Stormwater runoff is water from rain or melting snow that “runs off” across the land instead of seeping into the ground. This runoff usually flows into the nearest stream, river, lake or ocean. The runoff is not treated in any way.
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The City of Saint Peter must comply with a new unfunded mandate concerning stormwater regulations from the State of Minnesota which is enforced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and federally by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These regulations require the City of Saint Peter to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge municipal stormwater into surface waters of the state (i.e. our creeks and rivers).
In order for the City of Saint Peter to comply with this permit the City must develop and implement six minimum measures to ensure that our stormwater is clean water. Clean water is not a matter of choice - it's a matter of health, and now complying with a NPDES permit. These permits require cities to do six things:
Water from rain and melting snow either seeps into the ground or “runs off” to lower areas, making its way into streams, lakes and other water bodies (rivers). On its way, runoff water can pick up and carry many substances that pollute water. Some - like pesticides, fertilizers, oil and soap – are harmful in any quantity. Others - like sediment from construction, bare soil, or agricultural land, or pet waste, grass clippings and leaves - can harm creeks, rivers and lakes in sufficient quantities.
In addition to rain and snowmelt, various human activities like watering, car washing, and malfunctioning septic tanks can also put water onto the land surface. Here, it can also create runoff that carries pollutants to creeks, rivers and lakes. Polluted runoff generally happens anywhere people use or alter the land. For example, in developed areas, none of the water that falls on hard surfaces like roofs, driveways, parking lots or roads can seep into the ground. These impervious surfaces create large amounts of runoff that pick up pollutants.
The runoff flows from gutters and storm drains to streams. Runoff not only pollutes' but erodes stream banks. The mix of pollution and eroded dirt muddies the water and causes problems downstream.
Nonpoint source pollution is another term for polluted runoff and other sources of water pollution that are hard to pinpoint. The term “nonpoint source pollution” comes from the Federal Clean Water Act of 1987. There, it is used as a catch-all for all kinds of water pollution that are not well-defined discharges (point sources) from wastewater plants or industries.
Many state agencies have nonpoint source (NPS) management programs that address polluted runoff. It serves as the central coordinating agency for the many NPS-related programs operated by various agencies. Minnesota for example has an established Nonpoint Source Management Program Plan.
Polluted stormwater runoff generally happens anywhere people use or alter the land. People going about their daily lives are the number one source of stormwater pollutants. Most people are unaware of how they impact water quality. Some common examples include:
Developed areas in general, with their increased runoff, concentrated numbers of people and animals, construction and other activities, are a major contributor to nonpoint source pollution, as are agricultural activities. Other contributors include forest harvesting activities, roadways, and malfunctioning septic systems.
Stormwater management is necessary for many reasons:
"Best management practices" (BMPs) is a term used to describe different ways to keep pollutants out of runoff and to slow down high volumes of runoff.
Preventing pollution from entering water is much more affordable than cleaning polluted water! Educating state residents about how to prevent pollution from entering waterways is one best management practice. Laws that require people and businesses involved in earth disturbing activities - like construction and agriculture - to take steps to prevent erosion are another way to prevent stormwater pollution. There are also laws about litter, cleaning up after pets and dumping oil or other substances into storm drains.
Education and laws are just two best management practice examples. Some BMPs are constructed to protect a certain area. Some are designed to slow down stormwater, others help reduce the pollutants already in it - there are also BMPs that do both of these things.
Detention ponds hold water so it infiltrates into the earth during rain events they fill up quickly after a rainstorm and allow solids like sediment and litter to settle at the pond bottom. Then, they release the water slowly. These ponds are one constructed BMP example. Green roofs, storm drain grates, filter strips, and permeable paving are other examples.
When we pollute our water, everyone is affected:
The State does not charge residents for stormwater management. Stormwater fees are one way municipalities can choose to raise funds to perform the six steps required by the State and Federal government. Cities can implement fees to administrator pollution prevent programs.
When our water is polluted, we all pay in one way or another:
Because everyone plays a role in creating the pollution in stormwater runoff, we all have a role in cleaning it up.
Amazingly enough, you can make a huge difference in stormwater quality by simply changing a few practices at home. Here are six easy steps:
Remember, we all live downstream.
Attend public hearings or meetings on the topic so you can express your concerns. Report stormwater violations when you spot them to your local government. Keep learning about polluted stormwater runoff and tell a friend!
A catch basin or storm drain is a curbside drain with the sole function of collecting rainwater from our properties and streets and sending it through underground piping to our local waterways. Storm drains can also be found in parking lots and serve the same purpose. In county and city areas, that water never goes to the sewer treatment plant to be cleaned, but flows directly into our creeks and rivers.
Not in the City of Saint Peter. In the City of Saint Peter sewers and storm drains are two completely different drainage systems. Sewers carry wastewater from such things as washing machines, sinks, toilets, and showers to a treatment plant to be cleaned prior to being discharged into the Minnesota River. The storm drain system collects rainwater, and anything else dumped into it, and carries it to either a detention basin or directly to the Minnesota River.
Yes, the City of Saint Peter regularly performs maintenance activities including cleaning of the storm drain system. In addition, the City of Saint Peter crews are always available to respond to emergency situations where clogged drains result in localized flooding.
City crews clean out clogged catch basins throughout the year as part of ongoing maintenance. Unfortunately, there are just too many catch basins (1,118) and not enough time. Residents can reduce flooding in their neighborhoods by keeping material out of the storm drain system or clean debris around catch basins when performing landscape maintenance.
It sounds like a good idea, but during a rainstorm, debris (e.g. leaves, sticks, trash) is quickly swept to the catch basin and any screen or filtration device placed in front of it would clog the grate and result in flooding.
Unfortunately, nets only catch larger pieces of trash - all of the pollutants like pet waste, used oil, paint, pesticides, etc. flow through the net and straight into our waterways.
To name only a few, the following can be found in the storm drain system:
The storm drain system is for the sole purpose of collecting rainwater overflow. Dumping trash, pollutants and debris in the catch basins is illegal and is a Federal violation of the Clean Water Act of 1972. A neighbor may not understand the catch basin's direct connection to the Minnesota River and all of our other waterways. It may be just a matter of making them aware of the impact to our community and our drinking water.
Dumping used oil and paint is illegal. One quart of motor oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water. Paint also contaminates our waters. City staff would be more than happy to provide information to your neighbor.
To report the problem call the Department of Public Works at 507-934-0670.
Tri-County Waste accepts hazardous materials for disposal.
No. Cleaning products, even if they are biodegradable can still be toxic to fish and stimulate algae and plant growth.
One option is to have vehicles cleaned at a commercial car wash where wastewater flows through sand and oil traps. When washing your car at home, pull it up on the lawn or a graveled area where water will leach into the ground instead of flowing into the street gutter and the storm drains.
Always use biodegradable soaps when washing a vehicle and conserve as much water as possible. Shut off water while washing your car, then rinse.
Wrong. Grass, leaves and yard clippings that are repeatedly swept into catch basins can clog the drain, causing localized flooding and become a potential breeding ground for rodents and insects. Additionally, when this material reaches our creeks and rivers, it decomposes and robs the surrounding water of oxygen.
The cumulative affect of numerous residents putting leaves, grass and yard clippings into the street gutter or storm drain can be overwhelming. It can turn clean stormwater into a rotten, black, stinky soup that then enters our creeks and rivers.
Yes. The fine will vary depending on which local or state agency assesses the fine. There are numerous Federal, State, and municipal laws that prohibit illegal dumping, especially when it affects surface water quality.
The City will investigate all reports of dumping of material into the storm drain system. Anyone caught dumping can be cited and a fine imposed.
Pet waste can be picked up by snow melt or rain as it travels into the street gutter and down the storm drain, carrying with it bacteria and other harmful materials into our creeks and streams.
The dog population in the Saint Peter area is estimated to be 710 animals, creating nearly 355 pounds of solid waste every day. Even though you can't see it, the fecal coliform contained in pet waste can have a cumulative affect with hundreds if not thousands of people sending their pet waste into the stormwater.
Stormwater is not treated, so this material flows directly into our creeks and river, where our children play, swim, and fish. Disposing of pet waste properly is key to keeping our creeks and river safe.