SANDOWN – As an addendum to a meeting last week where residents learned about ways they can help reduce stormwater runoff on their properties, planning board chair and conservation commission member Mark Traeger took time to explain how the federal government is tightening up regulations on runoff.
Over the past few years Traeger has been working with selectmen’s office assistant Paula Gulla and department of public works director Artie Genualdo in filling out the Small MS4 permit, one of several annual permits that the town is required to complete. It seeks to measure and assess how well a municipality is managing its stormwater runoff.
MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. The permit requires the towns governed by it to develop a stormwater management program and implement Best Management Practices to control runoff and reduce resulting pollution. Stormwater runoff has become an increasing concern in recent years, in part because of more dramatic rainstorms. Runoff is a concern for two major reasons, its effect on municipal infrastructure and its ability to carry excess nutrients and pollution into water bodies.
In response to increasing impervious surfaces and thus increasing runoff resulting from increased development, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to make sure towns are managing that runoff responsibly. Traeger explained that so far, completing the MS4 had been pretty easy because Sandown had been taking steps to protect its infrastructure and waterways from runoff. With new rules from the EPA, however, that process may become more difficult in coming years, he said.
On Feb. 12 the EPA released a draft proposal for the MS4 and a public comment period runs until April 15. There are several public meetings being held in the state to solicit input on the changes. Traeger noted that in addition to more towns being covered with the new permit requirements, a key addition is the desire for towns to measure their runoff output. While such an effort may be easier in more urbanized areas with more expansive runoff facilities like catchbasins and sewers, Sandown is not sure what it means for the town. It’s not an easy thing to measure runoff out of town, said Traeger.
Population density triggers whether a municipality is required to fill out an MS4, and about half of Sandown falls into those density calculations. Traeger explained that stormwater runoff was becoming a more regulated issue and thus it made sense from a local control standpoint to continue Sandown’s efforts in managing it. Traeger pointed to past efforts in creating a storm water management plan and encouraging low impact development, as well as a zoning ordinance amendment on this year’s ballot that would further help reduce runoff, as all positive efforts.
Zoning ordinance Z-1 on this year’s ballot seeks to delete Article 1 Part B in the current Zoning Ordinance and replace it with a new chapter titled “Wetland and Surface Water Conservation District.” The main difference the new chapter represents is the inclusion of a 50 foot vegetated buffer setback from wetlands of a certain size.
The buffer would apply only to new development or the issuance of new Certificates of Occupancy. “The more we can do to make sure our measurements comeoutgood,thebetteroffwe are,” explained Traeger about new measurement requirements planned for the MS4. Traeger noted the cost of implementation of the new federal rules would be less in Sandown than in other municipalities that had not made the same efforts to manage their runoff.