Tough stormwater standards could arrive by 2012
February 22, 2010

According to Scientific American magazine, the EPA is planning to enact tough new regulations for stormwater management in two years, as part of an effort to reduce the amount of pollution being carried into the nation's rivers and streams due to urban runoff. Urban areas include a lot of concrete and building roofs -- impervious surfaces that prevent the ground from naturally absorbing rainfall. This effect explains why communities like Omaha and Des Moines are being ordered to separate their stormwater sewers from their sanitary sewers; the excess flows created by stormwater that gets channeled into sewer systems are so great that they overwhelm the capacity of municipal wastewater treatment plants to treat all of the incoming water. But stormwater tends to carry unique pollutants into the natural environment, like metals and petroleum products. These contaminants often require different treatment approaches than ordinary domestic wastewater. Moreover, in the Upper Midwest, stormwater runoff is an even more significant issue when it carries off excess nutrients from agricultural lands, which are often fertilized with treated swine and cattle manure. How that manure is managed has become a matter of hotly-contested debate between farmers and regulators, not to mention the municipalities and rural water systems that become involved in the water cycle as well.

February 2010
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last revised February 2010