A Tale of Two Cities: An update of the NPDES Phase II program

Bill Spearman, P.E., Vice President, Woolpert, Inc., Columbia, South Carolina; Chair, APWA Water Resources Management Committee
Matt Singleton, Director of Public Works, City of Grapevine, Texas; member, APWA Water Resources Management Committee
Gary Hicks, Director of Public Works, Burlington, North Carolina

Local governments have faced the requirements of the NPDES Municipal Stormwater program since the early 1990s with the implementation of the Phase I program that affected large- and medium-sized "municipalities." These local governments had populations of more than 100,000 and included both municipalities and counties. By March 10, 2003 (in some states the date was later due to legal challenges and procedural issues), small operators of municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) as determined by the United States Bureau of the Census were required to implement programs and practices to control polluted stormwater runoff (www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/fact1-0.pdf).

As happened in Phase I of the program, implementation of the Phase II program has varied widely by EPA region and even by state in those regions. This article highlights the status of two programs in two different EPA regions. Both cities have chosen to begin the implementation of the six minimum control measures (www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/fact2-0.pdf) even without final permits or rules.

City of Grapevine, TX
The City of Grapevine, Texas is located in the north-central portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. DFW Airport is located in Grapevine. The city has a population of approximately 49,000 persons and encompasses a land area of 32.63 square miles. Texas is in EPA Region 6 along with Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas. The NPDES Stormwater Program has been delegated to the State of Texas for administration and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the regulatory agency.

Phase I cities (populations greater than 100,000) in Texas are currently in the process of renewing their original NPDES permits granted by EPA that had an expiration period of five years.

Phase II cities (populations less than 100,000) in Texas are reviewing and commenting on a draft general permit authorizing discharges from small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) into the surface water in the state. The general permit specifies which MS4s must obtain permit coverage, which are eligible for waivers, and which must obtain individual permit coverage. The permit also specifies that where discharges will reach waters of the United States, a stormwater management program must be developed and implemented, and includes the minimum requirements for the program.

Implementation of the Phase II program is slow in developing due partially to legal actions taken by groups of the regulated community. The Texas Cities Coalition on Stormwater representing 91 Phase II Texas cities and the Texas Counties Stormwater Coalition filed suit against EPA citing significant issues relating to regulation of small municipal separate storm sewer systems. Coalition members were concerned that EPA's approach to implementing the Phase II MS4 program would cost too much, divert too many municipal and county resources from more pressing priorities, and would achieve little or no improvement in water quality. Additionally, the members of the Coalition believed that EPA's proposal failed to properly recognize the sovereignty of local governments and, as such, overstepped the limitations of EPA's power imposed by the United States Constitution. The suit was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 7, 2004.

Many cities such as Grapevine have implemented the six major components of the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program in preparation for issuance of the NPDES stormwater program and await final rule promulgation.

City of Burlington, NC
The City of Burlington, North Carolina is located in the central piedmont region of North Carolina along interstate highways 85/40. The city is the largest municipality in Alamance County, with a population of 46,315 and an incorporated land area of 24.07 square miles. The city is ideally located between the coastal region and the mountains and is fast attracting new residents.

The City of Burlington is a federally designated Phase II community. The City received its individual permit from the State of North Carolina on July 1, 2005. The City is operating under a set of temporary rules, as the current rules issued have been approved by both the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) and the Rules Review Commission (RRC) but have yet to be approved by the General Assembly. Adoption is expected during the 2006 summer short legislative session.

The City is proceeding with the implementation of its Phase II permit requirements. The activities in the first permit year are heavily weighted to public education and outreach. Activities to date include:

  • Developed a website for stormwater education.
  • Partnered with the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments to provide a stormwater website (www.stormwatersmart.org) and a public education and outreach program for middle schools. This is a 205j grant-funded Stormwater Education and Outreach project involving all the cities and counties in Region G.
  • The City has also partnered with the Piedmont Triad Water Quality Partnership to provide additional public education and outreach, along with providing media time, water quality brochures, and construction site management guidelines.
  • In August 2005, in order to meet the initial requirements of the stormwater permit and program financially, the City developed a stormwater utility and implemented a flat fee on all water and/or sewer users. The flat fee was implemented for the initial startup. The City expects to transition to an impervious surface method in the future after implementation of a new financial and utility billing system.

During the second year of the stormwater permit, the City plans to accomplish the following:

  • Hire a stormwater manager.
  • Develop and implement an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Program.
  • Develop and adopt by ordinance, a Post-Construction Stormwater Management Program including a pre-construction review of plans.
  • Start a pilot project to map the City's outfalls, drainage areas and receiving streams.
  • Continue its public education and outreach activities.

The implementation of the NPDES Phase II Program will continue to be a focus of our local governments as they develop programs and institute practices that will reduce the impact of polluted runoff that leaves their separate storm sewer systems.

Bill Spearman can be reached at (803) 731-0261 or bill.spearman@woolpert.com; Matt Singleton can be reached at (817) 410-3328 or matts@ci.grapevine.tx.us; and Gary Hicks can be reached at (336) 222-5005 or ghicks@ci.burlington.nc.us.