|Local governments in the metro Atlanta area are required to manage stormwater under the Federal Clean Water Act's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). In 1972, the federal Clean Water Act strengthened water quality standards and established the NPDES as a way to control discharges of pollution into waters of the United States.
What is the MS4 NPDES Stormwater Discharge Permit?
The Clean Water Act of 1972 originally established the NPDES permit system to control wastewater discharges from various industries and wastewater treatment plants known as "point sources." The Water Quality Act of 1987 amended the NPDES permit system to address nonpoint source pollution. This type of pollution occurs when pollutants such as bacteria, sediment, oil and grease, heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers and trash from roadways, parking lots, yards, farms, and other areas is exposed to rainfall and washes into our rivers and streams. The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) discharge permit establishes guidelines for local governments to minimize pollutants in stormwater runoff to the "maximum extent practicable."
When did the permit become effective and who is regulated by the permit?
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued the initial Phase I permit in 1994 which covered local jurisdictions in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett Counties. The program was expanded with the Phase II permit in 2002 which brought in additional communities within the urbanized greater Atlanta metropolitan area.
What does the permit require?
The permit requires municipalities to identify where the storm sewer system discharges to rivers and streams and to develop a comprehensive local stormwater management program (SWMP) to reduce pollutants entering the public storm sewer system.
What are the local governments doing to meet these requirements?
Metro area communities are implementing several program elements required by the MS4 NPDES stormwater discharge permit including:
- Development of a comprehensive stormwater infrastructure inventory.
- Regular maintenance of stormwater infrastructure and public rights of way (including street sweeping, litter collection and storm drain catch basins).
- Comprehensive soil erosion and sedimentation control efforts.
- Local regulations prohibiting non-stormwater discharges to the municipal separate storm sewer system.
- Identification and removal of unauthorized connections to the municipal separate storm sewer system.
- Land development requirements to ensure that post-development stormwater quality is addressed on all new development and redevelopment projects.
- Pollution prevention and good housekeeping programs for locally-owned and operated facilities.
- Periodic screening and water quality monitoring of samples from the storm sewer system and local streams.
- Public education and outreach efforts to inform citizens about stormwater quality through utility bill inserts, educational events and fairs, and curriculums for schools.
- Funding and participation with the Clean Water Campaign.
Did You Know?
The U.S. EPA now estimates that over 80 percent of the water quality problems in the U.S. are due to nonpoint source pollution.