Weaverville – At last month’s Weaverville Town Council meeting, the board heard just how much work there is to become compliant with the MS4 Stormwater Compliance Program.
Weaverville Town Attorney Jennifer Jackson told the council, “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come down pretty hard on the state…in order to make sure they are doing what they’re supposed to do in order to be fully compliant with the Clean Water Act which is trickling down to the local jurisdictions.” She explained at the state level, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are issued by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to local water jurisdictions.
She went on to explain that an audit of the town’s efforts to comply has fallen short. “A lot of jurisdictions do not understand what that permit entails…Many jurisdictions are failing to fully comply.”
Explaining the depths of non-compliant, Jackson said out of the 46 audits conducted by the state so far, only two local government jurisdictions were compliant.
Now the state has given these jurisdictions (Weaverville being one) a limited amount of time to rectify the non-compliance, starting with a complete stormwater management plan, which is due in about 90 days. “So that will be happening fairly quickly by staff, and I’m going to take the lead…on that project,” she added.
So, where is Weaverville falling short?
Weaverville Councilman Patrick Fitzsimmons said he’d read the three-page letter and “…quite frankly, it was hard to understand. So where are we deficient…the stormwater management plan?”
“So there was a misunderstanding,” explained Jackson, “we had been under the impression that our delegation of construction-related stormwater permits to the county was all we needed to do.” However, “There are other programs that we need to put in place: some education, some testing,” Jackson said, “A really good example that you might think about is if a church does a car wash to raise money or our fire department washing trucks. Where does that soapy water go? And if the water is not being fully captured by MSD sewer system, then it’s going into a stormwater system and ultimately into Gil Branch or Reems Creek and into the water system.”
Jackson admitted, “There was a whole another big portion of the permit that we were completely unaware we need to pay attention to and talking with other jurisdictions, everybody is coming in the same boat.”
Weaverville Town Councilman Andrew Nagle pointed out that the fine for not complying was $25,000 per day. Asked if he was reading that correctly, Jackson said, “yes.”
Time for action
First, the council had to indicate to NCDEQ and the EPA their intent to comply with the program. Next, the town has to develop a draft stormwater management plan to comply with the Clean Water Act, and NPDES MS4 permit “…requirements, and to submit its draft stormwater management plan to the NCDEQ no later than 120 days from November 16, 2020, for review and approval.”
“So what we have to do is send in a draft stormwater management plan and that…plan is really going to be like a transmission plan…so with things we need to be accountable over the next five years, so that in five years when our permit needs to be renewed, they can look back and say, ‘Yes you checked off all the boxes you were supposed to check off, now what do we need to do in the next five years.’”
Jackson said that she expects the town to comply by the end of the five years.
According to Town Manager Selena Coffey, said the cost, if turned over to an engineering company, could be as much as $30,000. Jackson asked the council to pass a resolution stating that they planned to become compliant and asked for $5,000 for engineering fees associated with the project. The council approved the item to get the process started toward compliance.