EPA's new stormwater requirements to compound Pittsfield water system costs

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PITTSFIELD — New stormwater permit requirements by the Environmental Protection Agency will cost the city an additional $110,000.

Aimed at reducing pollutants entering waterways from municipal drainage systems, the guidelines announced by the EPA last week will require municipalities across the state to evaluate all point sources of stormwater entering public waterways, launch a program to identify sources of contamination and hatch a remedy.

"Full compliance with this new stormwater permit will require additional oversight and fiscal resources beyond currently assigned," Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said Friday.

The new requirements, in the works for over a decade, are coming down the pipeline at the same time the city readies to break ground on a $74 million EPA-mandated upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant, which will cause sewer bills to triple over the next few years. In addition, the city is facing some $69 million in phased improvements to the city's drinking water system.

Alexandra Dunn, administrator of EPA's New England six-state region, said the agency kept cost at the forefront of the decision. She said the new guidelines are about implementing best practices for stormwater systems.

"It's important to note that costs will vary significantly among communities, but we don't anticipate them being much higher than the estimates," she told The Eagle. "We do try to be flexible; we do try to look at cost, and there's a lot of flexibility built into this permit."

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The permit takes effect July 1, and the city will have 90 days to notify the agency of its intent to comply. Turocy said he likely won't need additional funds for the coming fiscal year, but will need more in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 in order to comply.

Dunn said the goal is to get communities systematically addressing stormwater pollution by looking at proper trash collection and containment, street sweeping, addressing vehicle runoff, road salt, and cleaning catch basins.

"Those are the kinds of practices we're looking at," she said. "I would imagine that most communities are doing these things already."

She said she knows some in Pittsfield are feeling overwhelmed, but "achieving clean water goals requires a lot of tools in the toolbox."

"And then of course we're separately working with (General Electric) on the legacy contamination in the river," she said. "To get the Housatonic to where we want it to be — where we all would want it to be — is taking a multi-layered approach."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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