In March of 2003, the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) under the direction of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instituted Phase II of the stormwater program for towns such as Kent which were identified as “MS4’s”. An MS4 is a Municipality town which utilizes “Separate Storm Sewer Systems” to drain rain water and snow melt from roads, parking lots and other sources to receiving waters such as streams, lakes, wetlands and reservoirs.
The Town of Carmel is permitted through NYSDEC and is responsible for the maintenance of Town owned Stormwater Systems, both open and closed as well as ensuring that all development taking place within the Town complies with NYSDEC regulations.
The Town of Carmel, under the conditions of the NYSDEC permit is required to meet minimum standards in the following six different management practices:
- Public Education and Outreach
- Public Involvement
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
- Post-Construction Stormwater Management
- Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations
The Town is required to submit an annual report to NYSDEC documenting the management methods that have been used to fulfill the required NYSDEC permit conditions.
Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground but runs off into waterways. It flows from rooftops, over paved areas and bare soil, and through sloped lawns while picking up a variety of materials on its way. As it flows, stormwater runoff collects and transports soil, animal waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizers, oil and grease, debris and other potential pollutants. The quality of runoff is affected by a variety of factors and depends on the season, local meteorology, geography and upon land uses that lie in the path of the flow.
What is the Problem?
Stormwater gathers sediment and a variety of pollutants that are mobilized during runoff events. Such runoff degrades our lakes, rivers, wetland and other waterways runoff. Transported soil clouds waterways and can interfere with the habitat of fish and plant life.
Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen can promote the overgrowth of algae, deplete oxygen in waterways and be harmful to other aquatic life. Toxic chemicals from automobiles, sediment from construction activities and careless application of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers threaten the health of the receiving waterway and can kill fish and other aquatic life. Bacteria from animal wastes or failing septic systems can make local lakes unsafe for wading and swimming and the New York City reservoirs unsafe as a source for drinking water. According to an inventory conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), half of the impaired waterways in the United States are affected by urban/suburban and construction sources of stormwater runoff. In the New York City watershed here in Carmel, each of the reservoir basins is currently impaired with respect to elevated phosphorus levels.
Stormwater management practices are used to delay, collect, store, treat, or infiltrate stormwater runoff. While specific design objectives for stormwater management practices are often unique to each sub-watershed, the general goals for stormwater management practices usually include the following:
- Maintain groundwater recharge and quality
- Reduce stormwater pollutant loads
- Protect stream channels
- Prevent increased overbank flooding
- Safely convey extreme floods
The Croton Watershed and the Town of Carmel
Natural resources help to define Carmel’s community character. Residents of Carmel can identify with the rolling topography, the streams and reservoirs, and the broad vistas available from many local roads. The quality of this landscape is important to the residents of Carmel. The quality of the landscape is also important to the consumers of New York City’s drinking water as well as the consumers of local groundwater and surface water.
Carmel’s surface water, although a part of its natural beauty, is largely a product of human effort. In the late 1800s, New York City’s Croton Watershed System was created through the damming of the East Branch and Middle Branch of the Croton River. Carmel has three of the watershed reservoirs in its borders: part of the Croton Falls and a majority of the West Branch Reservoirs and two controlled Lakes Gilead and Gleneida. Stormwater runoff from Carmel contributes to the Amawalk, Croton Falls, Middle Branch, Muscoot and West Branch Reservoir basins.
In addition, the Town is laced with streams, creeks, small ponds and water bodies such as: Dixon Lake, Kirk Lake, Lake Baldwin, Lake Casse, Lake Mahopac, lake Ossi, Lake Secor, Long Pond, Mud Pond, Upper and Lower Teakettle Spout Lakes, and Wixon Pond. Protection of surface water is important to Town residents because clean surface water enhances property values and aesthetic values, provides recreation opportunities, and protects the drinking water supply.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection monitors the quality of water within its reservoirs and institutes regulations and policies to protect the integrity of this drinking water resource. In 1990, a far-reaching surface water protection program began when New York City moved to protect its watershed. The Watershed Rules and Regulations were developed to protect the water quality from any additional degradation resulting from wastewater discharges into surface and groundwater, land use practices that result in non-point source runoff, and improper use of storage of materials such as pesticides, de-icing salt and solid waste.
The stress of development on lakes has led to increased phosphorus levels and accelerated eutrophication of the New York City reservoirs. (Eutrophication is a process by which a buildup of organic material, sediments, and nutrients results in chemical and physical changes within a waterbody).
Eutrophication of water bodies is generally driven by the quantity of phosphorus entering the water. Too much phosphorus creates algae, weeds, slimes and other organic by-products that degrade water quality. New York City considers any “non-source water” reservoir containing 20 milligrams per liter or more of phosphorus to be “Phosphorus-limited.” All of the reservoirs located within Carmel are currently designated as phosphorus-limited at this time.
What is being Done?
Significant improvements have been achieved in controlling pollutants that are discharged from sewage and wastewater treatment plants. Stormwater management, especially in urban areas, is becoming a necessary step in seeking further reductions in pollution in our waterways and presents new challenges.
Stormwater runoff normally cannot be treated in the same way as accomplished by sewage and wastewater treatment plants. More often than not, end-of-pipe controls are not the best answer for removing pollutants from stormwater runoff. Pollutants in runoff enter our waterways in numerous ways and the best way of control is usually at the pollutant's source. Sometimes, significant improvements can be made by employing best management practices, or "BMPs". Proper storage of chemicals, good housekeeping and just plain paying attention to what's happening during runoff events can lead to relatively inexpensive ways of preventing pollutants from getting into the runoff in the first place and then our waterways.
Effective stormwater management is often achieved from a management systems approach, as opposed to an approach that focuses on individual practices. Once pollutants are present in a water body, or after a receiving water body's physical structure and habitat have been altered, it is much more difficult and expensive to restore it to an un-degraded condition. Therefore, the use of a management system that relies first on preventing degradation of receiving waters is recommended.
Phase II Stormwater Regulations require towns, like Carmel, to implement programs and practices to control polluted stormwater runoff. Part of the requirements of the Phase II General Permit, issued by NYSDEC, is to implement six minimum control measures to prevent stormwater impacts on water quality. BMPs under each of the minimum measures focus on the prevention of pollutants from ever getting into stormwater. Similarly, some of the practices under the post-construction runoff control minimum measure address site design issues that can result in pollution prevention.
What can you do to prevent stormwater pollution?
Activities that seem harmless or insignificant on a small scale can have an enormous cumulative impact on our waterways. Below are some ways you can help!
- Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains--these outlets drain directly to lake, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
- Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions.
- Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals properly, not in storm sewers or drains. Take advantage of Putnam County’s hazardous waste collection days to safely dispose of household chemicals.
- Clean up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease, and antifreeze. Do not hose them into the street where they can eventually reach local streams and lakes.
- Control soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas.
- Have your septic system inspected and pumped, at a minimum, every 3-5 years so that it operates properly.
- Purchase household detergents and cleaners that are low in phosphorous to reduce the amount of nutrients discharged into our lakes, streams and reservoirs.
- Participate/organize a storm drain stenciling program.
- If you see an issue that might negatively impact the waterways in our Town, please contact Code Enforcement at 845-279-8873 and provide as much detail as possible about the situation you observed.
FAQs on Stormwater
What is Stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff is water from rain or melted snow that cannot be absorbed by the soil and instead washes off the land surface.
Why is untreated stormwater runoff a problem? Here are just a few problems associated with stormwater runoff:
- Causes beach closings
- Common source of pollutants in streams, lakes, and reservoirs
- Contributes to and aggravates flooding problems Increases stream temperature
How does stormwater runoff become polluted?
As stormwater moves over the land and towards streams, rivers and lakes, it can be contaminated with a number of substances such as:
- Sediment - from construction sites and eroding stream banks
- Organic materials -such as grass and lawn clippings
- Oil and gasoline - from automobiles and storage tanks
- Nutrients - such as phosphates and nitrates from fertilizer
- Pesticides - from lawns, gardens and golf courses
- Pathogens - such as bacteria and viruses from pet waste, failing septic systems and animals
- Trash and street garbage - such as plastics and paper
- Road Chemicals - such as salt from snow treatment and rubber from tires gripping the asphalt
What is the goal of a stormwater management plan?
The goal of any stormwater management program should be to ensure that the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff from a specific development is not substantially altered from pre-development conditions for a "normal" storm. For storms like Hurricane Floyd, unfortunately, most storm water management plans will fail.
What are some stormwater management practices?
The following are some practices available for managing stormwater:
- Vegetative practices - naturally vegetated filter strips, grassed swales, constructed wetlands, tree plantings.
- Structural practices - concrete grid and modular pavement, diversions, extended detention, retention and infiltration basins, porous pavement, water quality inlets (oil/grit separators).
- Maintenance practices - fertilizer and pesticide application control, litter and leaf control, vehicle maintenance, street cleaning.
What are some benefits of a stormwater management program?
Here are a few of the numerous benefits of having a stormwater management plan:
- Flood protection - proper stormwater management practices retain runoff on the site and release it slowly, preventing flood damage on and off-site.
- Groundwater recharge - increases movement of water into the ground to recharge the water table.
- Erosion and sediment control - reduces the volume of stormwater runoff from the site, keeping soil on the land and out of the storm sewers, streets and waterbodies.
- Water quality protection - prevents runoff carrying pollutants from washing off land and running into streams, lakes, and coastal waters. This protects drinking water, recreation and wildlife habitat.
- Infrastructure protection - stormwater management practices keep sediment out of highway ditches, culverts and waterways, reducing the costs for maintenance, dredging and replacement of public facilities.
- Lower flood insurance premiums - under the Community Rating System (CRS) of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a community that implements an approved stormwater management program can achieve credit. This can reduce flood insurance premiums for residents.
What regulations exist to control stormwater runoff?
There are local, state and federal regulations for stormwater runoff control:
- Local - In New York State, local governments have the legal authority to enact regulations for stormwater management. In Carmel, Chapter 156 Article X of the Town Code states that Stormwater management Technical Standards shall be designed and constructed in accordance with:
- The New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, most current version or its successor) ,
- New York Standards and Specifications for Erosion and Sediment Control (Empire State Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, 2004, most current version).
- State - Under the Federal Clean Water Act, developers of construction sites meeting certain thresholds must obtain a stormwater discharge permit from the state. In New York State the DEC has an approved program for issuing permits in accordance with federal stormwater regulations.
- Federal - The EPA's Storm Water Phase II Final Rule may require six activities for stormwater control in the Town of Carmel:
- Public Education and Outreach
- Public Participation/Involvement
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- Construction Site Runoff Control
- Post-Construction Runoff Control
- Pollution Prevention / Good Housekeeping
Public Education and Outreach:
Distributing educational materials and performing outreach to inform citizens about the impacts polluted storm water runoff discharges can have on water quality.
Providing opportunities for citizens to participate in the program development and implementation, including effectively publicizing public hearings and/or encouraging citizen representatives on a storm water management panel.
Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination:
Developing and implementing a plan to detect and eliminate illicit discharges toa storm sewer system (includes developing a system map and informing the community about hazards associated with illegal discharges and improper disposal of waste).
Construction Site Runoff:
Developing, implementing, and enforcing an erosion and sediment control program for construction activities that disturb one or more acres of land (controls could include silt fences and temporary storm water detention ponds).
Post-Construction Runoff Control:
Developing, implementing and enforcing a program to address discharges of post-construction storm water runoff from new development and redevelopment areas. Applicable controls could include preventative actions such as protecting sensitive areas (e.g., wetlands) or the use of structural best management practices such as grassed swales (ditches) or porous pavement.
Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping:
Developing and implementing, and enforcing a program with the goal of preventing or reducing pollutant runoff from municipal operations. The program must include municipal staff training on pollution prevention measures and techniques (e.g., regular street sweeping, reduction in the use of pesticides or street salt, or frequent catch basin cleaning).