Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions
Campaigns:

PREVENTING POLLUTED RUNOFF

From the Great Lakes to Long Island Sound, New York and Connecticut are blessed with abundant and invaluable water resources. Our water resources provide drinking water for millions of residents, habitat for fish and wildlife, extraordinary recreational opportunities, and support billion dollar industries. Unfortunately, polluted runoff remains a significant threat to our treasured water bodies.

Image of a beach closure sign.

What is polluted runoff?

Rainwater and snowmelt that flow across roads, parking lots, rooftops, and other impervious surfaces can pick up harmful pollutants; such as heavy metals, oil, pesticides, and sediment. Ultimately, this polluted runoff is washed into our Ocean, lakes, rivers, and streams. Polluted runoff is one of the leading causes of pollution to our waters; degrading drinking water quality, killing fish and wildlife, and closing our beaches. According to a recent report, polluted runoff was the leading cause of beach closures in Connecticut and New York in 2010, causing 66% and 63% of closures, respectively.

Solution

Fortunately, there is a cost effective solution to address the problem, known as green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is a network of decentralized stormwater management practices, such as rain gardens, green roofs, trees, rain gardens and permeable pavement, which can capture and infiltrate rain where it falls. Communities across the nation have begun to successfully utilize green infrastructure approaches to manage polluted runoff.

The benefits of green infrastructure are numerous, including, but not limited to:

  • Reducing polluted runoff and improving the health of surrounding waterways;
  • Reducing flooding;
  • Saving energy;
  • Reducing the amount of water entering sewer systems, thus alleviating stress on aging infrastructure and reducing costs;
  • Increasing green spaces and habitat; and
  • Increasing property values
Image of permeable pavement.
Permeable Pavement allows rain to infiltrate back into the ground.
Image of a green roof.
Green Roofs capture rain and save energy by cooling buildings.
Image of a rain garden.
Rain Gardens utilize natural vegetation to absorb runoff.

Strong Federal Protections Needed

Current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations are inadequate, applying to only about 2% of the nation’s land area. In particular, very little is being done to reduce polluted runoff from areas that have already been built or paved.

Recently, an expert panel at the National Research Council issued a report calling for significant improvements in managing polluted runoff. In response, the EPA has announced that they intend to modernize and improve their regulations. EPA is expected to release a draft rule in September 2011, and finalize it in November 2012.

CCE and our partners in the Clean Water for Healthy Communities Coalition are calling on EPA to issue a rule that will curtail and prevent this major and growing source of water pollution. The rule change presents a significant opportunity to advance and institutionalize green infrastructure approaches, building upon successes at the state and local level across the nation.

Specifically, we are calling on the EPA to issue a rule that will:

  • Promote the use of green infrastructure approaches by requiring the majority of runoff to be controlled onsite.
  • Require significant existing polluted runoff sources to reduce their impact by decreasing impervious areas that create runoff.
  • Require all dischargers to do their fair share to control pollution and protect our water resources. EPA’s regulations should target areas of new or expected development, critical or sensitive watersheds, and impervious areas that cause or contribute to water quality problems.

Suffolk County, NY report: Managing Stormwater- Natural Vegetation and Green Methodologies: Guidance for Municipalities

Information on the EPA Rulemaking process

Updated by bsmith 9/25/11