In a July 10 work session of the Williamsburg City Council, City Engineer Aaron Small laid out new requirements the city must meet to maintain its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), a system of roads, drains, curbs and gutters. Localities operating an MS4 are required to obtain a permit from the state every five years.
With the approval of the City Council, the updated plan now goes to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for final approval.
“The purpose of this plan is to provide an overall framework for the city’s efforts to meet our regulatory requirements, conform to the comprehensive plan, and to provide a clear direction for the program into the future,” Small said.
Some of the changes are as simple as rewriting city code. The city is required to write inspection procedures and create cleanup plans for every body of water in its boundaries. Administrators also must rewrite quality standards for new development within the city limits, and update the Illicit Discharge and Detection Elimination ordinance, which prohibits the use of storm sewers for anything other than stormwater runoff.
Other changes required a more active role from the city. A full mapping of the stormwater drainage system must be completed by 2017, screenings of system outfalls — drainage outlets — increased from 15 to 50, and additional city staff, including Parks and Recreation and emergency response employees, must undergo extended training.
The most significant changes stem from Williamsburg’s connection to the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. The city’s stormwater runoff flows into the James and York Rivers, making it part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Covering about 64,000 square miles, the watershed is the largest estuary system in North America, and the third largest in the world.
The TMDL limits the levels of certain pollutants that can enter waterways. According to the new regulations, the city must reduce its levels of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus by 5 percent by June 30, 2018, 35 percent by June 30, 2023, and 100 percent by June 30, 2028.
While the changes will have significant effects on the environment, their ramifications for average citizens will be minimal.
“Local residents won’t be affected all that much,” Small said.
The additional regulations are largely due to Environmental Protection Agency concerns about the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality standards. To address these concerns, Virginia initiated the Tributary Strategies program in 2005 to develop approaches for cleaning up the Bay.
The program resulted in the Watershed Implementation Plan, which the state submitted to the EPA in November 2010. The EPA accepted the WIP in December 2010, and established the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
In response to additional EPA limits on Virginia’s pollutant levels, the state issued a second phase of the WIP in 2012. That phase included methods for meeting Virginia’s TMDL goals and revised stormwater regulations, among other guidelines. The city’s MS4 permit was renewed in 2013, with the requirement that it fulfill the new conditions by July 2014.