On Stormwater, Twelve Heads Are Better Than One

By Ian Cooke, Executive Director

A new Regional Stormwater project will bring together 12 of the 14 communities that make up the Neponset River Watershed to combat the largest remaining water pollution threat facing the Neponset: polluted stormwater runoff from roadways and parking lots.

The communities participating in this innovative regional effort include Boston, Canton, Dedham, Foxborough, Milton, Medfield, Norwood, Randolph, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, and Westwood.

Polluted stormwater enters a catchbasin on its way to Ponkapoag Brook

Polluted stormwater runnoff enters a catchbasin on its way to Ponkapoag Brook

The project was organized on behalf of the communities by the Neponset River Watershed Association and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). The project will kick off in March and run through 2014. It is being funded by a state grant from the Community Innovation Challenge Grant Program which focuses on encouraging communities to work together across town lines to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of municipal services. State funds are being supplemented with a small matching contribution from each community. Funding for the extensive groundwork, coordination, and grant-writing required to get the project launched came from the MAPC and the Watershed Association’s individual and corporate donors.

The Need for Stormwater Collaboration

All of the participating communities face new, and much more stringent requirements to reduce the impact of polluted runoff on local waterways and wetlands. The new rules are expected from the United States Environmental Protection Agency over the next year.

The project will give communities a jump on the new requirements by undertaking a variety of required planning and implementation steps. Some of the tasks include developing public education materials that can be used by all the communities, mapping and classifying stormwater outfall pipes to determine what kinds of water testing and repairs will be required, evaluating local rules and bylaws that affect stormwater pollution, and conducting pilot projects in two communities to consider options for how to finance required upgrades.

Because all the participating communities are facing the same requirements, there is a tremendous economy of scale in working together on a regional basis, for example developing one set of outreach and education materials rather than twelve sets. This economy of scale has the potential not only to reduce costs for the municipalities, but also to increase the quality and effectiveness of their efforts, benefiting both taxpayers, and residents who appreciate clean drinking water, local outdoor recreation, and fish and wildlife habitats.

For more information about this project, contact Ian Cooke, Executive Director of the Neponset River Watershed Association at cooke@neponset.org, or Martin Pillsbury, Environmental Planning Director for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council at mpillsbury@mapc.com.

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