EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 20, 2013

New stormwater rules could be costly for towns

By Alex Lippa

---- — New rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency could cost Southern New Hampshire towns hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

The EPA recently released a draft of new stormwater treatment permit regulations the federal agency may implement by this summer.

The EPA estimates these requirements could cost towns anywhere between $78,000 and $829,000 per year during the duration of the five-year permit.

The high cost has town officials frustrated.

“This is going to have an enormous effect on Plaistow,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “This is going to set up some really challenging expectations.”

The regulations focus on management of runoff from new developments and construction sites. Communities would also be required to enforce a stormwater management program. The program would control pollutants in water to the maximum extent possible.

Derry environmental coordinator Craig Durrett said the testing required for communities would be difficult to complete.

“The permit assumes there is a large problem to start out with,” Durrett said. “But the level of investigation they want to require involves extensive sampling and analysis that is somewhat overkill.”

The draft is an update of a permit finalized in 2003 and updated in 2008. The 2008 draft never went into effect, but was revised over the last five years to include updated demographic information and to address public comments.

But this updated draft still concerns many public officials.

“I just think they are being too heavy-handed with this,” Atkinson Town Administrator Bill Innes said. “We have a work force that is very tightly planned and anything that takes you off of that schedule takes away from other things we can be doing.”

The permit also calls for towns to start a public education program and possibly invest in new infrastructure.

In Plaistow, where the town has no public water supply and a large Superfund site, Fitzgerald believes the proposed regulations would be a hindrance.

“When you ship unfunded mandates back on the hardworking men and women that are dealing with burdens of heavy real estate taxes, it causes more pain,” Fitzgerald said. “Having each community go in and test inflows and outflows separately and distinctly doesn’t give us a holistic approach to how we should manage it.”

Fitzgerald said he wishes the mandates were more regionalized and not place a specific burden on each community.

The new stormwater regulations would affect 60 Granite State communities, including all Southern New Hampshire towns.

The public comment period for the permit continues until April 15. The regulations may be implemented as early as 90 days after the period ends.

More information about the regulations is available by visiting the EPA’s website at http://epa.gov/region1/npdes/stormwater/MS4_2013_NH.html.