Creating Its Own Identity

May 29, 2018
Despite complex issues, storm water may be well on its way to establishing itself as a commodity

Andy Reese, vice president of AMEC Earth & Environmental, has been involved with municipal storm water for the past 23 years. Co-author of the best-selling textbook Municipal Storm Water Management, Reese is scheduled to speak at the StormCon 2005 Conference & Exposition, July 18-21, in Orlando, Fla. Prior to the event, Reese took time out of his busy schedule to discuss storm water-related issues with Storm Water 2005.

SW05: What are some of the current major issues involving storm water? Andrew Reese: Every developed parcel of land has three water systems that normally serve it: water, wastewater and storm water. Except storm water is only now gaining ascendancy as one of the “big three” public water-related utilities. Storm water is more complex in some ways. Unlike those two systems, you try to treat storm water pollution as close to the source as possible. Also, for storm water there is always a possibility of a larger flood.

Given that, storm water has similar issues: flooding, aging infrastructure, pollution, erosion and sediment problems, development pressures and funding for maintenance.

Like those other two, the consideration of storm water as a public system leads naturally to the development of a user-fee system to pay for it. User fees, normally in the range of $2 to $7 per month for a single-family house and multiples of that for non-single-family properties, are becoming increasingly popular.

SW05: What are some of the common contaminants in storm water? How can these contaminants be eliminated?

Reese: Storm water runoff quality has been characterized through the results of numerous studies. The National Urban Runoff Program (NURP) was an EPA-sponsored program from 1978 to 1983 and laid the foundation upon which most other monitoring and sampling studies are based.

  • Heavy metals are the most prevalent priority pollutant in urban runoff;
  • Organic pollutants were detected less frequently than heavy metals and at lower concentrations. Sixty-three of a possible 106 organics were detected;
  • Coliform bacteria are present at high levels and can be expected to exceed EPA water-quality criteria during and immediately after storm events;
  • Nutrients are present in moderate quantities in almost all samples;
  • Oxygen-demanding substances are present in concentrations equivalent to secondarily treated effluent from POTWs, although no NURP site specifically attributed low DO to urban runoff; and
  • Total suspended solids in runoff is high compared with treated effluent. While total suspended solids (TSS) has no EPA water quality standard, TSS is a carrier of adsorbed toxics and other pollutants and may cause sedimentation or other physical stream problems.

The prevention of storm water pollutants from mixing with runoff is an exercise in “source control.”

There are two basic kinds of storm water pollution: the kind that is just washed off when it rains and non-storm water which is dumped into storm water or is connected to the storm water system purposely or accidentally. The first line of defense for both is public education about problems such as backyard oil changing.

Beyond public education and involvement there is a suite of post-construction controls, erosion control programs, illicit connections and illegal dumping and municipal housekeeping.

SW05: What effects might these contaminants have on a wastewater facility or storm water overflow area?

Reese: These contaminants normally do not directly effect a wastewater facility unless they are part of a combined sewer system. They can indirectly effect a wastewater facility through competition for pollution capacity within receiving waters. Should there be a wasteload allocation under the Total Maximum Daily Load program, then storm water would have its load as well as wastewater. I envision expanding pollutant trading taking place as local governments opt to reduce storm water pollution in lieu of more expensive wastewater treatment plant modifications.

SW05: Based on our rapidly aging infrastructure, what are the next logical projections involving storm water management?

Reese: Storm water will increasingly become a public utility with its own identity, user-fee structure and program concepts.

Storm water will increasingly become a “commodity” to conserve, trade and use because drinking water is becoming more precious. The reuse of storm water will become common in a manner similar to wastewater reuse. “Water” utilities will increasingly form where there is little distinction among waste, drinking, storm and even ground water . . . it is all water.

About the Author

Tim Gregorski

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