2005-12-01 / News

Town Council to hold public hearing Tuesday on island drainage initiatives

By Dotti Farrington

The Town Council is planning to adopt three laws by the end of the year to define and stop all illegal discharges into the town storm drainage system.

The laws are required under initiatives adopted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s and 1980s, the council was advised at its Nov. 14 meeting.

Apublic hearing will be conducted on Tuesday, Dec. 6, with the goal of quick council adoption.

The EPA mandates are being enforced through the state Department of Environmental Management authority, according to the documents the council is working with. The DEM regulations on storm drainage were adopted in 2003.

The three ordinances were developed by Town Planner Lisa Bryer and Assistant Public Works Director Michael Gray. They are being recommended by the town Planning Commission.

The laws cover illicit discharge, post construction storm-water control, and soil erosion and sediment control. The work was overseen by Town Solicitor Lauriston Parks. The work included consultant Dean Audet, vice president with Fuss and O’Neil of Providence under a $25,000 grant for the project.

The laws will provide for illegal connections directly into storm drainage pipes, meaning that the town needs to legislate for authority to enter private properties to test for sources of discharge. The suspected sources can be narrowed to a few possibilities within the drainage system within public rights-of-way, but need to be pinpointed by added tests, Gray and Audet explained to the council.

Audet said it is critical that officials and residents understand that the new laws involve quality of the water, not the quantity, and therefore, are not directly related to flood control.

He said that 36,000 bodies of water in the United States are impacted by illegal drainage that cause swimming and fishing to be banned in those waters. He said that half of the illegal sources represent storm-water runoff. He said the cleanup work started by EPA focused at first on wastewater treatment plants, then on industrial sources, and now is working to eliminate problems in storm runoff.

Audet said that technically only about 70 percent of Jamestown is impacted by the federal and state laws, but for practical purposes, the regulations are islandwide.

He listed a five-point effort:

• Education, that every cigarette butt, piece of trash thrown out of car windows, leaking or discarded motor oil, and any gray water into the storm drains contribute to the major problems of pollution. • Public participation in surveys to inspect all outfalls and catch basins, trace sources and eliminate them.

• Cleanup of stream and road litter.

• Construction runoff elimination by improved methods on projects of all sizes.

• Followup to make sure that post construction in new developments is properly stabilized.

Audet explained that the goals are to eliminate all non-storm, nongroundwater flow from the town’s storm drainage system. He said the laws would regulate any construction disturbing more than 2,000 square feet of earth, or any house construction involving more than 1,000 square feet.

Audet said there have been instances in which a toilet was hooked into a town storm system. He said the new laws are proposed to find and test properties for illegal connections. The laws also would provide penalties and fines where violations are found, he noted.

Councilman Michael Schnack commented that the work seemed similar to the smoke tests conducted a few years ago to find faulty connections to the town sewer system.

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