Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System
In March 2003, City officials began work on a comprehensive program to preserve the quality of local water resources by focusing attention on stormwater pollution prevention. This State mandated initiative, known as the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Program (MS4 for short), grew out of Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA) Federal Clean Water Act. Currently, the MS4 program is administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS-DEC) in hundreds of municipalities throughout New York State. The City of Saratoga Springs is one of these designated MS4 municipalities.
On January 8, 2008, the City of Saratoga Springs assumed responsibility from the NYS-DEC to enforce MS4 policies and implement a City-specific stormwater management program. The same responsibilities hold true for (19) municipal entities located here in Saratoga County. Each of these communities have joined together to form the Saratoga County Inter-Municipal Storm Water Management Program coalition whose primary purpose is to assist local governments in implementing their particular stormwater management program.
The general principles of the MS4 Program are based on the fact that stormwater runoff, resulting either from rainfall or snow melt, is typically collected, transported and ultimately discharged to local waterways without much cleansing or treatment to remove pollutants. The mere fact that up until now stormwater was not treated before being discharged into our environment is something many people find surprising not to mention concerning.
Stormwater runoff flows over paved streets, sidewalks, parking lots, building rooftops and other various impervious surfaces. Storm runoff also drains from residential lawns, recreation fields, golf courses, and agricultural lands. Along the way stormwater can pick up common pollutants such as motor oil and antifreeze, trash and street litter, pet and livestock waste, fertilizers and pesticides, detergents and chemicals, and erosion-borne silt and sediment.
Obviously, the potential to introduce unwanted pollutants into our streams, ponds, and wetlands is prevalent. More importantly, if left unchecked, these pollutants can have detrimental impacts on long-term water quality.
Pollutants of Concern
In the City of Saratoga Springs, (2) Pollutants of Concern (POC) have been identified by the NYS-DEC as having the potential to impair local waters, notably Lake Lonely and two of its’ main tributaries, Spring Run and Bog Meadow Brook. Phosphorus is one of these POC’s and is believed to stem from the prolific use of lawn and plant fertilizers which contain this nutrient. The other pollutant is waterborne pathogens, namely fecal coliform, which in most cases can be traced back to leaking sewer mains, improper building connections, faulty septic systems, and even pet and livestock waste.
One of the primary objectives of the City’s Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) is to focus attention on these POC’s in an effort to reduce or eliminate their prevalence and subsequent impact on local waterbodies.
Raising public awareness to the problems arising from high concentrations of phosphorus in our waterways is crucial to reversing this trend especially given the fact phosphorus is naturally plentiful in local soils and doesn’t need to be added to our lawns and gardens to achieve lush, green growth.
Illicit Discharge Detection
The battle against pathogenic contamination of stormwater, the other POC, is being spearheaded by the City through improved management and monitoring of the municipal sanitary and storm sewer systems. Accordingly, the City has implemented an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Program designed to identify, locate, and mitigate sources of stormwater pollution.
In order to monitor the stormwater discharged from storm pipe outfalls here in Saratoga Springs, each outfall under the City’s jurisdiction has been inventoried and its' vital characteristics recorded. The location of each outfall or discharge point appears on the Stormwater Outfall Location Map (PDF). Besides identifying outfall locations, the map helps to assess larger drainage areas and identify other potential factors impacting water quality. Each of these outfalls is periodically inspected by a qualified technician to insure stormwater being discharged is clean and safe.
Minimum Control Measures
As noted earlier, the City administers a comprehensive Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) designed to address a wide array of stormwater pollution issues and concerns. The core of this Program centers around (6) Minimum Control Measures (MCM's) intended to reduce “non-point” sources of stormwater pollution through education, regulation, and enhanced management practices.
The success of the City's SWMP relies in large part on the diligence and efforts of public officials and employees in their respective duties as a governing body and a broad-based municipal operation. Success also requires City residents, the business community, and the construction industry to become actively engaged by responsibly managing stormwater pollutants in their daily routines.