Indiana’s South Bend Common Council approved a $5 per month stormwater fee for area businesses and a $2 per month fee for residents in hopes of raising an expected $1 million per year.
The revenue will be used to upgrade the city’s stormwater system, according to the South Bend Tribune. Some residents and business owners are critical of the fee and its ability to address the EPA’s mandate that South Bend implement specific stormwater and drainage improvements to the tune of $700 million.
The newspaper states that the city “is under a federal mandate to improve its wastewater system and separate its combined storm and sanitary sewers and reduce overflows of wastewater into the St. Joseph River, but has been working to renegotiate the decree with the EPA to lessen the mandated investment to $200 million, after the addition of smart sewer systems have improved outcomes for the city’s sewer overflows.”
The fees will go into effect on June 1.
Stormwater Issues Among Major US Cities
Philadelphia has long struggled with stormwater that sends massive amounts of polluted runoff into nearby rivers. Rather than spending nearly $10 billion, it didn’t have on a new 30-mile-long tunnel, the city began investing a fraction of that on thousands of “green” infrastructure sites.
And the strategy is paying off.
Called Green City, Clean Waters, the city’s project recreates living landscapes that once slowed, filtered, and consumed rainfall. Ranging from downspout planters to complex Bioretention swales that have drained running underneath them, the green infrastructure sites are intended to work in tandem with rain gardens, tree trenches, green roofs, and urban wetlands, Stutz reported.
Bozeman, Montana, has also faced significant stormwater drainage problems. With an unprecedented boom in housing growth and numerous construction projects around town, problems like muddy sidewalks and clogged drains have cropped up, resulting in a new law strengthening stormwater requirements, according to ABC Fox Montana.
In March 2018, city officials found that just 6% of all construction sites were complying with city requirements for mitigating dirt, fuel, and debris. The revised stormwater ordinance allows for construction projects to be halted by city inspectors if it is found to be violating stormwater standards. Additionally, the city can withhold certifications until a project is in compliance with the standards.
Maryland is another state struggling with stormwater issues. In November 2017, the state reported that more than a third of the Maryland industrial facilities that reported stormwater discharge since 2014 exceeded pollution limits for potentially harmful chemicals, according to a report from nonprofits Center for Progressive Reform and the Environmental Integrity Project. While municipal stormwater runoff is the fastest-growing source of nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, industrial operations create runoff that can include copper, aluminum, zinc, and lead, along with other pollutants.
Industrial facilities are required to have stormwater permits that regulate runoff and to report on their discharge, but in Maryland, those “general permits” issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment have less specific and sometimes less stringent requirements than industrial facilities would have if they were required to have a permit specifically focused on pollution discharge, the groups say.
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