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West Carthage updated on municipal storm sewer regulations

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WEST CARTHAGE — Engineers told the village Board of Trustees and Planning Board how municipal separate storm sewer system regulations will affect the region during a joint meeting.

The designation of the greater Watertown area as an urbanized area by the U.S. Census puts the communities included in the area under the more strict storm-sewer regulations. Eight of the nine communities in the area — the villages of Dexter, Brownville, Black River, West Carthage and Carthage and towns of Watertown, Rutland and LeRay — have formed a consortium, the Jefferson County Cooperative Stormwater Group, to jointly address the requirements. The city of Watertown elected to proceed on its own.

Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, was hired by the members of the consortium to help them comply with the new requirements.

“MS4 does not solely refer to municipally owned storm sewer systems. It can include state Department of Transportation, universities, local sewer districts, hospitals, military bases and prisons,” Executive Vice President Mickey G. Lehman said at the meeting last week.

Over the next three years, the affected municipalities must adopt local laws or regulations to govern construction and post-construction stormwater runoff, and put in place ways to implement the local laws.

The first requirement for each municipality is to file a notice of intent outlining how it would go about conforming to the new regulations. Village Mayor Scott M. Burto said wherever possible, the village committed only to the minimum requirements on its notice of intent, although that does not preclude it exceeding those standards.

There are six minimum control measures to which the municipalities must conform, starting with public education to inform the public how polluted stormwater runoff can affect water quality, encouraging public participation with public hearings and urging citizens to join stormwater management panels.

The village also must implement plans to detect and eliminate improper discharges into the sewer system.

In the past, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has overseen construction-site runoff control, but under the new measures, that responsibility is assumed by the municipality. Any construction activity that disturbs one or more acres of land must be monitored.

Towns and villages also must have post-construction runoff control, which could include measures such as grassed swales or porous pavement to reduce the impact of storm water.

The municipalities also will have to train staff on pollution prevention measures and techniques that will affect runoff, such as street sweeping, use of pesticides and street salt and cleaning of catch-basins.

The engineering firm has designed a three-page stormwater-management-plan task matrix for the Jefferson County Cooperative Stormwater Group that outlines what steps need to be taken, when tasks need to be completed and who can assist. The consortium will receive assistance and guidance from the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Tug Hill Commission.

Next up on the list is to “establish a memorandum of understanding for development of stormwater-management plans with cooperating partners” and to begin developing “outfall mapping.”

“We wanted you to hear this first hand,” Mayor Burto said. “This is not coming from the board but is another unfunded mandate being pushed on us and will be in place for the next 10 years at least, depending on the census.”

Kathleen M. Amyot, circuit rider for Tug Hill Commission, said it was “highly unlikely” the village would ever be able to opt out of the program. However, she said, some of the requirements were things the village and other municipalities are doing already, but now they must document the actions.

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