On November 16, 1990, the US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) established the Multiple Separate Stormwater Sewer System (“MS4”) program. The MS4 program is designed to reduce the discharge of urban runoff pollutants, such as sediments, motor oil, lawn fertilizers, litter, pet waste, etc. from the most populous urban centers. In the last 33 years, thousands of qualifying local governments, state and federal institutions and other entities, have developed MS4 programs and implemented stormwater control measures that have reduced the discharge of pollutants to waterways. The National Municipal Stormwater Association is celebrating the successes of the MS4 program by designating November 16 as National Stormwater Day.
In Virginia, the Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) administers the MS4 program. Of the 112 MS4 permittees listed on DEQ’s website, 11 of them are Hampton Roads local governments: the Cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg, and the Counties of James City and York. The permittees are required to develop, implement, and enforce a program that minimizes the discharge of pollutants from their MS4s to local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. The program is based on six pillars, referred to as minimum control measures:
The Hampton Roads MS4 permittees have been implementing their programs for decades with great success. For example, they have robust stormwater public education campaigns, including those through askHRgreen.org. Messages such as “Only Rain Down the Storm Drain” and “Scoop the Poop” are designed to change public behavior and keep pollutants out of the stormwater system. The permittees inspect and maintain their stormwater systems, including miles of underground pipes, ditches, curb lines, culverts, outfalls, etc. They inspect construction sites and enforce erosion control provisions to minimize sediment discharges. The permittees also implement retrofit projects to add stormwater treatment measures to developed areas that were constructed before treatment was required. These are just a few highlights of their extensive programs.
This November 16, National Stormwater Day, let’s recognize the successes of our 11 MS4 localities and the difference they make each day to improve the quality of our local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.