Environmental Issues > Water Main Page > All Water Documents

Stormwater Strategies
Community Responses to Runoff Pollution

Top of Report

Chapter 6


Addressing Stormwater in New Development and Redevelopment
Staten Island, NY | Dover, DE | Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, MD | Boston Metropolitan Area, MA | Additional Examples

Promoting Public Education and Participation
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System | Prince George's County, MD |Delaware Nature Society | Additional Examples

Controlling Construction Site Runoff
Delaware | Additional Examples

Detecting and Eliminating Improper or Illegal Connections and Discharges
Boston Metropolitan Area, MA | New York City Department of Environmental Protection | Additional Examples

Implementing Pollution Prevention for Municipal Operations
Washington, DC | Vermont Agency of Transporation |New York, NY | Connecticut Department of Transporation | Additional Examples

Addressing Stormwater in New Development and Redevelopment

A 'Bluebelt' Around Staten Island

Staten Island, New York, NY1
Population: 402,372
Area: 474 square miles

Highlight: A combination of city-initiated natural and structural control measures, along with strong local involvement, resulted in a cost-effective and environmentally sound solution to excessive flooding and water pollution problems.

Although urbanized, Staten Island is the least populated and developed of New York City's five boroughs. In the mid-1970s, a mere decade after the Verrazano Narrows Bridge provided the first direct roadway link from the borough to the rest of the city, the borough's South Richmond neighborhood still had significant amounts of undeveloped open space containing streams, ponds, and wetlands.

The south shore of Staten Island is a wet, low-lying landscape lined with streams and wetlands, typical of a glacial outwash plain. This type of landscape requires careful planning to protect sensitive natural resources and prevent problems such as excessive flooding. However, development without a stormwater management system in place led to flooding and degraded wetlands. Despite opposition from most local residents, this uncontrolled development fragmented the landscape, reducing its natural drainage capacity and causing extreme downstream flooding, even after relatively minor storm events. Local citizens fought hard to protect wetlands and other natural features that capture runoff and release it slowly, thereby moderating flood flows.

The first attempt to address this problem was through traditional wetland regulation. In the mid-1970s the city zoned as undevelopable a 672-acre Open Space Network of environmentally sensitive areas. However, this approach alone failed due to its inability to curb development on non-designated land and the ensuing bitter political confrontation. In addition, plans for streets and storm sewers that ignored the natural drainage system and other topographic features remained.

Following the creation of the Open Space Network, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began regulating freshwater and tidal wetlands in the 1980s. Again, while this regulation resulted in some additional wetlands protection, development of nonregulated wetland areas continued.

In early 1990, New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which is responsible for storm sewer construction and maintenance as well as water quality protection, redressed this early effort. Together with the southern Staten Island neighborhoods, they conceptualized the Bluebelt project, which was seen as a better solution than traditional regulation. Citizen groups such as the local chapter of the Audubon Society and Protectors of Pine Oak Woods were instrumental in gaining official support. They organized letter writing campaigns and hosted field trips of potential Bluebelt sites for both elected and city agency officials. This activism, the resulting strong local political support, and a significant cost savings helped generate support for the Bluebelt from New York City DEP officials.

The Staten Island Bluebelt plan places existing natural drainage systems (streams, ponds, and wetlands) at the heart of the stormwater system for 11 watersheds covering approximately 6,000 acres. Under the Bluebelt plan, storm sewer lines from new and existing development in the covered watersheds will drain into structural BMPs such as settling ponds, sand filters, and constructed wetlands that provide a first level of water quality and quantity control. The water will then pass into the natural systems for further treatment, storage, and conveyance.

The city has recently completed acquisition of streambeds and wetlands needed for the Bluebelt. Of the 265.5 acres constituting the Bluebelt proper, 147.6 acres were already owned by the city. Even including the cost of land acquisition, the city expects to save approximately $50 million as the Bluebelt plan is implemented. These savings come from the fact that relying on the natural drainage system will allow the city to avoid construction of miles of expensive subsurface storm sewer lines.

The DEP keeps the South Richmond community involved in the project in several ways. A citizens' advisory committee, composed of approximately 30 Staten Island residents, has reviewed the first part of the plan, which covers one of the seven watersheds, and will participate in the development of the remaining plans as well. The committee also serves as a liaison between DEP and the residents of the neighborhood. In addition, DEP is undertaking a wide variety of public education and outreach activities, including presentations to schools and community groups, cleanup events, and walking tours, as well as a newsletter and flyers to inform residents about the project and its progress. Signs within the Bluebelt itself educate citizens about the purpose of the Bluebelt, and warn against dumping waste or otherwise harming the Bluebelt lands and waters.

Residents who live near Bluebelt sites report on wildlife sightings, problems with flooding, and illegal dumping. Their input helps the DEP staff more effectively prioritize and address problems. Members of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, a local citizens' group, believe that these efforts helped break through institutional barriers that could have prevented the Bluebelt from becoming a reality.

The community also benefits from and enjoys the continued availability of open space and natural habitat. The wetlands and surrounding woodlands provide important habitat for a wide variety of urban wildlife and several migratory bird species. Residents have observed cleaner water and less runoff as a result of the project. Some feel that the project has resulted in property value increases and other economic benefits to the community.

Contact: Dana Gumb, Director Staten Island Bluebelt, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 718-595-7459. Steven Wallendar, Environmental Planner, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 718-595-7458.

A Working Wetland at the Mall

Dover, Delaware2
Population: 27,630
Area: 21.3 square miles

Highlight: Beautiful, effective commercial-site wetlands don't have to be budget-buster.

Engineers at Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) had almost everything they needed to create a prototype constructed wetland at the Dover Mall: a highly visible regional shopping mall site, a willing partner in the mall owner and managers and an existing stormwater detention facility ripe for retrofitting and habitat creation. There was just one big catch: The total budget estimate for the project was four times the amount they had from an EPA Clean Water Act grant.

The problem was that soil studies had revealed that the site's sandy soil was too permeable to sustain a wetland without major inputs of clay. And the amount and quality of clay needed was sure to bust the project's budget. Fortunately, the multiparty nature of urban stormwater work means that many different organizations, often eager to donate time and money to community improvement work, are available and interested in helping. The solution that project leader Earl Shaver and his DNREC associates created for this budget dilemma was to engage a variety of organizations in the project, and to get each of them to contribute something uniquely theirs to the effort.

The result: The clay itself, the excavation work to retrofit the detention pond so that it would become a wetland, and the purchase of wetland plants were all donated. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, a federal agency within the Department of Agriculture, and the Kent County Conservation District assisted with project design and management. The Delaware Department of Transportation donated the clay. The Land Improvement Contractors of America did the land-moving work to construct the wetland. The Dover Mall and JMB Retail Properties Inc. donated the wetland plants, while local high school students actually did the planting -- with help from Delaware's Governor Thomas Carper.

The outcome is a remarkably attractive "working wetland" situated at the front of the main parking lot of the Dover Mall. The wetland receives all the runoff from a 30-acre drainage area that is almost 100 percent impervious -- a large parking lot, the mall roof itself, and closely surrounding area. The wetland takes in the runoff from the first inch of rainfall from all storms and releases that water downstream over a 24-hour period. Three forebays provide the "first line of defense" for both sedimentation and spill collection. Last year a truck spilled hundreds of gallons of fuel oil on the parking lot. But the wetland proper and the waters to which it drains were unharmed, since a single forebay collected the entire spill, allowing for easy cleanup.

DNREC had a $40,000 grant; the total project budget estimate was $171,000. The total final project budget was $50,000, which included $10,000 for the donated plants. Although site characteristics and the mix of project partners will vary from site to site, three elements of DNREC's Dover Mall strategy provided the key to success: 1) make it beautiful so that it will truly be a showcase; 2) get plenty of diverse partners who can each donate cash, materials, or in-kind services; and 3) use a "treatment train" approach, so that runoff and unanticipated spills can be captured in multiple ponds to protect the constructed wetlands.

Contact: Frank Piorko, Environmental Program Manager, Sediment and Stormwater Program, State of Delaware, 302-739-4411, email: fpiorko@state.de.us.

Wet Ponds Improve Sligo Creek

Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Maryland
Population: 826,766 and 770,633
Area: 495 square miles and 486 square miles

Highlight: A wetland restoration project forms the linchpin for largely natural restoration of a highly degraded urban stream.

Sligo Creek is a heavily urbanized, 50 percent impervious watershed near Washington, DC, at the southern end of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, Maryland. Centuries ago, a wounded chief of the watershed's Nanchotank tribe once sought out the healing waters of Sligo Creek after a battle. By the late 1970s, the creek needed intensive healing itself, as it was in a dire biological state, with only three fish species and no amphibians at all. But with a significant investment of engineering and ecological work, and local and federal money, parts of the creek have rebounded.

An interagency effort that included Montgomery County, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Maryland Department of the Environment, and the Interstate Commission for the Potomac River Basin focused on Sligo as part of a larger effort to heal the Anacostia River watershed. Of more than a dozen individual stormwater retrofit projects in the watershed, the Wheaton Branch stormwater detention pond project is emblematic of the overall scheme. In order to capture runoff from a large commercial area, an existing dry pond was retrofitted and expanded into a three-celled extended detention wet pond. In addition, the project restored the creek itself below the retrofit project using hand-placed stones in an aesthetically pleasing twist on the conventional gabion wall, thus anchoring and narrowing the stormwater-damaged stream channel. In addition, "biorestoration" techniques, including the planting of live tree shoots, helped anchor the streambank. The effort included extensive biomonitoring of fish, amphibians, and macroinvertebrates before, during, and after each phase of the project, according to U.S. EPA protocols.

The stormwater retrofit projects capture stormwater runoff and thus protect the stream from many of the channel and habitat-damaging, high-velocity flows that occurred before the advent of restoration. The water quality and hydrologic benefits provided by the stormwater projects, in turn, helped to ensure the success of the reintroduction of fish and amphibian species to the watershed. For example, in 1993, local governments dug out "vernal pools" in the wooded riparian zone next to the creek, let them fill up with rainwater, and then seeded them with various amphibian species. They also stocked the creek with a number of fish species. While not all of these species have thrived, the creek is now the home of established populations of 12 to 15 introduced species of fish, three introduced species of amphibians (peepers, wood frogs, and spotted salamanders), and other species of frogs and toads that moved into the habitat on their own.

Balanced against these very real benefits are a few drawbacks of the huge detention ponds. According to local ecologist John Galli, of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the water quality in the three ponds is stratified, with rather poorly oxygenated water in the subsurface layers and better-oxygenated water on the surface layers. Unfortunately, it is the subsurface layers that discharge to the creek, and thus dissolved oxygen levels in the water directly released into Wheaton Branch are low. Balanced against this drawback are two important benefits of the ponds that made the ecological restoration work possible: the softening of the stormwater flows' damaging physical effects through stormwater detention, and the removal, through settling, of large quantities of sediment. Several years ago Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection cleaned out the ponds and removed 3,000 cubic yards of sand, grit, and mud -- thus saving the creek from this damaging sediment.

"What I think is most intriguing about Wheaton Branch," says Montgomery County watershed educator and activist Ginny Barnes, "is all the effort is spawned just because the pond retrofit removed the damaging solids that would have washed downstream. Curbing sediment-laden storm flows in a subwatershed that is 55 percent impervious surface and includes Wheaton Plaza has allowed the downstream mainstream to rebound from a near death."

The multi-jurisdictional nature of the Sligo and Anacostia retrofit efforts has made the funding of all of this work possible. The Wheaton Branch detention pond and ecological restoration work was fairly expensive, costing $2.2 million. Montgomery County itself paid half of that cost, contributing $1.1 million; Maryland Department of Environment provided funding through a variety of grants. County watershed director Cameron Wiegand says that this high level of local funding came about due to three factors: 1) passage of a local water quality law with goals for stream protection and restoration; 2) enlistment of local residents as stream stewards who monitor their streams for aquatic organisms; and 3) a "full court press for public outreach," including a detailed Web site (www.co.mo.md.us/dep), school-based stream teams, and a watershed newsletter. These figures suggest that the economic benefits of pollution-prevention programs in watersheds with pristine streams facing new development, which is rarely calculated, is quite significant and certainly worth many times the cost of the measures.

Contact: Cameron Wiegand, Chief, Watershed Management Division, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, MD, 240-777-7736, email: cameron.wiegand@co.mo.md.us.

Natural Storage in the Charles River Valley

Boston Metropolitan Area, Massachusetts4
Population: 2,870,669
Area: 1,760 square miles

Highlight: Preserving wetlands protects flooding at 10 percent the cost of structural measures, and increases property values as well.

The Charles River basin is the most densely populated river watershed in New England, draining an area of 307 square miles stretching from the northeast Connecticut border through Boston and its western suburbs into Boston Harbor. In 1955, Hurricane Diane brought floods that caused over $5 million in damages to the watershed, which prompted Congress to authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the problem and find a solution.

One might have expected the Corps to propose a dam and reservoir along the river's course to hold back future flood waters. After examining that type of completely structural solution, the Corps implemented a different type of plan: The Charles River Natural Valley Storage Project. Instead of structural controls, the project relied principally on preserving wetlands -- nature's "structural" approach to storing flood waters. The Corps guaranteed that 6,930 acres of land in 17 existing wetlands within the river basin would not be destroyed either by purchasing the land outright or by purchasing easements that would prevent any current or future owner from interfering with natural water storage. A portion of that land includes fringe wetlands and uplands.

The rationale for the Corps' decision was simple: Wetlands provide a prudent and least-cost solution to future flooding. Upstream wetlands are effective at reducing downstream flooding by temporarily storing floodwater, thereby moderating extreme high and low flows. Maintaining the natural hydrology benefits the aesthetic and ecological quality of the floodplain as well.

By preserving wetlands, costly structural controls could be avoided. When the Corps completed the project in 1984, purchasing the land and easements had cost $10 million, only 10 percent of the estimated $100 million cost of constructing a dam to serve the same purpose. Researchers estimated that the preservation of these wetlands significantly reduces annual flood damages and are well worth the investment. The Corps estimated that $3.2 million of damages from the April 1987 flood were prevented as a result of the land purchased for the Natural Valley Storage Project. The Corps has also noticed less flooding in the valley and less inflows to the dam at the head of the Charles during storm events despite increased development in the surrounding communities.

At the same time, the wetlands provide other benefits. Fourteen of 15 surveyed appraisers and realtors in the watershed reported that the presence of the wetlands next to a parcel of land either increased that parcel's value or provided an unquantifiable advantage in selling the land. Statistical analysis confirmed a 1.5 percent premium added to the property value of homes adjacent to the wetlands.

Although no one has measured the effectiveness of the wetlands' pollution removal, the wetlands in the Charles River, like other wetlands, presumably remove sediment and other contaminants by filtering the water. The wetlands also provide open space for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. Not being able to link tangible benefits to the project has been a barrier, especially when the land was first purchased. There continues to be considerable pressure from developers to obtain easements or otherwise develop the protected land, but the Corps has held firm, making no exceptions. Support for the project has grown, however, as the benefits and attributes of wetlands become better recognized and understood.

Contact: David J. Hebert, Project Manager, Charles River Natural Valley Storage Area, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, 508-278-2511, email: david.j.hebert@usace.army.mil.

Additional Examples

Farmview, Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania[5]
Farmview is a 322-lot "density-neutral" subdivision located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania built between 1991 and 1993. Working with the county's cluster zoning guidelines, the developer preserved 51 percent of the site as open fields and woodlands. This helped make it the fastest selling development in its price range in the county. Both the township and the developer benefited economically from the development in terms of reduced infrastructure costs and premiums added to "view lots."

Contact: Chairperson of Commissioners, Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County, PA, 215-493-3646.

Buttermilk Bay Comprehensive Stormwater Remediation Project, Bourne and Wareham, Massachusetts [6]
High levels of fecal coliform bacteria led to shellfish bed closings in this small tidal embayment of Buzzards Bay. The Buzzards Bay Project and the town of Bourne installed leaching chambers and galleys to treat runoff from a local hot spot beginning in 1996. The town of Wareham also installed several treatment units. These systems, along with efforts to extend sewer lines and replace failing septic systems have led to water quality improvements and the opening of 90 percent of the bay to shellfishing and recreation.

Contact: Buzzards Bay Project, 508-291-3625.

Spragues Cove Constructed Wetland System, Marion, Massachusetts [7]
Date 1996. To prevent closure of shellfish beds, the Town of Marion and the Buzzards Bay Project installed a 3-acre constructed wetland at Silvershell Beach to treat stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces including a nearby parking lot. The wetland has been successful at reducing bacterial contamination and capturing sand, silt, and trash before entering the Spragues Cove since 1996. The town also planted wetland plants in and along the channel to improve soil stability and discourage geese.

Contact: Buzzards Bay Project, 508-291-3625.

Constructed Wetlands, Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, Connecticut [8]
The Mashantucket Pequot tribe uses constructed wetlands for all stormwater control at this large casino. Monitoring has demonstrated good removal efficiencies and the wetlands provide habitat for mink and other animals.

Contact: Rich Snarsky, New England Environmental Services, 860-295-1022.

Dupont Agricultural Chemicals Worldwide Headquarters, Barley Mill Plaza, Wilmington, Delaware [9]
Dupont Agricultural Chemicals worldwide headquarters outside Wilmington uses combination porous pavement/recharge beds in parking lots and surface impoundments to manage runoff. The developer preserved existing forest and used native plants and bioengineering to stabilize streambanks. By taking these measures, the developer was able to nearly duplicate the predevelopment runoff volume and velocity. The project began in 1986.

Contact: Thomas Cahill, Cahill Associates, 610-696-4150, cahill@thcahill.com.

StormTreat System, Kingston, Massachusetts [10]
This multiple-chamber treatment train uses sedimentation chambers and constructed wetlands contained in a 2.9-meter diameter tank to save space over conventional sedimentation-detention/retention basins. First flush sampling revealed high pollutant removal efficiencies from a road and parking lot in Kingston, Massachusetts, including 97 percent fecal coliform and 99 percent total suspended solids.

Contact: StormTreat System, MA, 877-787-6426, email: info@stormtreat.com.

L. L. Bean stormwater ponds, Freeport, Maine [11]
To deal with the increased polluted runoff created by new impervious cover associated with warehouse expansion, L. L. Bean built ponds to treat and control stormwater runoff. Ponds were only 0.2 percent of total construction costs.

Contact: Patricia Harrington, Casco Bay Estuary Project, ME, 207-828-1043.

SmithKline Beecham Corporate Clinical Laboratory, West Norriton, Pennsylvania [12]
SmithKline Beecham's corporate clinical laboratory complex in Montgomery County installed porous asphalt above recharge beds to collect stormwater. Re-created wetlands and innovative vegetation management techniques also help treat runoff. These measures allowed the company to forgo building detention ponds and save an existing mature forest.

Contact: Thomas Cahill, Cahill Associates, 610-696-4150, email: cahill@thcahill.com.

Promoting Public Education and Participation

Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials

University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System and Water, Connecticut [13]
Population: 3,269,858 (state, 18,500 (Waterford)
Area: 4,845 (state), 34 square miles (Waterford)

Highlight: A state university-based education program successfully teaches local officials about imperviousness through local mapping and modeling.

Located near the intersection of highways I-95 and I-395, Waterford, Connecticut, has been attractive to commercial and residential developers since the 1980s. Witnessing a dramatic increase in impervious surface cover, town planners knew something had to be done, but that it would be impossible absent support from local elected officials. So they initiated an education program focused on municipal officials to help them understand the impacts that imperviousness would have on water quality.

Planners relied on an innovative program started in 1991 by the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Service Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO), which presents information to Connecticut coastal communities about stormwater runoff. NEMO advocates a three-tiered strategy of natural resource-based planning, site design, and the use of stormwater BMPs to help towns address land use and manage polluted runoff. NEMO aims to explain environmental concepts to municipal officials, and to provide them with current information in an attempt to improve decision making. The program focuses on two delivery methods: a slide presentation that includes local photographs, educational material, and images from a geographic information system (GIS), and a 13-minute video on nonpoint source pollution. NEMO also uses the World Wide Web as an information and educational tool. Its Web site (www.canr.uconn.edu/ces/nemo), which received over 5,000 hits in 1998, is designed for both local decision makers and colleagues from around the country who wish to implement similar programs.

Emphasizing the link between water quality and land use, NEMO focuses on the role of impervious surfaces in the transport and concentration of pollutants. The degree of impervious cover is widely recognized as a good indicator of water resource degradation. Focusing on local decisionmakers as the key to this link, NEMO works to bring advanced tools and technology to municipal officials. NEMO uses GIS modeling to enable town officials to compare, combine, and analyze multiple layers of information at once using computer technology, natural resource and municipal databases, and satellite images. For example, a GIS can model the impacts on water resources of projected future levels of development, estimated from a zoning-based build-out analysis as done for Old Saybrook, Connecticut in the figure shown (print report only). This provides the ability to see into the future and plan accordingly.

GIS complements the information and concepts that NEMO educators are presenting and advocating. The maps and technology are primarily used to convey complex information to municipal officials in a clear and understandable fashion. Using GIS, educators can demonstrate the link between water quality and other community issues such as sprawl, transportation, infrastructure, and open space. In facilitating this link, the project enables local officials to incorporate nonpoint source pollution and stormwater runoff into everyday decisions.

The town of Waterford, Connecticut, is an example of NEMO's success. Despite community efforts to balance desired growth and environmental protection, limited progress was being made. The NEMO process proved to be the catalyst for action by gaining the attention and support of many local decisionmakers. First Selectman Thomas Sheridan explained that "good quality and accurate information is essential, and NEMO provided it."

Before NEMO, Waterford officials had expressed concern with the relationship between development and rural character, in particular, the increased need for roads and infrastructure, but were not sure how to approach the issue. The link between polluted runoff and impervious cover demonstrated by NEMO compelled Waterford officials to begin investigating pollution prevention measures such as alternative roadway and subdivision design. Decisionmakers looked favorably on this strategy since it would address capital improvement issues as well as zoning, open space, and environmental concerns.

As a direct offshoot of the NEMO process, Waterford approved a remarkable project to test and compare different development strategies and stormwater BMPs that focus on pollution prevention. The Jordan Cove Watershed project began in 1996 as a partnership between property owners, the town, the state of Connecticut, and the U.S. EPA. The project uses paired watersheds to assess the differences between a development that incorporates tight cluster design, structural and nonstructural BMPs, and homeowner education and a development taking a more traditional approach. It also provides a chance to test BMP effectiveness under local conditions, and to look at both during and post-construction effects. As town planner Tom Wagner explains, "If we are going to ask developers to do more and pay more, we want to make sure that reaching pollution reduction goals is achievable." The project has gained acceptance from local officials and institutions including the public works, police, and fire departments.

Other results of the NEMO process include: requirements for state-of-the-art BMPs for all commercial and industrial developments, with monitoring performed by owners in addition to Waterford's own monitoring program; incorporating water quality and watershed management in the town's Comprehensive Plan; and the development of a watershed management plan for the Jordan Brook watershed. A main theme in these proposed changes is limiting the percentage of effective impervious cover.

NEMO has developed particular expertise in explaining the issues as they relate to the local setting. By using GIS and local data, NEMO is able to spell out the problem, show the cumulative effects, and then demonstrate potential outcomes and solutions. The combination of colorful maps, pictures, and pertinent technical information all from local examples very effectively get the point across. This process takes participants beyond the general notion that increased imperviousness impacts the environment and community.

To date, 50 communities have gone through the workshops, and four NEMO watershed projects have been implemented throughout Connecticut. Eight states, including New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Alaska, have adopted some stage of NEMO with 10 other states in the planning phase. NEMO is also working with the national Estuary Program to conduct workshops for the newest program members. NEMO has received several local and regional awards along with the 1998 National Environmental Education and Training Foundation's Achievement Award and the 1996 American Planning Association Small Town and Rural Division's Outstanding Education Program Award.

Contact: Chet Arnold, NEMO, University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Service, 860-345-4511, email: carnold@canrl.cag.uconn.edu.

Low-Impact Development

Prince George's County, Maryland[14]
Population: 770,633
Area: 486 square miles

Highlight: A country-sponsored low-impact development program costs developers no more to build, but sells houses better and reduces most pollution.

In the Washington, D.C., suburb of Prince George's County, Maryland, public support for restoring the Chesapeake Bay is high, and helps to fuel a comprehensive stormwater program, funded on the order of $10 million per year. But what really makes this program stand out is its commitment to a vision of water-sensitive Low-Impact Development (LID) that seeks to mimic a site's original hydrology. The LID vision is shaping the landscape at a school, a mall parking lot, and several residential developments, while avoiding permitting delays.

LID is a site-planning approach that integrates ecological requirements into all phases of development. A signature BMP for the Prince Georgians is the bioretention filter, a shallow depression with filtering layers and vegetation on top. Phosphorus, nitrogen, and some toxic materials are removed as runoff flows into the filter and down through the many layers: tree and shrub roots, mulch, planting soil, and gravel. In contrast to many conventional stormwater treatment BMPs, the bioretention filters are often beautiful as well as functional, adding to the desirability of the site.

Beltway Plaza, a busy mall whose parking lot is packed year round, has used the bioretention filter in a rear parking lot, and shoppers and managers have commented so favorably that the mall owners are now putting in similar landscaping in the front parking lots. The mall's property manager has found that the maintenance costs for the bioretention filter are no greater than those for mowing a grassed parking lot median strip -- about $200 per year per island. The bioretention filter's benefits are threefold: the mall owner and manager get a more desirable shopping destination with no additional maintenance costs; mall customers get a more beautiful and shady place to park; and the Bay and local streams get a partial break from polluted, "flashy" flows of runoff.

A recent University of Maryland study sponsored by the county looked at the performance of the Beltway Plaza bioretention filter. Its findings: 97 percent of the copper, approximately 95 percent of lead and zinc, 65 percent of total phosphorus, and 52 percent of total Kjeldahl nitrogen were removed. As with all filters, a drawback is the potential for clogging: Regional experience suggests that the soil layer should have no greater than 10 percent clay content to prevent clogging. County officials are hoping to convince more shopping mall owners to incorporate these filters into their designs when they apply for redevelopment permits.

Another successful implementation of "design with nature" concepts in Prince George's County is the Northridge housing development in Bowie, Maryland. Begun in 1990 by the Michael T. Rose Company, Northridge's design left mature trees and forest lands intact, built the same number of units as a conventional alternative design at a higher density, and installed BMPs in harmony with the landscape. This design paid off financially as well as environmentally. During the region's worst recession in a decade, units sold at a steady pace and builders signed up eagerly. Eight years later, the development is almost completely built-out with 23 lots left out of 855. Forty percent of the site is in mostly forested open space.

The cost of the more environmentally sustainable design at Northridge was approximately equal to the estimated cost of a conventionally designed subdivision, comparing the same number of units at the site: $23 million for various infrastructure and amenity investments. "We had to make a clear choice," says company official Bob Kaufman. "The cost was the same, but with Plan A (conventional large-lot development) the investment would have gone for larger streets, curbs and gutters, detention ponds, catchbasins, additional grading, etc. With Plan B (the green development approach) the investment was for tree preservation and wildlife habitat, lake creation, a community center, swales with underdrains. Both scenarios would have given us 855 units to sell. We're glad we chose Plan B, the greener path. Forested areas are the best stormwater management facility you can build."

With technical research, full-scale implementation, and cost effectiveness all demonstrated, what is keeping the majority of developers from trying Low-Impact Development? The answer is time. For developers and builders, fear of delays or uncertainty is reason enough to shun LID. According to county engineer Derek Winogradoff, "We are addressing the time issue and demonstrating that, when we can work early on with a developer, the LID approach takes no more time than the conventional approach." The county is seeking to provide flexibility from codes that usually add excess imperviousness to a site. "Four or five major new developments are now in the works," he notes, "that use the LID techniques. And overall, the [permitting] process took about the same time as it would for conventional designs."

Contact: Larry Coffman, Associate Director, Programs and Planning Division, Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources, MD, 301-883-5839, email: lscoffman@co.pg.md.us.

"Soil Watchers" and "Soil Stewards"

Delaware Nature Society, Delaware[15]
Population: 731,581
Area: 1,955 square miles

Highlight: A local environmental organization trains citizens to help spot construction site erosion and sediment control violations and provides incentives to local developers to implement strong erosion control practices.

A recent program initiated by the Delaware Nature Society (DNS), a private, nonprofit environmental organization, is training citizens to be "soil watchers," and asking developers to become "soil stewards." Funded by the William Penn Foundation and started in October 1996, the DNS Soil Watch program provides citizens with training to spot construction site erosion and sediment control violations. The DNS enlists interested citizens to observe control measures, such as erosion prevention via straw mulch with grass seeding, and proper installation of sediment control basins and silt fences at construction sites.

Enforcement of erosion prevention and sediment control regulations is difficult, especially with few inspectors (particularly on the smaller sites), numerous sites, and limited resources. This program is a complement to government and developer efforts in keeping soil on the site, including the private inspector program sponsored by the Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Agency (described in a separate case study in this report). The program coordinator takes a cooperative, partnership approach in working closely with government agencies and developers/home builders.

Citizens who want to keep their eyes on the prize -- mud kept onsite where it belongs and not in the stream -- must first attend a technical training workshop that covers the "why" and "how" of soil watching, including the effects on aquatic life of sediment that sloughs off of construction sites, and techniques such as silt-fence installation, the placement and sizing of sediment traps and basins, and the importance of covering bare soil with grass seeds, mulch, straw, or other vegetation. The course also covers laws and regulations governing the use of these techniques. After the workshop, soil watchers head for the field, where they fill out observation reports and send them to the program coordinator, who initiates follow-up actions. The citizens do not take any enforcement actions themselves, but through their trained observations and reporting, they help to expedite and target government enforcement where it is most needed.

Thanks to the Soil Watch program, 29 trained citizens are now observing construction sites and filing reports on what they see. A highly motivated portion of this group forms the Sediment Patrol, members of which each pick a construction site to observe once every three weeks. All reports are investigated and followed up by the Soil Watch Coordinator with the appropriate enforcement agency.

In a related effort, Eileen Butler, the DNS Soil Watch coordinator, is also working with seven developers/home builders to volunteer in a Soil Stewardship Agreement. These Soil Stewards represent residential and commercial developments, as well as golf courses. Developers and home builders that become Soil Stewards agree to do three things: 1) properly install and maintain erosion and sediment controls as defined on the approved plan; 2) provide time for a brief Soil Watch presentation to their personnel responsible for erosion and sediment control; and 3) permit access to interior portions of the site for the Soil Watch coordinator and a volunteer, with a site representative, to observe all erosion and sediment controls.

The first developer to agree to such stewardship is Stephen Mockbee, president and CEO of Bancroft Construction Company. Mockbee is building Carpenter's Row, a townhouse development on Route 100 in Montchanin, Delaware, for which he has pledged full compliance with all sediment controls required, and full cooperation with citizens in the Soil Watch program.

In exchange for taking part in a Soil Stewardship Agreement, developers and builders receive a Soil Steward sign they can post prominently on the site, a framed Soil Stewardship certificate, promotion in the Nature Society's newsletter, the DNS News and Soil Watch program newsletter "The TOPs in SOIL Conservation," and descriptive brochures provided to them to inform their potential clients of the agreement. Other benefits include incurring lower project compliance costs, enhanced public image, and, most importantly, partnering for conservation. Currently, the program has four Soil Stewards representing construction of a residential town-home development, a golf course, and multiple lots in a residential development.

Soil watch programs have been initiated by citizens groups around the country. Construction erosion prevention and sediment control techniques are usually simple enough that laypeople can be trained to observe their proper (and improper) use. To help ensure the success of such a citizen-led program, at least three elements are needed: 1) a commitment by a local citizens' group to sponsor the program, provide staff leadership for it, and fund it; 2) technical training, (which is sometimes followed by certification); and 3) partnership with local developers and government officials in order to coordinate efforts and obtain technical training, as well as to foster dialogue about any controversial issues. The Delaware Nature Society's Soil Watch Program contains these ingredients for success, and therefore is a model that citizens' groups in other parts of the country may wish to emulate.

Contact: Jennifer Gochenaur, Stewardship Coordinator, Delaware Nature Society, Hockessin, DE, 302-239-2334 ext. 42, email: jen@dnsashland.org.

Additional Examples

Stormwater Management Survey of Columbia Residents, Columbia, Maryland [16]
A survey of residents indicated strong support for runoff control waterbodies in developments: 94 percent said that managing future basins for fish and wildlife in addition to stormwater management would be desirable; 92 percent felt that sight of birds and other wildlife was important and outweighed any nuisances; 73 percent said they would pay more for properties where stormwater basins are designed this way.

Contact: Charles Rhodehamel, Columbia Associates, 401-381-0288.

Great Barrington Housatonic River Walk, Great Barrington, Massachusetts[17]
More than 500 young adult and 500 adult volunteers helped clean up and restore a degraded, trash-laden section of riverfront in Great Barrington, removing 220 tons of rubble and debris. Riverbank property owners granted permanent public access to the Great Barrington Land Conservancy so that a town park and greenway trail could be built. The Chamber of Commerce believes that the project has stimulated downtown economic development.

Contact: Rachel Fletcher, Director, Housatonic River Walk, MA, 413-528-3391, email: river@gbriverwalk.org.

Jones Brook Restoration, China, Maine[18]
High school students from Erkine Academy helped restore degraded sections of Jones Brook while learning about the relationship between erosion, water quality, and fish habitat. As a result, professionals observed improvements in stream habitat, water quality, and fish abundance.

Contact: Dan L'Heureux, Town Manager, China Region Lakes Alliance, ME, 207-445-5021, email: chiname@pivot.net. Rebecca Manthey, Executive Director, China Region Lakes Alliance, ME, 207-445-5021, email: chiname@pivot.net.

Single-Family Dwelling Construction: Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Education, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ontario County, New York[19]
In 1996, the Ontario County Cornell Cooperative Extension developed a handbook on simple soil erosion control techniques to help persons engaged in building single-family homes. The extension also prepared a video and series of workshops to complement the handbook. This program aims at protecting Canadaiga Lake and other Finger Lakes from construction site activity, documented as one of the most significant causes of sedimentation.

Contact: Kari Umphrey, Extension Educator for Environmental Issues, Ontario County Cornell Cooperative Extension, NY, 716-394-3977 ext. 32, email: ksu2@cornell.edu. Edith Davey, Conservation Educator, Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District, NY, 716-396-0137, email: ontswcd2@frontiernet.net.

Controlling Construction Site Runoff

Certified Private Inspection Program

Delaware [20]
Population: 731,581
Area: 1,955 square miles

Highlight: Delaware's private inspector program helps construction operators keep mud on site, while saving taxpayer dollars.

An estimated 100 tons per year of dirt and mud now wash off each acre of the average Delaware construction site. Government and developers have created an innovative program that provides more eyes monitoring sites for compliance, and more efficient, cost-effective enforcement of state and local requirements when violations do occur.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Sediment and Stormwater program aims to protect the state's waters from sediment and stormwater pollution through broad-based developer education and training; cooperation with citizens, developers, and local governments; and the use of privately employed inspectors on the larger sites. These inspectors are hired by developers themselves under the state's Certified Construction Reviewer (CCR) program.

Under state regulations, sediment and stormwater control inspectors may be hired by land developers as deemed necessary by the local agency. The private certified construction reviewers are trained under a government sediment and stormwater program and effectively supplement the government's site inspection and enforcement staff. In this way, there are more legally responsible people in charge of making sure that approved plans are implemented. In many cases, the same engineer who designed the controls may serve as the CCR, walking the sites to ensure that the developer is implementing the planned controls properly.

These private inspectors must fulfill three key requirements: 1) attend and pass a 32-hour course pertaining to all aspects of sediment conservation and stormwater management; 2) inspect all active sites weekly; and 3) submit an inspection report to both the developer/contractor, and the appropriate inspection agency. Government staffers must spot-check the sites, but the staffing burden on government is reduced through the efforts of the private inspectors, thus reducing program costs. Violations must be reported within five calendar days to the proper authorities. Penalties for failure to comply with notification requirements include the loss of certification for the private site inspector, and enforcement action against the site's owner/operator. The Delaware Department of Transportation is also using CCRs in all of their contractor jobs.

This CCR program makes a big difference in compliance. Rapidly urbanizing New Castle County has roughly 400 active construction sites, but only five inspectors on the County government staff to patrol these sites. Of these roughly 400 sites, 160 are commercial sites requiring a CCR, and 220 to 230 are residential, of which 25, or roughly 10 percent, require a stormwater management pond and the employment of a CCR. Thus, about half of New Castle County's active sites employ a CCR. One of the five county government inspectors evaluates the other half.

According to New Castle County Land Use Administrator George Haggerty, "The [CCR] program requires aggressive oversight, including verification of routine inspections on a project-by-project basis, and random checks by [county] personnel to verify accuracy." While New Castle County is not prepared to call the program an outright success at this time, officials believe that "a sound program is within our reach." The county has gone beyond the state's guidelines in the CCR program, requiring that all commercial sites of any size employ a private erosion prevention inspector.

DNREC estimates that each construction site requires five person-hours per month, including one 2-hour inspection every two weeks, plus one hour of follow-up time in the office, every four weeks. Conservatively estimating that each site employing a CCR cuts those government person-hours in half (recognizing that some follow-up inspections are still performed every month by the county's inspectors), and that government staffing costs run roughly about $20/person-hour, then each site saves the county $50 per month. All told, the 185 sites employing CCRs are estimated to save New Castle County $111,000 per year in avoided staffing costs. More important, compliance rates have dramatically improved, resulting in decreased sediment pollution.

Contact: Frank Piorko, Environmental Program Manager, Sediment and Stormwater Program, State of Delaware, 302-739-4411, e-mail: fpiorko@state.de.us.

Additional Examples

Upper Frederick, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania[21]
Montgomery County developed a model zoning ordinance that requires 75 percent of each newly developed area to be preserved as open space. Upper Frederick adopted this ordinance in 1991 as a way of preserving rural character, but it has significant stormwater benefits as well.

Contact: Jennifer Bolognese, Upper Frederick Township, PA, 610-754-6436.

Detecting and Eliminating Improper or Illegal Connections and Discharges

Clean Charles 2005 Initiative

Boston metropolitan area, Massachusetts[22]
Population: 2.870,669
Area: 1,760 square miles

Highlight: Although originally spurred on by EPA, local communities see the results of, and come to value, an illicit discharge elimination program.

Each day between the spring and fall, roughly 20,000 Boston-area citizens use the Charles River for yachting, rowing, sail boarding, fishing, and hiking. But these activities carry a risk: Contact with the water can make people sick. The Charles is troubled by discharges of every kind, especially raw sewage and stormwater from a variety of sources and discharge routes. A government-led partnership has taken strides in reducing these discharges and sources, notably in eliminating the illegal and illicit hookups and spills that spew sewage and other pollutants into the river.

The Clean Charles 2005 Initiative, led by the New England office of the U.S. EPA in cooperation with the cities of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Dedham, Needham, Newton, Waltham, Wellesley, Weston, and Watertown, has established the ambitious goal of making the Charles River fully fishable and swimmable by the year 2005. As part of the cleanup effort, the Charles River Watershed Association, with funding from EPA's EMPACT program, has been posting flags on the river to alert the public about the severity of this sewage pollution, inspiring more cleanup efforts. To date, this effort has eliminated roughly 1 million gallons a day of sewerage. This total includes 390,000 gallons from building hookups (representing a total of 1,556 housing units) and 572,000 from other sources such as exfiltrating sewers, blocked sewers, and misplaced separation plates. In addition, the city of Boston eliminated one huge illicit sanitary connection -- 72,000 gallons per day -- to the storm sewer system. Although these enforcement efforts were originally spurred on by EPA, which had required communities to sample stormwater discharges to detect illicit sanitary connections, the cities now agree on the effectiveness of this approach.

As the initiative moves into 1999, EPA will emphasize the need for both enforcement and education/assistance, and will provide both types of incentives to local governments and businesses in the basin. EPA is also using clean water penalties to assist the effort. Kathy Baskin, project director for the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) points to a case where Boston University (BU) was fined $2 million for illegally discharging fuel oil from a storage tank. "Of that sum," notes Baskin, "$400,000 was invested back into remediating stormwater discharges on the BU campus. That's a great way to address stormwater at the local level."

The Charles River Watershed Association has been part of the effort to revive the Charles as a prime recreational water. CRWA developed a warning system based on the posting of colored flags: blue flags signal suitable boating conditions while red flags signal potential health risks associated with elevated bacteria counts. The association also monitors the river. Sampling data since 1995 has indi- cated improved water quality. Volunteer river monitoring shows that "fecal coliform has been going down for the past three years in both wet and dry weathers," according to Baskin. "Red-flag days typically occur after heavy rainfall of more than two inches when stormdrains and sewer system overflows flush pollutants into the river. CRWA research over the last two years indicates that at least 90 percent of the lower [Charles] basin does not meet boating standards after heavy rains."

Several watershed activists credit EPA Region I Administer John DeVillars with conceiving and supporting the initiative. "EPA is pulling out all the stops to make the Charles fishable and swimmable by Earth Day 2005," says DeVillars. "We are working with everyone with a stake in the river, from the communities, universities, hospitals, and corporations who share its shores, to local public work departments and environmental groups. And we're using all our tools, from traditional enforcement and permitting to providing pollution prevention technical assistance to the 1,000 auto facilities in the watershed to courses on watershed management in all the local high schools. We even plan to place real-time monitoring instruments linked to the World Wide Web in the major storm drains to illustrate graphically how stormwater management is essential to reducing pollution after storms. We want to make the Charles an international symbol of how a river that was once a virtual cesspool can become a world-class urban resource."

The Cohasset Harbor Board of Health in Massachusetts subjected one residence and one business to enforcement orders mandating that the owners of these properties fix their septic systems. As a result of the mandated work, approximately 400 acres of shellfish beds were reopened.[23]

Contact: Bill Walsh-Rogalski, Counsel for Special Projects, EPA Region I, 617-918-1035, email: walshrogalski.william@epa.gov.

Shoreline Survey Program

New York City Department of Environmental Protection[24]
Population: 8,546,846
Area: 1,148 square miles

Highlight: A water-based program to find illegal discharges, combined with a firm enforcement policy, cost-effectively reduces pollution and helps achieve standards.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) takes to the waters of the city to protect those waters from contamination by illicit discharges and connections. Many important estuaries surround and divide the city -- the Hudson River, Harlem River, East River, Long Island Sound, Upper and Lower New York Bay, Jamaica Bay, the Kill van Kull, and Arthur Kill. The city estimates that approximately 5 percent of the 17.4 billion gallons of fresh water that enters these bodies each day is stormwater or stormwater related -- 3.7 percent is directly related to stormwater; 1.3 percent is from Combined Server Overflows (CSOs). Approximately 40 percent of the city's surface area drains to separate storm sewers, with the remaining area served by combined sewer systems. The city has over 6,000 miles of sewers and the existing system is more than 120 years old.

The city originally began the shoreline survey program in 1989 pursuant to its 1988 permit to discharge treated wastewater from its 14 water pollution control plants. Under the permit, the city must complete a survey of its shoreline every two years to detect unpermitted dry-weather discharges to the city's estuaries. Whenever possible, staff conduct the inspections by boat, using three 25-foot boats in deeper water and two inflatable crafts for shallow areas. They videotape the entire shoreline and identify, catalogue, and map each outfall they find. When they see a discharge, they photograph it as it occurs and take samples. If a sewer is large enough, personnel will enter it and walk along it while videotaping house connections into that sewer. If a connection is discharging, staff will begin dye-testing houses in the vicinity.

If site observation or testing indicates an illicit discharge, the program determines ownership of the outfall and notifies the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has Clean Water Act enforcement authority in the state. If the city owns the outfall, it investigates the source of the discharge and either abates the problem quickly or prepares a compliance schedule for fixing the problem. For non-city-owned discharges, the state agency takes responsibility for any necessary remediation or enforcement action. Once a location has been identified as having an illegal connection, DEP performs a record search to determine responsibility and issues a Notice of Illegal Connection letter, which gives the property owner 60 days to repair the illegal connection. After that period, a second and final letter is sent to the property owner, allowing another 30 days to make the necessary repairs. When this expires, staff will issue a Commissioner's Order allowing 7 to 10 days to make corrections. If repairs are not made at the end of this period, staff will issue a Notice of Violation, and the property owner will have to appear before the Environmental Control Board.

From 1989 through 1998, this program abated over 2.8 million gallons per day of discharges, a 90 percent reduction. DEP continues the biennial surveys and is working to decrease the remaining discharges. While there is considerable overlap in terms of water quality between these efforts and the city's combined sewer overflow controls, identification and elimination of illegal connections has played a key role in improvements in harbor water quality. DEP reports that overall conditions from 1991 to 1995 are significantly better than pre-1990 conditions. Levels of coliform bacteria and dissolved oxygen concentrations continue to improve. By 1992, the bathing standard was achieved virtually harborwide during average dry weather conditions for the first time in decades.

This success has been achieved at a low cost. The city has budgeted approximately $475,000 per year for the program, including equipment, labor, and the services of other city agencies. Conservative estimates show that program costs are only a small fraction of the cost of infrastructure to collect an equivalent amount of combined sewer overflow effluent.

Contact: Philip Heckler, Deputy Director, Program Management, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 718-595-5051.

Additional Examples

Stormwater Controls for New Developments, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Massachusetts[25]
The Commission requires particle separators to be installed on all newly constructed stormdrains in outdoor or paved parking areas that connect to the stormwater system or discharge directly to receiving waters. The commission also requires on-site retention of stormwater at new developments when possible.

Contact: John P. Sullivan, Chief Engineer, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, MA, 617-989-7000.

Implementing Pollution Prevention for Municipal Operations

I.P.M. at the National Arboretum

Washington, DC[26]
Population: 528,964
Area: 61 square miles

Highlight:Integrated pest management saves money and reduces traditional pesticides use by 75 percent.

As Scott Aker, integrated pest management (IPM) specialist for the U.S. National Arboretum puts it: "If we can do IPM here, it can be done anywhere." The National Arboretum covers 444 acres in northwest Washington, which represents approximately 1 percent of the land area of the District of Columbia. The arboretum contains diverse collections of plants from the United States and around the world, including an herb garden, dwarf and slow-growing pines a bonsai collection, a boxwood collection, and representative U.S. prairies and meadows. While some of these plants adapt well to the climatic and other conditions at the arboretum, others find the conditions stressful and are more susceptible to pest infestations. The arboretum's potential to contribute to water quality problems is great, since it is adjacent to the Anacostia River, and a tributary to that river bisects the site.

The arboretum's IPM program started in 1992. Prior to that, the arboretum's staff typically sprayed pesticides broadly over entire collections. Due to budget constraints, the arboretum turned to IPM, which is a process of setting thresholds for damage, catching pests early, and using methods of control such as beneficial insects, biorational oils, and alternative growing methods. As practiced at the arboretum, staff are still willing to use pesticides in "do or die" situations. But alternative practices now used include higher tolerances for pest infection, use of natural soaps and oils, reduced mowing of lawns, hand picking of insects off infected plants, and reliance on beneficial insects, which are natural predators of the insects that harm the arboretum's vegetation.

As a result of the switch to IPM, the arboretum staff has reduced the total volume of traditional pesticide mix applied by 75 percent, which results in an estimated 80 percent reduction in costs for traditional pesticides and insecticides. When they do use pesticides, they have shifted towards biorational insecticides -- natural oils and soaps -- that are used only in areas that are infested to smother, coat, or burn the targeted pest. Now, half of the pesticides used are these less-toxic alternatives.

Reduced mowing of areas not in the formal collections of the arboretum has allowed those areas to revert to meadows from turf-grass lawns. This has increased the diversity of the plant life on the plots and has increased infiltration on the site, since less frequent mowing reduces the degree of compaction of the soil.

Nutrient management, while not necessarily a part of an IPM program, is also important at the arboretum. To reduce nutrient loading to the Anacostia and its tributary, the arboretum uses very little chemical fertilization, relying on compost made from the plant material from the arboretum and bedding material and manure from the Agricultural Research Service. The arboretum has also taken the simple but effective step of relocating its composting pile away from the river, so that rainwater draining off the pile does not carry nutrients to the river. In addition, by composting this waste the arboretum has greatly reduced the volume of waste and thereby the disposal costs that would have been needed to haul these wastes for disposal at a landfill.

The arboretum does not have good data on costs under the old regime, and is only now near completing use of pesticides purchased in years past. But they are certain that they spend no more -- and probably less -- under the new regime. "Pesticide purchases are now really negligible for a campus of this size," Aker says. "But one thing we do spend money on is labor." The arboretum staff constantly monitors the collections for pest infections. However, remarkably, hand picking insects off plants is often more cost- and time-effective than pesticide use. At the same time, reduced mowing on the areas not in the formal collections has provided some significant savings in labor expenditures. Moreover, as people are getting more concerned about pesticide use, IPM reduces the potential for litigation from both employees and neighbors.

Aker feels that the real barrier to applying IPM in a municipal parks setting is getting those responsible for implementing the program used to the complexities of IPM. "It's easy to spray on a schedule, but using IPM requires more thought. We won't use the pesticides on, say, an aphid infestation if we see that the beneficial insects are there," he explains. Furthermore, the arboretum relies principally on natural populations of beneficial insects rather than commercially purchased populations, and crude use of pesticides might actually kill off the existing beneficial populations. "Monitoring gives us reassurance. I think that people sometimes spray pesticides just for reassurance."

Contact: Scott Aker, Integrated Pest Management Specialist, U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC, 202-245-5975, email: saker@ars-grin.gov.

Smart Salting Program

Vermont Agency of Transportation[27]
Population: 588,978
Area: 9,249 square miles

Highlight: New salting technology saves millions of dollars and reduces salt use by almost 30 percent.

Mike Lawson of the Vermont Agency of Transportation supervises the agency's snow and ice removal efforts and developed the agency's Smart Salting program. In an attempt to make its efforts more efficient, the agency assessed how it applied salt to the state's highways. The warmer the roadbed, the less salt is needed to clear snow and ice. For example, 1 pound of salt will melt more than 46 pounds of ice or snow at 30° F, but fewer than 15 pounds at 25° F.

Normally, those applying salt to roads measure temperature using a standard outdoor thermometer held or suspended at chest or eye level. But the temperature of the roadbed is often several degrees warmer than the temperature of the air above it. If the sun is shining, pavement temperature will often rise to 20° F or higher even if the air temperature remains much lower. Application rates calculated from temperatures measured by wall-mounted thermometers can therefore exceed the amount actually necessary.

To avoid this problem, the agency installed, on a trial basis, infrared sensors on the bottoms of four snowplows used in the central part of the state. The infrared sensors measure the actual temperature of the roadway as the trucks pass over, allowing a more accurate calculation of the amount of salt needed.

The experiment was a great success. Lawson estimates that the agency was using 20 to 30 percent more salt than needed because of the inaccurate temperature readings. During the winter of 1993-94, the agency reduced its use of salt in the test area by 15 percent, which saved approximately $77,000. The four infrared sensors used in the test had cost $8,000, so the one-year return on the agency's investment was more than 850 percent. And more environmentally sensitive road-salting practices can help municipalities avoid other costs. The program has currently been expanded statewide, where the average reduction in salt usage is 28 percent, resulting in an approximate savings of $2.2 million. The village of Bow, New Hampshire, decided to reduce the quantity of salt applied to its roads after learning that treating 35 drinking-water wells contaminated by road salt would cost approximately $350,000.

While the program has received much recognition, including selection as a National Governors' Association "Success Story," some state officials are still critical. For example, the director of construction and maintenance pointed out that in 1997, the state used a record amount of salt despite Smart Salting. Lawson's response was that much more salt would have been applied using the old approach given the harsh winter. Overall, smart salting techniques can help keep local streams and groundwater clean, and can reduce municipal expenditures.

Contact: Mike Lawson, Special Assistant to the Secretary, Vermont Agency of Transportation, 802-828-3627, email: milan.lawson@state.vt.us.

Floatable Source and Control Study*

New York, New York[28]
Population: 8,546,846
Area: 1,148 square miles

Highlight: Catchbasin hoods prove to be a cost-effective way to remove three quarters of floatable garbage from street runoff.

One of the largest and most comprehensive beach litter and floatable control investigations and control efforts in the United States has been conducted by New York City. A basic premise that was stated is that one of the major issues of urban wet weather pollution is the control of floatable pollution. The comprehensive New York City program included investigations of the sources of the litter contributing to the floatable discharges (mostly street and sidewalk litter) and the effectiveness of numerous floatable control practices, including public education, enhanced street cleaning, catchbasin hoods, floatable capture nets, and booming and skimmer boats.

New York City used in-line net boxes installed below catchbasin inlets to capture the discharge of floatables for identification and quantification. Much of their work was directed at the capture efficiency of the floatable material in catchbasins.They found that it was critical that hoods (covers over the catchbasin outlets that extend below the standing water) be used in the catchbasins to help retain the captured material. Hoods increase the capture of the floatables by 70 to 85 percent. Unhooded catchbasins were found to discharge about 11 grams per 100 feet of curb length per day, while hooded catchbasins reduced this discharge to about 3.3 grams per 100 feet of curb length per day. They also found that the hoods greatly extended the cleaning interval, as well as the depth of accumulated litter that could be captured in the catchbasins without degraded capture performance.

There are about 130,000 stormwater inlet structures in New York City's 190,000 acres served by combined and separate sewers, or about 1.5 acres served by each inlet. They are surveying all of these inlet structures, replacing damaged or missing hoods, and accurately measuring their dimensions and indicating their exact locations for a citywide GIS system. Catchbasin cleaning costs are about $170 per inlet, while the inspection and mapping costs are about $45 per inlet; replacement hood costs are about $45 per inlet.

Litter surveys conducted by the New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) in 1984 and 1986 found that 70 percent of the street litter items consisted of food and beverage wrappers and containers (60 percent) and the paper and plastic bags (10 percent) used to carry these items. The early studies also found that litter levels on the streets and sidewalks were about 20 to 25 percent higher in the afternoon than in the morning. The DOS conducted similar surveys in 1993 at 90 blockfaces throughout the city. Each site was monitored several times simultaneously when the surveys were conducted with the floatable litter separated into 13 basic categories. They found that twice as much floatable litter was located on the sidewalks compared to the streets (especially glass), and that land use had little effect on the litter loadings (except in the special business districts where enhanced street cleaning/litter control was utilized, resulting in cleaner conditions). Their baseline monitoring program determined that 2.3 floatable litter items were discharged on average through the catchbasin inlets per day per 100 feet of curb. This amount was equivalent to about 6.2 square inches and 0.0134 pounds (8.5 grams) of material. The total litter load discharged was about twice this floatable amount. The table below summarizes the characteristics of the floatable litter found on the streets.

Material# of items (%)Weight of items (%)Density of items (lb/ft3)
Paper (coated/waxed)
Sensitive items1.70.4n/a
Source: Dr. Robert Pitt, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1999.

Contact: Frank Oliveri, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 718-595-4920.

* This case study was provided by Dr. Robert Pitt, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Pollution Prevention on the Road

Connecticut Department of Transportation[29]
Population: 3,269,858
Area: 4,845 square miles

Highlight: Redesigning salt storage facilities, improving salt handling practices, and reducing the amount of herbicides used in road maintenance reduces the potential for water pollution and saves money.

Connecticut Department of Transportation's (DOT) stormwater permit requires it to take several actions to prevent stormwater runoff pollution. When implementing this permit, the DOT requires each of its 150 facilities to develop and implement a stormwater pollution prevention plan. These plans include a number of "good housekeeping" BMPs and efforts to monitor stormwater outfalls for a variety of pollutants. In addition, Connecticut DOT has developed two related programs that are making a difference in terms of stormwater quality. While not specifically designed as stormwater programs, Connecticut DOT's salt storage facility overhauls and pesticide use reduction efforts both help to improve water quality by preventing pollution at the source.

The leaching and runoff of salt can have significant impacts on water quality. Nationwide, salt use on highways has increased by a factor of more than 12 between 1950 and 1980, according to a 1980 study by the Salt Institute. In the late 1980s, investigations found several municipal drinking water wells in Connecticut contaminated with salt above the action level for sodium. These investigations also revealed that Connecticut DOT salt storage piles were the source of the problem. As a result, the state had to supply affected communities with bottled water, and in many cases continues to do so. The problems stemmed from the common practice of storing salt outside, in unprotected piles, without containment. This enabled salt to be carried away in runoff or leach directly into aquifers.

While salt is likely to remain an important part of the state's road de-icing program, Connecticut DOT decided that better salt storage practices are one way to reduce the amount of salt contaminating water resources. DOT is planning to replace 89 of their 120 open salt storage facilities with sheds and has completed 63 to date. In the interim, DOT is also following a three-part salt storage strategy: 1) no outside deliveries are made; 2) an impervious layer is placed beneath the salt piles, to prevent salt from leaching into the groundwater; 3) any salt-area runoff goes through a gross particle separator. According to DOT representatives, this strategy has significantly reduced the amount of salt exposed to precipitation and inspired several good housekeeping practices such as sweeping out each facility after storm events and putting hay bales around sand piles. The state is also currently pilot-testing alternative de-icers: brines and a distillery by-product called Ice Ban.

During the time when Connecticut was doing its own salt storage facility re-design work, it was completing about 12 to 15 sheds per year. Now that it is being contacted out, only about two to three new sheds are being built per year, with costs averaging about $700,000 per shed. While this is a capital intensive endeavor, the benefits in terms of clean drinking water and eventually not needing bottled water are considered to be far greater than the costs.

Connecticut DOT believes this program is making strides in preventing further salt contamination of groundwater. "In most instances, salt levels in wells have greatly declined since the start of this program," says Connecticut DOT engineer Theresa Donahue. Although groundwater salt levels are clearly declining, the geographic extent of the problem remains. DOT expects that it will take a long time for the salt contamination to be completely cleaned up.

Connecticut DOT is also taking steps to reduce its use of pesticides and herbicides through landscaping with low-maintenance species. DOT environmental director Mike Lonergan observes that the agency is not alone in this approach, since most New England state DOTs use low amounts of herbicides. In Connecticut, this approach evolved for two reasons, the hiring of a landscape designer who uses low-maintenance plants in highway rights-of-way and median strips, and funding from the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Act ISTEA "Enhancements" program.

Given the vulnerability of Connecticut's groundwater to contamination, this pesticide use-reduction or elimination approach, like the salt shed replacement program, makes sense and is ultimately less costly than allowing pollution to occur and then worrying about -- and paying for -- cleanup[pa1].

Contact: Michael Lonergan, Manager, Division of Environmental Compliance, Connecticut Department of Transportation, 860-594-3336.

Additional Examples

Hopatcong Borough, New Jersey[30]
The county adopted an ordinance that forbids feeding of geese. This helps keep geese away and therefore reduces pathogen and nutrient loadings to lakes.

Contact: William O'Connor, Construction Code Official, Hopatcong Borough, NJ, 973-770-1200.

Howard County, Maryland[31]

The Howard County Parks and Recreation Department performed a study in 1983 that compared the maintenance costs of meadows versus turf grass along highway right-of-ways. They found that wildflower meadows were twenty times less expensive to maintain that conventional turf grass. The parks department has incorporating this strategy into new parks as they are developed. They are currently evaluating the benefits of warm season grasses and meadows over wildflower meadows, believing that they offer an even greater cost savings and while creating better wildlife habitat. Both strategies reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizer applied to county grounds.

Contact: Mark Rabb, Supervisor of Natural Resource and Land Management, Howard County Parks and Recreation Department, MD, 410-313-4730.

Residential Stormwater Monitoring Project, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, West Roxbury and Brookline, Massachusetts[32]
In 1997, the Commission implemented this monitoring project to characterize the seasonal variation in stormwater quality from low-density residential areas. The Commission monitored several sites up to five storms per season for one year. The study found that bacterial levels exceeded standards during warm weather events. During winter months, high concentrations of deicing agents were found, including cyanide at levels exceeding acute toxicity thresholds. The Commission recommended minimizing application of deicing chemicals and raising awareness about the impacts of pet waste on water quality.

Contact: John P. Sullivan, Chief Engineer, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, MA, 617-989-7000.


1. Gumb, D., New York City Department of Environmental Protection, personal communication, October 9, 1996; New York City Department of Environmental Protection flyers; American Rivers, Lessons Learned: A Casebook for Successful Urban River Projects (Washington, 1997), pp. 71-75; Illick, K., New York City Department of Environmental Protection, personal communication, January 22, 1999.

2. Shaver, E., Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, field trip presentation, May 7, 1997.

3. Wiegand, C., Montgomery County, Maryland, interview and field visit, April 30, 1997; Barnes, G., President, Glen Preservation Foundation, personal communication, January 13, 1998; Galli, J. et al, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments "Upper Sligo Creek: An Integrated Approach to Urban Stream Restoration," Watershed 1996 Proceedings, 1996.

4. Faber, S., On Borrowed Land: Public Policies for Floodplains, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 1996, pp. 18-19; Thibodeau F. R. and B. D. Ostro, "An Economic Analysis of Wetland Protection," Journal of Environmental Management, 1981, 12:19-30; Hebert D., Park Manager, West Hill Dam, personal communication, January 8, 1999; Marinelli, P., Water Control Brach, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, personal communication, January 12, 1999.

5. Terrene Institute, "Nonpoint Source News-Notes," no. 53, September/October 1998.

6. Buzzards Bay Project, Buttermilk Bay Comprehensive Stormwater Remediation Project Web site, June 1997, http:www.capecod.net/ ~menviron/buttfact.htm.

7. Buzzards Bay Project, Spragues Cove Stormwater Remediation Project Web site, April 1998. http:www. capecod.net/~menviron/sprafact.htm.

8. Snarsky, R., New England Environmental Services, personal communication, March 24, 1997.

9. Cahill Associates materials.

10. Horsley, S., "Technical Note 67: The Stormtreat System -- A New Technology for Treating Stormwater Runoff," Watershed Protection Techniques. vol. 2, no. 1, Fall 1995., pp. 304-306; Allard, L. et al. "The StormTreat System Used as a Storm Water Best Management Practice," Watershed '1996 Conference Proceedings., pp. 463-465.

11. Casco Bay Estuary Project, BMPs: Cost Effective Solutions to Protect Maine's Water Quality, July 1995, pp. 8-9; 210-220.

12. Cahill Associates materials.

13. Arnold, C., NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials), University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Services, personal communication, October 26, 1998; Arnold, C. L., H. L. Nelson, and J. Barrett, 1996; "The Tidelands Watershed Projects: Using Computerized Natural Resource Information to Promote Watershed-Based Decision-Making at the Local Level," Watershed 1996 Proceedings; "NEMO- Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials" (an informational brochure), University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Service, Haddam, Connecticut; NEMO home page: http://www.canr.uconn.edu/ces/nemo.html; Sheridan, T., First Selectman, Waterford, Connecticut, personal communication, October 30, 1998; Wagner, T., Town Planner, Waterford, Connecticut, personal communication, October 29, 1998.

14. Coffman, L., Associate Director, Programs and Planning Division, Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources, interview and field tour, May 7, 1997; Winogradoff, D., Prince George's County, personal communication, July 8, 1997 and November 13, 1998; "Low-Impact Development," handbook by Prince George's County (undated; Kaufman, B., Michael T. Rose company, personal communication November 13, 1998; Bell, W. "Appropriate BMP Technologies for Ultra-Urban Applications," paper presented to the 1998 Virginia Engineers' Conference, Table 8, "Removal Efficiencies from University of Maryland Bioretention Study," 1998. Bell, W., City Engineer, City of Alexandria, Virginia. A. P. Davis et al. "Optimization of Bioretention Design for Water Quality and Hydraulic Characteristics." Final Report, University of Maryland, June 1998; Davis, A. P. et al, Optimization of Bioretention Design for Water Quality and Hydraulic Characteristics. Final Report, University of Maryland, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, June 1998.

15. Butler E., Delaware Nature Society, personal communication, April 7 and August 4, 1998; Butler, E. newsletter article, "Soil Watch," undated (Delaware Nature Society).

16. Tourbier, J. T. and R. Westmacott., Lakes and Ponds, 2nd edition., The Urban Land Institute, pp. 96-97.

17. American Rivers, 1997 Urban Hometown River Awards factsheet, 1997.

18. Terrene Institute, Nonpoint Source News-Notes, no. 45, 1997.

19. Great Lakes Commission, Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control 1996 Annual Report, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1998.

20. Piorko, F., Environmental Program Manager, Sediment and Stormwater Program, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, personal communication, August 13, 1998. Butler, E., Director, Soil Watch Program, Delaware Nature Society, personal communications, April 7, and August 4, 1998; DNREC "The State of Delaware Sediment Control and Stormwater Management Program" overview paper undated; Shaver, E., Environmental Engineer, and Piorko, F., Program Manager, DNREC: "Education in Delaware's Soil and Water Management Program" undated paper; Delaware Sediment and Stormwater Regulations, DNREC, March, 1993; Center for Watershed Protection, Watershed Protection Techniques, February 1997, Technical Note no. 85; Haggerty, G., Land Use Administrator, New Castle County, Delaware, personal communication, February 22, 1999.

21. Terrene Institute, "Nonpoint Source News-Notes," no. 53, September/October 1998.

22. Walsh-Rogalski, B., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency personal communication, January 1998; DeVillars, J., Region 1 Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, personal communication, December 16, 1997. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Charles River 2005 Initiative materials (undated); Baskin, K. Charles River Watershed Association Project Director, personal communication, October, 1998; Streamer, CRWA newsletter, vol. 29 no. 3, Summer 1998; CRWA Web site, www.crwa.org.

23. "An Innovative Partnership for Shellfish Restoration," Coastlines, Winter 1997, http://www.epa. gov/OWOW/estuaries/coastlines/winter97/shellfi.html.

24. Brosnan, T. M. and P. C. Heckler, "The Benefits of CSO Control: New York City Adopts Nine Minimum Controls in the Harbor," Water Environment & Technology, vol. 8, no. 8, p 75-79, 1996; O'Shea, M. L. and T. M. Brosnan, 1995 New York Harbor Water Quality Survey: Executive Summary, City of New York Department of Environmental Protection, NPDES Permit Application for Discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, part I, vol. 2, section 5, pp. 13-29, November 18, 1991; City of New York Department of Environmental Protection, NPDES Permit Application for Discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, part II, pp. V-5, VI-5, November 16, 1992; Heckler, P. C., Bureau of Wastewater Pollution Control, City of New York Department of Environmental Protection, personal communication, January 8, 1998.

25. Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Stormwater Management Program factsheet, June 1998.

26. Aker, S., U.S. National Arboretum, personal communication, January 13, 1998; "Feds Agree on Strategy to Reduce NPS News-Notes from Federal Lands in the District of Columbia," NPS News-Notes, no. 45, June-July 1996.

27. "Road Salt: Vermont's Highways Get Less of a Good Thing," NPS News-Notes, no. 39, January- February 1995; Milan, W. Lawson, Smart Salting: A Winter Maintenance Strategy (Montpelier: Vermont Agency of Transportation, 1995); "State Lines: New Hampshire," Greenwire, November 18, 1997.

28. Pitt, R., Stormwater Quality Management. CRC Press, forthcoming.

29. Lonergan, M., Connecticut DOT, personal communication October 30, 1998; Korb, J., Connecticut DOT, personal communication, October 30 1998; Donahue, T., Connecticut DOT, personal communication, November 10, 1998; Salt Institute, 1980. Survey of Salt, Calcium Chloride and Abrasive Use in the United States and Canada. Alexandria, Virginia: Salt Institute. Cited in: American Water Works Association Research Foundation (1991) Effective Watershed Management for Surface Water Supplies. pp. 16-17; 166.

30. Terrene Institute, Nonpoint Source News-Notes.

31. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Source of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters, 840-B-92-002, January 1993, pp. 4-72.

32. Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Stormwater Management Program fact sheet, June 1998.

All Tags [ View Popular Tags ]:
bottled water
bush administration
children's health
clean water
Clean Water Act
clean water rule
cliamte change
climate change
coal-fired power plants
commercial real estate
conservation and restoration
crop insurance
crop loss
drinking water
energy efficiency
extreme weather
federal crop insurance
fish & fishing
global warming
global warming and health
green infrastructure
green stormwater infrastructure
habitat loss
health effects of pollution
heat waves
hog farms
hydraulic fractring
hydraulic fracturing
livestock farms
low impact development
natural gas
oil shale development
oil shale development in colorado river basin
oil shale impact on water
oil spills
pig farms
polluted runoff
power plants
Rocky Mountains
safe drinking water
safe drinking water pollution
san joaquin
sewage water pollution
stormwater capture
stormwater runoff
United Nations
volumetric pricing
water conservation
water efficiency
water infrastructure
water management
water pollution
Water Pollution
water preparedness
water readiness
water supplies
water supply
water sustainability
water system
water waste
western water
western waters

Get Updates and Alerts

See the latest issue >

Water on Switchboard

NRDC experts write about water efficiency, green infrastructure and climate on the NRDC blog.

Recent Water Posts

Save Our Arctic and Atlantic Waters Now
posted by Rhea Suh, 2/4/16
Soil Should Be the Foundation of Food, Water, and Energy Policy
posted by Lara Bryant, 2/1/16
New Guidelines Will Help Make Water Infrastructure Projects More Resilient
posted by Ben Chou, 1/27/16
Give the Gift That Will Make a Difference: A Long Cool Drink

NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.

Donate now >

Share | |