What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is precipitation (rain or snow) that travels across roofs, driveways, roads, parking lots and even lawns. Stormwater can pick up oil, litter, sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, nutrients, and pathogens as it moves across impermeable and semi-impermeable surfaces; resulting in polluted runoff. Eventually this runoff makes its way into our lakes, rivers, streams and estuaries, and since it is often contaminated with pollutants, is one of the major contributors to water pollution in the United States, and of special concern to waters such as the Long Island Sound and the South Shore Estuary Reserve which surround the Town of Brookhaven. Polluted stormwater runoff, also known as non-point source pollution, often results in shellfish bed closures, restricted bathing beach access, poor water quality, declining shoreline aesthetics, reduced navigability, impaired recreational opportunities, and degraded wetlands and wildlife habitats.
The Clean Water Act
In 1972, the Federal Clean Water Act was adopted to improve the quality of our Nation’s waters. The Act sought to accomplish this by minimizing and eliminating what are commonly referred to as “point sources” of pollution, sources of pollution that originate from a pipe or other specific points of discharge. Though there were significant improvements in water quality since the inception of this Act, water pollution remained a problem in our local waterways. The Clean Water Act was subsequently amended to address non-point sources of pollution, and beginning in 1990, any municipality with a population greater than 100,000 was required to implement programs and practices targeted at reducing non-point sources of pollution. This was referred to as Phase I. In 2003 Phase II was implemented which required all municipalities, including the Town of Brookhaven, to implement programs and practices which combat non-point source pollution.
The goal of the Phase II program is to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff thereby improving water quality, enhancing recreational enjoyment of our waterways, preventing beach closures, and ensuring that seafood is safe for human consumption. In New York, the Phase II program requires all regulated municipalities to maintain a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for the discharge of stormwater runoff into their surface waters. This permit is commonly referred to as the SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) General Permit. As a condition of this permit, regulated municipalities must develop and implement a comprehensive stormwater management program that includes mandated programs and practices in the following six categories:
- Public education and outreach on stormwater impacts
- Public involvement / participation
- Illicit discharge detection and elimination
- Construction site stormwater runoff control
- Post-construction stormwater management in new development / redevelopment
- Pollution prevention / good housekeeping for municipal operations
What the Town of Brookhaven is doing to combat polluted stormwater runoff
- In 2008, the Town of Brookhaven Town Board Adopted Chapter 86 of the Town Code: Stormwater Management and Erosion Control and Chapter 86A: Prohibition of Illicit Discharges and Connections to the Town of Brookhaven Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System
- The Town continues to explore the development and implementation of Watershed Management Plans for every watershed region in the Town of Brookhaven.
- The Town is continuously updating and refining the mapping of Town stormwater infrastructure, including catch basins and outfalls to surface water.
- The Highway Department has installed and continues to install numerous retrofit projects throughout the Town to intercept stormwater and prevent it from discharging to surface water.
- The Town continues to offer public education programs and programs for school-aged children on non-point source pollution through literature and environmental education offerings.
Annual Stormwater Report & Public Input
The Town of Brookhaven is continuing to make great strides towards implementing its Stormwater Management Program and improving the stormwater infrastructure within the town. One of the requirements of the Town’s SPDES General Permit is the annual reporting of programs and accomplishments designed to address non-point source pollution. The Annual Stormwater Report, which has a reporting period ending March 9th annually, describes actions and activities undertaken by the Town to combat polluted stormwater runoff. The public has an opportunity to review and comment on the draft report every May, prior to filing the final report with NYSDEC. All prior year’s Annual Stormwater Reports are available for review on this site as a pdf.
What you can do to minimize your contribution to polluted stormwater runoff
- Don’t dump oil or other household chemicals down your household drains and street storm drains
- Pick up after your pet
- Keep your car well maintained and leak-free
- Landscape with plants native to our region thereby minimizing your need for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
- Mulch leaves and lawn clippings
- Take advantage of your home refuse and create a compost pile for your garden
- Install permeable substrate, such as pavers or gravel, in your driveway and along walkways
- Redirect your roof runoff into dry wells or rain gardens
- Keep the storm drains in front of your house or business free of debris
Looking for a community project for your group or event? Consider some of the activities below. For more information, contact the Town’s Stormwater Management Program Office.
Storm Drain Marking –
Storm drains are not waste drains! Storm drain marking is an excellent way to educate your fellow neighbors on the connections between our neighborhoods and surface waters. The Town will provide your group with a map and a series of storm drain medallions to adhere to select drains in your neighborhood with a direct connection to surface water. This is an excellent community service project for scout groups or environmental clubs.
Pooch Bag Distribution –
Pet waste is a significant contributor to water pollution. Encourage your neighborhood dog walkers to clean up after their pets by offering them tools to make the job easier. The Town will provide your group with a box of pooch bags and brochures for distribution at your community event or community center. This is an excellent community awareness project for civic groups or other community organizers.