how best to reuse stormwater runoff. The question, as with so many water projects, is how much to invest and when to do it.
The city of Adelaide in South Australia relies on the Murray River for much of its water. But the Salisbury More...
Monday, October 26, 2009 8:00 PM
A recent discussion of water resources took on a slightly wider view than is often the case. The Aspen Institute, a nonprofit group, conducted an ongoing, year-long “Dialogue on Sustainable Water Infrastructure in the U.S.” In a recent online article, Michael Deane, executive director of the National Association of Water Companies, former associate assistant administrator o More...
Sunday, October 18, 2009 8:00 PM
The Environmental Protection Agency made two announcements in the past week that will affect stormwater permitting.
Last Thursday, Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the agency’s Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Plan, which was drafted based on ideas EPA has solicited from the public. EPA acknowledges that even though large point sources of pollution have been quite successfully brought under control, the problems of nonpoint-source pollution and uneven enforcement are still threateni More...
Monday, October 12, 2009 8:00 PM
The Wood River, Illinois, city council last week passed a resolution to separate the city’s combined sewer system, and it’s hoping to receive federal funding to help with the job. More specifically, the resolution allows the city to seek a permit from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction, to begin work.
The decades-old sewer system doesn’t have the ca More...
Monday, October 05, 2009 8:00 PM
Along with many other cities, Atlanta, Georgia, is considering a stormwater utility to pay for stormwater services and repair and upgrade of outdated infrastructure. The recent record floods may influence that decision. But the city’s residents are up against some financial pressures many others don’t have: Atlanta already has higher water and sewer rates than many cities throughout the state and around the country.
The reason? The city has a $4.1 billion project underway to improve More...
Monday, September 28, 2009 8:00 PM
One generation’s crowning feats of engineering often turn out to be the next’s headaches; what seemed a brilliant idea at the time must later be undone. That has been the case many times over in the Everglades, which have been carved up, drained, dammed, and diverted. Beginning in the 1880s and continuing on through the 1960s, colossal projects made much of the swampy land usable for agriculture, development, and industry, but at a devastating cost to the ecosystem. As the flow of water conti More...
Monday, September 21, 2009 8:00 PM
The StormCon 2010 Call for Papers is now open. StormCon is the only North American event dedicated exclusively to stormwater and surface-water professionals: municipal stormwater and public works managers, engineering consultants, regulatory personnel, watershed management professionals, and others concerned with stormwater and surface-water quality.
StormCon is seeking abstracts in five conference tracks:
• BMP Case Studies
• Low-Impact Development
• Stor More...
Sunday, September 13, 2009 8:00 PM
Although stormwater utilities are more widely accepted and understood as revenue-generators for stormwater programs than they were a decade ago, there are still plenty of people who argue against them—fighting proposed new utilities and sometimes challenging new stormwater fees in court as illegal taxes.
That’s why an error recently discovered by the city of Dunedin, Florida, could be a setback for those who encourage stormwater fees as a fair and equitable—and necessary— More...
Monday, September 07, 2009 8:00 PM
The town of Franklin, Massachusetts—about 35 miles from Boston, with a population of around 30,000—is experimenting with a manufactured low-impact development system.
A local article describes the pioneering new stormwater management device as “a tree”—actually a filtration system from the company Green Street Systems, incorporating a More...
Monday, August 31, 2009 8:00 PM
Here’s another example—albeit a small-scale one—of how the stimulus funding is supposed to work. In Kansas City, Missouri, workers in a Full Employment Council program are earning $8 an hour to learn a new trade and perform needed infrastructure work at the same time. In a neighborhood that has historically had basement-flooding problems, the workers are installing sidewalks an More...
Sunday, August 23, 2009 8:00 PM
The StormCon conference in Anaheim ended last Thursday. We at Forester thank all of the people who contributed to the show: the speakers, the exhibitors, and especially the attendees. I’d also like to single out a special group of people who generously volunteered their time and effort to act as moderators for the various 60-minute and 90-minute sessions: introducing the speakers, keeping track of the time, overseeing the Q&A sessions, and generally keeping things running—and, I hope, enj More...
Monday, August 17, 2009 8:00 PM
Most of the Stormwater team is in Anaheim this week at StormCon. I’m taking a quick break from the activity here on Tuesday morning to report on what’s happening so far. Attendance is strong, the exhibit hall is open, and the first presentations got underway just a couple of hours ago.
The photos (taken by Forester’s own Mike Ashby) are from this morning’s opening session. Sponsored by AbTech Industries, the session featured keynote speaker Gloria Rueben, who ap More...
Monday, August 10, 2009 8:00 PM
Next week in Anaheim, California, hundreds of stormwater
professionals will gather for StormCon ’09. Those of you who’ve been following
Scott Nania’s blogs know about many of the
events that will be happening at the conference. I’d just like to highlight a
couple of new presentations here, as well as one that’s changed it’s format a
Monday, August 03, 2009 8:00 PM
The Natural Resources Defense Council has released its latest
report on beach closures in the US,
“Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at
Vacation Beaches, 19th Edition.” Closures and
advisories were the fourth-highest in 19 years. Two-thirds of the closures and
advisories are thought to be due at least in part to contamination in stormwater
Not only the number of beach closure More...
Monday, July 27, 2009 8:00 PM
all the low-impact development measures available, green roofs are getting a lot of
attention these days. They’re a novelty in many ways—a garden eight stories in
the air is inherently more interesting to most people than, say, a bioswale.
In Chicago, which Mayor Richard
Daley has declared he wants to make America’s greenest city, there’s one on top
of City Hall, as well as on a couple hundred other buildings. More...
Monday, July 20, 2009 8:00 PM
Amid all the debate about land use and the benefits of
high-density versus low-density development, it’s refreshing to see some
examples of how to get it right. Kaid Benfield, the director of the National
Resource Defense Council’s Smart Growth Program, recently posted a slide show
illustrating some excellent examples of Smart Growth. Put together by
Rachel Sohmer of the NRDC More...
Monday, July 13, 2009 8:00 PM
Most cities that have combined storm and sanitary sewer
systems have either had problems with combined sewer overflows in the past or
have looked ahead uneasily to the possibility.
Until now, most of the capacity
problems were caused by cities simply outgrowing their sewer systems. More users
create greater demand on the existing pipes, and a larger amount of impervious
surface sends runoff into those pipes during a storm.
Recently, some stormwater managers
have become con More...
Sunday, July 05, 2009 8:00 PM
Eric Spear was tired
of his garage flooding when it rained. That, he says, was the impetus for
repaving his driveway. This rather mundane home improvement project is
in the news for two reasons: one, he had drive repaved with porous asphalt. Two,
he’s a city councilor in Portsmouth, NH, and as such he’s now promoting porous
pavement as an environmentally—and economically—sound choice for the city.
The price of the paving
itself was compara More...
Sunday, June 28, 2009 8:00 PM
When people climb up the sides of buildings using only their
bare hands, it’s known as urban climbing or buildering—and they’re often
arrested for their trouble.
is one of the more notorious practitioners, having climbed the Empire State
Building, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and the Sydney Opera House.
There are also those who do what might be considered the exact More...
Sunday, June 21, 2009 8:00 PM
A brief news item
from the Times of India reports that the city of Vadodara is considering
how to keep people and storm drains apart—something we’ve dealt with in
Stormwater magazine and online
from time to time (read my Stormwater blog More...
Monday, June 15, 2009 8:00 PM
Milwaukee has made some tremendous progress with Bradford Beach, which has just received Blue Wave certification. The certification, from the Clean Beaches Council—supported by a number of private and public organizations including the EPA and the Naitonal Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—recognizes health, safety, and environmental improvements.
This Lake Michigan beach has overcome its share of problems: litter, algae, combined sewer overflows, and huge populations of seag More...
Sunday, June 07, 2009 8:00 PM
It has become a popular pastime for some to make fun of
projects that are receiving federal stimulus funding: projects that seem
unnecessary or poorly thought out, or the ones the commentators just don’t agree
with. Here’s one that sounds funny but makes a lot of sense: a salt barn.
Lancaster, Ohio, will receive about a million dollars of stimulus money
for projects including this one (others under consideration are relining sewer
pipes, installing new boilers at city hal More...
Sunday, May 31, 2009 8:00 PM
When you think of cities vulnerable to hurricanes, what comes
to mind first? For most of us, it’s still New Orleans—and perhaps some other
Gulf Coast cities like Biloxi or Galveston. Some scientists, though, are
focusing on New York, saying the city is particularly vulnerable, in part
because evacuating large numbers of people from it is so difficult. Their
solution? Giant floating barriers.
Although no one has formally proposed them, several companies have
floated pote More...
Monday, May 25, 2009 8:00 PM
Four Washington jurisdictions—Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Thurston County—are among the first to adopt new stormwater rules. Decisions last year
and earlier in 2009 require new developments to use low-impact-development
practices where feasible, and these are now being reflected in local stormwater
manuals. In particular, the February 2009 decision by the state’s Pollution
Control Hearings Board affects the Phase II permit for the western part of the
Sunday, May 17, 2009 8:00 PM
Another welcome event occurred in the Everglades last week.
More than 2,200 acres of land, valued at over $53 million, has been donated near
Lake Okeechobee to be used for a water management facility. Originally
destined—and already permitted—to be a residential and equestrian development
for the Florida polo community, the land will now be used for reservoirs and
stormwater treatment, reducing the pollutants reaching local waterways and also
reducing the amount of freshwater di More...
Sunday, May 10, 2009 8:00 PM
A debate currently going on in Albemarle County, Virginia, highlights the conflicts that often
occur between environmental stewardship and development, as well as the struggle
to implement stormwater credits that work as they were intended. What’s
happening there has implications for other areas that have been trying to
control new development in the same way.
The county has long been trying to limit new development to designated
growth areas, thus reducing the amount of sprawl More...
Sunday, May 03, 2009 8:00 PM
Last week marked the opening of Black Hoof Park in Lenexa,
Kansas. The 300-acre park combines recreational features like hiking trails and
a playground with stormwater features like bioretention cells, wetlands, and a
dam for flood control. The 35-acre Lake Lenexa, which provides regional
detention for the area, is also stocked with several species of fish, and
recreational fishing is encouraged.
It’s always a pleasure to see
something done well, and Lenexa, with its long-ter More...
Sunday, April 26, 2009 8:00 PM
Add to the list of ideas for ways to fund stormwater
programs: tack a fee onto the substances most directly responsible for
A bill before the Washington State
Senate proposes to do just that, adding a $1.50 fee to each barrel of petroleum
that will be used in products that contribute to water pollution. Petroleum
destined for use in such things as gas and diesel fuel, vehicle lubricants, and
asphalt would be subject to the fee, and the price of gas at the pump More...
Sunday, April 19, 2009 8:00 PM
Back in 2000, when Stormwater magazine was first
published, there were a lot of misconceptions about nonpoint-source pollution.
It would be nearly three years until NPDES Phase II took effect, but cities were
already gearing up to meet its requirements—including one for public education
and outreach. I remember surveys at the time showing that only a small minority
of people understood where stormwater runoff goes or that water flowing into a
storm drain isn’t going to More...
Sunday, April 12, 2009 8:00 PM
The good news? Environmental officials in Vancouver solved a long-standing water-quality problem. The bad news? They found their own office was the cause.
Thirteen years ago, the Washington State Department of Ecology discovered that Burnt Bridge Creek, a tributary of Vancouver Lake, was severely polluted with fecal coliform bacteria but could never identify the source. It wasn’t until Vancouver began surveying stormwater pipes with a television camera that the More...
Sunday, March 29, 2009 8:00 PM
We were glad to learn Saturday that the Red River had
crested—lower than expected—bringing some relief to Fargo, North Dakota. As I
write this on Monday another storm is headed toward the city, though; the
wind—and its potential to create waves that could weaken or damage levees—is
considered more of a threat than any precipitation it might bring. Much of the
city has been fortified with sandbags, some dropped by helicopter and many
more—millions of them— More...
Sunday, March 22, 2009 8:00 PM
Summer, when people tend to spend a lot of time outdoors, is
a good time to try to make them aware of stormwater management activities.
(Flood season, whenever it occurs, is an even better time, but with a somewhat
Beginning in June, a beachside
parking lot in East Lyme, Connecticut, will feature what the city is calling its
Outdoor Environmental Classroom. Half of th More...
Monday, March 16, 2009 8:00 PM
In many places—notably Kansas City, Missouri, with its goal
of 10,000 rain gardens, and Portland, Oregon, with its pedestrian and bicycle
tours of stormwater management facilities—public officials are trying to get
citizens tangibly involved with stormwater. The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer
District is joining in with rain barrels, selling 55-gallon barrels for $45 a
pop to customers who want to help ease the strain on the beleaguered sewer
system and reduce overflows during hea More...
Monday, March 09, 2009 8:00 PM
A report just released by the National Weather Service might
hold interest for stormwater managers, especially in areas where severe
flooding, tornados, or hurricanes are common: It examines why people don’t pay
attention to storm warnings.
focuses specifically on the more than 80 tornados last February—called the Super
Tuesday outbreak because they coincided w More...
Sunday, March 01, 2009 7:00 PM
There’s disturbing news from Georgia. A bill has been
introduced in the state’s general assembly that would exempt state
government—its buildings and properties—from paying stormwater utility charges
to local governments. Last week, Brant Keller—a member of Stormwater
magazine’s editorial advisory board, a sometime blogger on our site, and the man
instrumental in launching the first stormwater utility in his state—reported on
the bill, know More...
Monday, February 23, 2009 7:00 PM
Stormwater utilities notoriously face all sorts of
controversies about money—such as whether, legally, they are entitled to collect
any—and political challenges from opponents. The utility in one Indiana city is
facing a money issue of a slightly different sort this week.
Although the city council of New
Albany had voted not to give raises to any city employees, the stormwater board
chairman gave raises to three utility employees anyway, maintaining that the
Monday, February 16, 2009 7:00 PM
At the International Erosion Control Association’s conference
last week in Reno last week, a group of people got together to discuss EPA’s
proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines. Representing both the regulators and
the regulated, the group included Jesse Pritts of USEPA, Eric Berntsen of the
California State Water Resources Control Board, Cory Taylor of Beazer Homes USA,
and Robert Patterson of Pulte Home Corporation. I summarized some of their
comments, particularly those on More...
Sunday, February 08, 2009 7:00 PM
As I write this late on Friday, February 6, the stimulus
package is still being debated in Congress, with some groups working to pare
down the total, mind-boggling amount and others trying to ensure that key
elements stay in. One general objection, particularly from some Republican
senators, is that the bill calls for the federal government to shoulder
responsibility for things that have usually been handled by the states, such as
building schools. Others are more focused on which agencies More...
Sunday, February 01, 2009 7:00 PM
Last week, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
announced its funding of a demonstration project in Escambia County, Florida,
that will include, among other things, the state’s largest green roof. The money
came in the form of a $1.4 million Urban BMP Research and Demonstration Grant,
designed to support innovative land use and stormwater BMPs. Fittingly, the
project’s site is a facility that will process county building permits and
development applications. It wil More...
Monday, January 26, 2009 7:00 PM
Starting with the next issue of Stormwater, you’ll
have a choice: You can get the magazine in its digital edition instead of—or in
addition to—the printed copy.
This doesn’t replace the content you’ll find here on www.stormh2o.com; all the articles will
still be available here, along with readers’ comments and additional Web-only
content. The digital version is simply an exact reproduction More...
Monday, January 19, 2009 7:00 PM
Around the country, local officials are already banking on the new administration’s proposed stimulus package, identifying infrastructure projects that could be tackled immediately with federal funding and announcing how many jobs these projects would create. Many of these projects are related to stormwater and combined sewer overflow (CSO) control.
For example, a consortium of local governments in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana—the area of the Maumee River watershed—are fac More...
Sunday, January 11, 2009 7:00 PM
For those of you who deal with erosion and sediment control techniques—or who have employees who do, or who inspect BMP installations—there’s a new feature on the Web site of Erosion Control magazine, of one of our sister Forester Media publications, that might be of interest: online training.
The training consists of videos on different ESC topics, each followed by a short online quiz. The videos are short, about 5 or 6 minutes each, and they’re entertaining and pack More...
Monday, January 05, 2009 7:00 PM
For stormwater managers in most parts of the country, extreme
weather and larger-than-expected storms bring the risk of flooding. Everyone has
dealt with it at some time; there’s nothing like a flooded neighborhood or an
underwater roadway to focus attention on the stormwater program, and perhaps
highlight some things that could have been planned differently.
For some, though, winter storms bring a different kind of
danger—and a different reason for closing the roads̵ More...
Sunday, December 21, 2008 7:00 PM
We’ve been through some exciting changes at Stormwater
magazine and Forester Media this year, particularly with the launch of our
redesigned Web site, www.stormh2o.com. We
want to thank all of you who have participated in the new site—by contributing
material, commenting on articles you read on the site, and just turning up
regularly to see what’s new and what your peers and colleagues are saying and
Sunday, December 14, 2008 7:00 PM
As I write this, it’s raining in our part of California.
While ordinary folks look out the window and talk about “nice weather” or “a
gloomy day,” stormwater people tend to think more in terms of peak flows or
first flush. It’s a hazard of the job that sometimes makes it difficult to hold
a simple conversation about the weather.
In Horry County, South Carolina, the local stormwater
advisory board has a more serious hazard to consider today, as well More...
Sunday, December 07, 2008 7:00 PM
On Saturday, president-elect Obama announced an economic
stimulus plan intended to create jobs and improve the country’s infrastructure.
Calling it the biggest new investment in national infrastructure since the
creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s, he said the plan will
create or preserve nearly 2 million jobs while improving roads, school
buildings, and other structures and making many buildings more energy efficient.
The plan was announced shortly after the news that More...
Sunday, November 30, 2008 7:00 PM
Here’s a problem you might not expect to deal with: bits of
your stormwater infrastructure disappearing in the night.
As reported in the November issue
of Water Environment & Technology, over two days in August, 106
catch-basin covers were stolen in Cleveland. That’s 6 tons of cast iron, which
the thieves presumably are selling as scrap metal. The article also mentions
other cities that are having similar losses of metal inventory like water meters
and sewer grates: More...
Sunday, November 23, 2008 7:00 PM
One more reminder for those of you who might want to submit
an abstract for StormCon ’09: They’re due next week, on Wednesday, December 3.
Most of us will just be getting back into the rhythm of work after the long
Thanksgiving weekend, and the date is likely to sneak up on us, so I’m putting
out the word once more before the holiday.
There are six tracks for next year’s conference:
Sunday, November 16, 2008 7:00 PM
Last Wednesday, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida announced a
revision to the agreement between the state of Florida and U.S. Sugar, the
company from which the state is buying thousands of acres of land near the
Everglades. The original agreement, proposed last June, called for the state to
purchase 187,000 acres of land and various assets from the company for $1.75
billion. U.S. Sugar would have continued to use the land and would have stayed
in business for six years, after which it would More...
Sunday, November 09, 2008 7:00 PM
The city of Lubbock, Texas, has just started requiring mobile
car washers to have a permit to operate. Some see it as a way for the city to
collect a $25 fee from these small businesses; others say it’s a way to ensure
the car washers are at least aware of the need to avoid sending wash water down
the storm drain.
Other communities around the
country have enacted similar requirements—often controversial—and of course many
cities have publicized the problems with p More...
Monday, November 03, 2008 7:00 PM
From a stormwater management perspective, it might not be our
most pressing problem, but it’s a huge concern nonetheless, and it gets a lot of
attention with the horrific photos that draw the public’s eye to it: debris in
the oceans that comes from our activities on land.
We’re most aware of the marine
debris problem when it makes its way back to us, as, for example, in the late
1980s when medical waste like syringes began washing ashore in New York and New
Sunday, October 26, 2008 8:00 PM
Here’s a gentle reminder for those of you who might be thinking of submitting an abstract for next year’s StormCon conference in Anaheim: There are just over five weeks left. Sure, that seems like a long time, but with an election between now and then, and Thanksgiving just the week before the deadline, it’s easy to get distracted. The deadline is Wednesday, December 3, and you can submit an abstract online here . There are six tracks for StormCon ’09: *BMP Case Studies * Low-Impact Developme... More...
Sunday, October 19, 2008 8:00 PM
You may have already seen parts of the new National Research
Council report, “Urban Stormwater Management in the United States.” At EPA’s
request, the NRC reviewed the EPA’s entire stormwater program—basically,
everything EPA has done with it since 1987, when Congress brought stormwater in
as part of the Clean Water Act. Not surprisingly, the NRC has some sweeping
suggestions—logical ones, perhaps, but difficult to implement and in many ways a
Monday, October 13, 2008 8:00 PM
In the United States, dealing as we have been with our
particular regulations—the Clean Water Act for more than 30 years, and, for many
of us, Phase II of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System for the
last five and a half—we tend to forget that not everyone is governed by the same
rules and driven by the same concerns. “Stormwater” in other places has a very
different connotation—or perhaps, by that name, none at all, not being separated
out from More...
Sunday, October 05, 2008 8:00 PM
Here’s a quick poll—raise your hand if you’ve participated in the EPA’s Clean Watersheds Needs Survey during the past year. No? How about raising your hand if you know what it is?
Despite EPA’s efforts to increase awareness of the survey in the stormwater arena, there are probably many of you out there who haven’t heard of it, and more of you who have but just haven’t paid much attention. EPA conducts the survey every four years to gather information about se More...
Monday, September 29, 2008 8:00 PM
If you’ve been watching the financial news in the past few
weeks—and who hasn’t been watching, and checking their mutual fund and 401(k)
balances more often than is good for their sanity?—you’ve probably thought about
the implications of the economic crisis on stormwater funding, and potentially
on your own job.
The editor of our sister publication, More...
Sunday, September 21, 2008 8:00 PM
A couple of years ago, Stormwater magazine ran an
article on safety issues with urban stormwater retention and detention ponds.
The authors cited many potential hazards, some of them obvious and others not so
intuitive. Some of these had to do with the basic design of the pond: for
example, side slopes so steep that a person couldn’t easily climb out after
falling in, or inlet and outlet structure More...
Sunday, September 14, 2008 8:00 PM
It’s that time of year again, and the call for papers has
just been issued for StormCon ’09, the North American Surface Water Quality
Conference and Exposition. Abstracts are due on Wednesday, December 3. The
conference will be back on the West Coast this year: from August 16 – 20, 2009
at the Anaheim Marriott in Anaheim, California. You can see all the information
about the conference and hotel at www.stormcon.com.
Sunday, September 07, 2008 8:00 PM
With Hurricane Ike hitting Cuba on Monday, and with the
memory of Hanna and Gustav still fresh, 2008 is shaping up to be a very active
hurricane season. We often hear the question—every year for the last several
years, it seems—whether tropical storms and hurricanes are increasing, and if
so, whether global warming is the cause.
The answer to the first part of the question, according to
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a qualified yes. NOAA
Tuesday, September 02, 2008 8:00 PM
You were probably watching closely, as we were, over the
Labor Day weekend to see what Hurricane Gustav had in store for the Gulf Coast.
Coming eerily close to the three-year anniversary of Katrina, the storm was a
reminder of the goals set for New Orleans’ levees and the progress that’s been
made, physically and logistically, in preparing for future storms.
parishes in Louisiana such as Terrebonne, Lafourche, and St. Mary were hit much
harder by Gusta More...
Monday, August 25, 2008 8:00 PM
This week, it’s Tropical Storm Fay that’s on many stormwater
managers’ minds. The storm has made landfall a record-setting four times in
Florida, causing extensive floods. Much of the Midwest and other parts of the
country have also had more than their share of flooding this year.
Where flood control was once the main focus of many
stormwater programs—back before many cities were using the term “stormwater” to
describe the functions their various d More...
Sunday, August 17, 2008 8:00 PM
Several articles in Stormwater magazine have mentioned
projects that use rain barrels or other means of capturing and reusing
rainwater. (See for example “Sustainable Stormwater” in the recent July/August
and “Stormwater Programs in the Arid Southwest” in the July/August 2007 issue More...
Sunday, August 10, 2008 8:00 PM
“BMPs and the Bigger Picture” was the subject of one of the
panel discussions at StormCon last week in Orlando. Five panelists—Bill Hunt from North
Carolina State University; Andrew Reese of AMEC Earth & Environmental;
Robert Roseen from the University of New Hampshire’s Stormwater Center; Tom
Schueler, founder of the Center for Watershed Protection and currently the
coordinator of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network; and Nikos Singelis of the
Sunday, August 03, 2008 8:00 PM
Last week, coinciding with the anniversary of the collapse of
the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, many news articles appeared reassessing how far
we’ve come (the consensus seems to be not far enough) in inspecting similar
bridges around the country.
This brings up once again the
larger question of the state of the infrastructure in general—the whole network
of roads and bridges and other transportation systems, power grids,
waste-handling facilities, dams, and so on. The A More...
Thursday, July 24, 2008 8:00 PM
Last week I outlined some of the events at StormCon that deal
with advanced BMPs, including classes and discussion panels. Another popular
event for the last few years has been the Q&A session with a representative
of the Environmental Protection Agency—your chance to grill the EPA on recent
developments and new policies, and to get clarification on how the regs apply to
your own program. The Q&A session will take place on Thursday, August 7,
from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. Ni More...
Sunday, July 20, 2008 8:00 PM
In the surveys we conduct after the StormCon conference each
year, many of you who’ve attended have been asking for more advanced classes on
best management practices (BMPs). At StormCon ’08 in Orlando (August 3 through
7), we’ll have a selection of pre-conference workshops to choose from, taught by
some of the top experts in the field.
* “Low-Impact Development: Introduction,
Sunday, July 13, 2008 8:00 PM
Public outreach is one of those areas of the NPDES Phase II
permit that stormwater program managers either seem to enjoy or to hate, with
very little middle ground. In places where people already have a good
appreciation of water resources and the need to protect them—places where
recreational activities center around beaches or lakes, or where the local
economy is dependent on fishing, tourism, or other water-centered activities—it
often seems that public education and outreach are More...
Sunday, July 06, 2008 8:00 PM
The recent floods in the Midwest have drawn attention not
only to the state of our levees and flood-control measures, but also to the
terms we use to describe the flooding itself.
I wrote on this site on June 19 that “some are
finding it difficult to accept the idea of a second 500-year storm in 15 years,”
assuming that most readers of this site would sympathize with the irony of the
situation that the people in the inundated areas are experiencing.
Monday, June 30, 2008 8:00 PM
As you may have read last week, the restoration of the
Everglades got a huge boost from what could be a precedent-setting agreement
between a private company and the state of Florida. The state agreed to buy
187,000 acres from United States Sugar, which is currently the country’s largest
producer of sugarcane.
The land in question
lies north of Everglades National Park, between Lake Okeechobee and the
Everglades, and its acquisition will allow a reconnection of the his More...