Tracking Runoff

Blizzards and frigid winds have people at home.  An indoors way to ease cabin fever tedium can be to identify where the deep snows will be going as warmer weather returns.

When snows melt and rains fall, street drains dump dirty runoff into nearby streams with no treatment.  Pollutants accumulate to form sediment bars in slow sections of streams, which can increase flooding and property damages during big storms.  Thousands of tons of sediment also pile up in water bodies, spurring weeds and toxic algae blooms that spoil swimming, fishing, boating and other recreation uses.

A main aim of federal and state stormwater regulations is to disconnect streets from streams.  Proposed EPA stormwater (MS4) permits will require towns to identify “Directly Connected Impervious Area” and track changes in DCIA.  Proposed rules also require permittees to report pollutant reductions attained through stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs).

EPA Watershed IC mapEPA New England’s website has community maps and statistics showing DCIA, which can be downloaded at .  The DCIA maps and statistics can help identify the sources of runoff that harm specific streams and lakes.  Communities can also use DCIA data to:

  • Estimate pounds of pollutants dumped into local waters each year
  • Choose the best places and types of BMPs to capture polluted runoff

DCIA analysis can target runoff remedies to realize more clean water for less cost.  Street drainage areas that are not connected to local waters can be lower priorities, allowing attention to focus on storm drain systems with greater impacts.  For more details about tracking runoff and stormwater site selection, email:


Catch Basins Cleaning

Curb inlets or grates let road runoff go into catch basins that connect to drain pipes. People seldom realize the pipes don’t go to wastewater plants, and the dirty runoff is dumped directly into local waters that we enjoy for swimming and fishing.

Capture2A quarter of the dirt and debris in road runoff stays in the catch basin sump, which traps up to several hundred pounds of sediment a year. The city or town cleans thousands of catch basins and removes tons of pollutants that would harm brooks and ponds. Catch basin cleaning also prevents clogging that can flood streets and be a nuisance to people and businesses.

Local residents and businesses can help keep catch basins working well. While cleaning the sidewalk or driveway, put waste in trash bins rather than sweeping or washing into the street. And as everyone should know, it is wrong to put motor oil or pet waste into catch basins.

If leaves and natural debris are blocking a catch basin, removing and composting these materials is helpful. During the winter months, clearing away snow or ice from catch basin inlets will lessen street flooding.

Learn about Stormwater Utilities

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStormwater utilities can be an effective means to prevent and manage polluted runoff. The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission will provide a storm-water utility workshop on March 25 in Chelmsford, MA.  The agenda for the workshop can be viewed at  and the NEIWPCC asks people to register by March 3.

NEIWPCC reports that over 800 municipalities nationwide have these utilities to help pay for stormwater management costs. These costs can include structural practices to reduce polluted runoff, as well as equipment for maintenance of storm drainage systems. In New England, there are less than a dozen stormwater utilities, and the March 25 workshop will offer expert guidance for establishing a stormwater utility.

The workshop includes sessions about utility development, decision-making tools, and lessons learned from recent stormwater utilities. It will also provide a forum for information sharing on the development and implementation of stormwater utilities in the Northeast region.