The EPA in April ordered 79 municipalities in southcentral Pennsylvania to improve their stormwater management programs to help protect local waterways and the Bay.
A lengthy review by the agency found that a third of the stormwater management programs in the state's southcentral region had "more than minimal deficiencies" with annual reports they are required to file, said Andy Dinsmore, stormwater team leader within region's pollution-discharge enforcement branch.
In their annual report, municipalities are required to provide information on six minimal control measures covered in their stormwater permits, but many described no actions or, in some cases, appeared to cut and paste the same response year after year.
Martin Harrell, acting chief of EPA Region III's pollution-discharge enforcement branch, said no penalties were anticipated at this time, but that the notices were "a shot across the bow" that municipalities needed to ramp up management activities. "Hopefully, it will be enough, but you never know." The cited municipalities have 120 days to respond.
Unlike larger jurisdictions with Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits, which may require more detailed actions to reduce discharges, all of the stormwater systems in Pennsylvania's portion are smaller Phase II MS4 systems.
They are covered by general permits, which require them to make annual improvements in several specific areas including public eduction, construction, inspecting for illicit discharges into stormwater systems and managing runoff from municipal facilities.
The goal of the reports is for municipalities to annually evaluate their systems. "It is a continual process, looking at your program and seeing what has been working, what hasn't been working," Dinsmore said.
In the past, inspections have found illicit sewage lines from apartment buildings connected straight into stormwater systems bypassing treatment plants, and instances where storm drains have been used for waste disposal.
Controlling stormwater is seen as one of the greatest challenges to restoring the Bay and local streams. Stormwater is the one source of pollution to the Chesapeake that is still increasing, even as other major sources have decreased.