Environmentalists say the vague language of the EPA’s current regulations leaves room for developers and governments to interpret how to reduce stormwater to the “maximum extent practicable.” The agency argues that there isn’t as much wiggle room as detractors may surmise.
“I consider that a high bar,” said the EPA's Bosma. “It’s not just that you can do something satisfactorily…The ultimate goal is compliance with water quality standards.”
But Beckman of the NRDC said "one of the big failings" of the stormwater program "is it’s been much more focused on effort than it has been on result."
A panel of the National Research Council agreed in its 2008 report. ”The Clean Water Act regulatory framework for addressing sewage and industrial wastes is not well suited to the more difficult problem of stormwater discharges,” the report says.
The report was a wakeup call that the EPA says it intends to heed. “They felt we needed to do a lot more to strengthen the federal stormwater program and we agreed with this and we viewed this as an opportunity to do that,” Bosma said.
“We have not really provided a lot of regulatory direction to states, and so stormwater programs vary all over the country,” Bosma said.
Several states, including Wisconsin, California and Florida, have already set stormwater standards. Wisconsin was one of the early adopters, but it didn’t come easily. The state is in the process of amending its stormwater rules, and Bannerman expects to see more resistance, but more support as well.
“Selling clean water is hard,” Bannerman said. “We still get a lot of grief, but at least we’ve gotten some traction in coming up with solutions.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.