In March 2003, Conshohocken Borough began a comprehensive storm water management program mandated by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and monitored by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The program is designed to literally “manage” stormwater, both by protecting water quality and by preventing high volumes of runoff from causing flooding in developed areas. Any municipality with a population of at least 5,000, including counties, must comply with the program.
Water pollution degrades surface waters making them unsafe for drinking, fishing, swimming, and other activities. As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls water pollution by regulating “point sources” that release pollutants into waters of the United States. Point sources can be pipes or man-made ditches that carry stormwater from the street level to the nearest stream.
Because Conshohocken owns the stormwater conveyance system (point sources) within the municipal boundaries, the responsibility lies with the Borough to ensure that any water pollution entering the system is minimized to the fullest extent possible. This effort to protect water quality is two-pronged: through education of residents, businesses, developers, our own staff, and through the use of technical implements to reduce the discharge of pollutants into streams. For instance, a large component of the program is the requirement that the Borough screen its stormwater outfalls for potential conditions of pollution and take corrective action in the event a pollutant source is found.
Another major component of the program requires an effort by the Borough to increase citizen participation and awareness. It is important for Conshohocken’s residents and businesses to be aware that increased stormwater runoff and pollution can occur from many different sources, and can cause a number of different problems.
Concentrated development in urbanized areas substantially increases impervious surfaces, such as streets, driveways and parking lots. These surfaces are the primary collector of pollutants until a rain washes them into nearby storm drains. Common pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers, oils, salt, litter, and sediment. Storm drains do not run to treatment plants. They empty directly into waterways. When left uncontrolled, these discharges can result in fish kills, destruction of wildlife habitats, and contamination of drinking water and recreational waterways. Sediment from yard debris and construction sites can cause stream bank erosion, vegetation destruction, and flooding. It is therefore extremely important to recognize that individual actions can multiply the effect on water quality.