Compromise is never easy, but the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is hoping municipalities and environmentalists will find their new storm water permit regulations better than the first.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Connecticut Council of Small Towns complained that the first permit proposal released late last year was essentially an unfunded state mandate that would cost towns millions of dollars.
Environmentalists argued that keeping pollutants out of Connecticut’s waterways was responsible and not an unfunded mandate.
“Stormwater is one of the most significant sources of water pollution in the nation, at times comparable to, if not greater than, contamination from industrial and sewage sources,” attorneys for the National Resources Defense Council wrote in their complaint against the Environmental Protection Agency. The environmental group was trying to get the EPA to comply with a 2003 order strengthening storm water permits.
On Thursday, the Connecticut DEEP released a draft of its compromise proposal to stop storm water pollutants from reaching the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.
The new proposal reduces the street sweeping schedule and catch basin cleaning schedule. It also modifies the leaf management program. The new proposal would not apply to about 49 smaller communities that didn’t have to comply with the permit in the past, but would have been asked to comply with the original proposal.
Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said they’re happy about the elimination of the smaller towns and the reduction in street sweeping and catch basin requirements. However, he said several parts of the new regulations still present a problem for municipalities.
Maloney pointed to a requirement for municipalities to obtain financial assurance for private construction maintenance and increased reporting requirements.
Wallingford Mayor William Dickinson Jr. said that even with all the changes the proposal will still cost his town in excess of $1 million annually.
“I don’t think that’s affordable,” Dickinson said, adding that he doesn’t have the resources to monitor the discharges by private contractors on private property. He said that to get a court order to go on private property and collect enough evidence to prove someone was polluting is “time consuming” and “technical.”
Dickinson said he appreciated the reduction in street sweeping, but there’s still enough in the permit to cost the town more than $1 million annually. And if the federal government and the state government believes this is so important, he said, then they should be providing funding to municipalities to comply with the measures in the permit.
Elizabeth Gara, executive director of the Council of Small Towns, said her organization is still looking over the changes.
“COST is very pleased that DEEP has continued to modify the permit to address concerns raised by small towns at the public hearing last December,” Gara said. “There have been several positive changes to the draft general permit that will reduce the burden on municipalities, including exempting small, rural towns from the scope of the permit, consistent with the federal law, and ensuring that towns can focus their resources in ways that will improve water quality. In addition, the changes will provide towns with more time to achieve compliance and greater flexibility in meeting various requirements.”
Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the DEEP, said in a press release that the agency has “made significant modifications” to the proposed permit and will hold an informational hearing to answer questions from municipalities and stakeholders.
The hearing will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the Gina McCarthy Auditorium at DEEP Headquarters, 79 Elm St., Hartford.