Improved Stormwater Bylaw Will Protect Milton’s Waterways

June 2020 -- Milton Town Meeting members overwhelmingly approve an update to the town's Stormwater Management Bylaw.

The bylaw is part of a national program administered by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and aims to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff. The updates were necessary to comply with the EPA’s most recent permit which became effective in 2018.

Stormwater is rain or snowmelt which flows over hard surfaces and enters local water bodies, like Pine Tree Brook and Unquity Brook. The runoff enters these water bodies either directly over land or through street catch basins. These pollutants eventually flow to the Neponset River, Dorchester Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Unlike wastewater (through flushed toilets, for example), stormwater is not treated before it enters these waterways. It flows over roofs, lawns, and paved surfaces like driveways and streets, picking up pollutants such as sediment, pet waste, oil, salt, fertilizer, and pesticide residue on its way to local waterways, contributing to reduced health of these bodies of water.

While Milton has implemented appropriate stormwater controls, the EPA’s 2018 stormwater permit for municipalities requires Milton and neighboring communities to comply with more stringent requirements than the previous (2003) permit. Fortunately, Milton is already doing much of what the new permit requires. The proposed update simply codifies these activities to bring Milton into compliance with the most recent permit.

The key changes include:

  • Defining additional terms to be clearer to citizens, developers and town officials alike, as well as to be consistent with both the federal permit and state regulations;
  • Providing a framework for the Board of Selectmen to issue more detailed regulation and guidance for activities that may contribute to stormwater pollution. Moving these details, such as instructions for filing applications and required information for review, out of the bylaw itself and into regulations allows the Board of Selectmen to readily address unforeseen issues that may arise as well as future directives or updated guidance from the EPA and MassDEP;
  • Clarifying the enforcement authority of the Town under the bylaw, including the authority to enter property to inspect projects, close access to the stormwater system if there is a discharge of pollutants, and require violators to remediate the violation and/or pay a fine; and
  • Clarifying the activities subject to the bylaw pursuant to the federal permit (“Land Disturbing Activities” of certain sizes).

Residents will be unaffected by the changes unless they are undertaking large excavation or construction projects on their property.

Just like the current bylaw, the changes are aimed at making sure construction projects manage stormwater runoff appropriately. They also ensure unauthorized discharges of pollutants to the stormwater system are fixed.

Simply put, the changes allow the Town to update its stormwater management techniques and comply with the new federal permit (and avoid penalties imposed by the EPA). The overall goal is to make sure our local water bodies remain healthy for wildlife and human activities.

–Kerry Snyder, NepRWA Advocacy Director, June 16, 2020

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