2018-03-16 / Front Page

Officials react to stormwater rules

By Grant McPherson Staff Writer

New federal and state regulations affecting stormwater runoff will go into effect this summer and Scarborough will likely have to consider increased spending on education and outreach to remain in compliance with the law.

Under the Clean Water Act, municipalities are allowed to divert stormwater runoff into nearby bodies of water as long as measures are taken to reduce the impact of pollutants such as sediment, fertilizers, vehicle fluids, pet waste, salt and debris.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection regulates these measures with the Maine Pollution Detection and Elimination System MS4 Permit. An MS4 is a municipal separate storm sewer system, which means stormwater and sewer water are transported underground through different pipes and drains.

Scarborough’s MS4 permit is due to be renewed in July and Town Engineer Angela Blanchette presented before town council Wednesday, March 7 to discuss the changes that will come with renewal. There are six control measures that the town must comply with including public education and outreach, public participation, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site runoff and control, stormwater management post construction and pollution prevention.

The new permit would require the town to increase public participation and education and measure how much residents then change their behavior.

“There is some cost associated with that higher degree of structure over our program,” Blanchette said.

The new permit will require stricter oversight of construction as well, which translates to more work for the code enforcement officers. The state also wants Scarborough to reduce the amount of impervious cover surrounding Red Brook near Gorham Road from 11 percent to 8 percent and Phillips Brook near Dunstan Corner from 9 percent to 6 percent.

“Those are not huge numbers, especially when you look at Greater Portland which is a more dense area,” Blanchette said. “However, it’s also impervious cover which includes any development and we have a lot of development in Scarborough. We’re trying to work with the faucet still running. How do we shut that off while it’s still coming? We’re still trying to figure out with the department of environmental protection how to enforce that. There are a lot of unknowns.”

Blanchette also presented a management plan for Phillips Brook watershed, which could see up to 400 new homes built around it and 150,000 square feet of commercial development.

The Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District helped to prepare the plan and identified excess sediment from erosion causing reduced oxygen levels in the brook. Fast moving storm water runoff and misaligned culverts are thought to erode stream banks. This disrupts the stream’s otherwise smooth flow and damages the surrounding habitat.

“For watersheds, (Phillips Brook) is pretty small,” Blanchette said. “That also means any small change in the watershed will make a significant impact, whether negative or positive depending on what we’re doing. I would call it on the edge, while not meeting the classification, it’s pretty much at that cusp. With every new development coming in, kind of heading in a certain direction, we need to put things in place now. It is a savable watershed as long as we are proactive with it. Now is the time to act and get this off their list. This is a doable one.”

One issue that the town hopes to do is reduce the amount of chloride in all watersheds, which comes from the salt that the town uses throughout the winter to treat the roads.

Public Works Director Michael Shaw said the town uses about 3,200 tons of salt every year over about 100 miles of road. Each ton of salt is about $50, bringing the total cost every winter to between $160,000 and $180,000. Shaw said reducing the amount of salt used during snowstorms is possible, but residents will have to change their expectations of road conditions.

“People are busier now than used to be,” Shaw said. “They leave the house five minutes late no matter where they’re going or what the weather is doing. We in the public works profession have enabled that through the way we’ve been keeping the roads over the last 15 to 20 years.

“It’s not just Scarborough, it’s all large communities and that’s a big problem. People are going to have to be concerned about the environment and chloride. Twenty or 30 years ago people were willing to put up with essentially snow covered roads with black ruts where the tires went. How we rein that back in, I honestly don’t know. As a unified group we have to find a way to try and change people’s perceptions of the roads. It should be a huge behavior change.”

Staff Writer Grant McPherson can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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