South Portland, ME (December 5, 2008) For the second time in as many months, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled that existing developments must clean up the stormwater pollution that flows off their roofs, parking lots and sidewalks into New England’s waters.
Today’s ruling affects the Long Creek watershed in South Portland and will require the Maine Mall, grocery stores, big box stores, hotels and other developments in the Long Creek watershed to begin treating their polluted stormwater.
The action comes in response to a legal petition by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) asking the EPA to curb stormwater pollution from existing developments that contributes to violations of state water quality standards in Long Creek, a tributary of the Fore River that empties into Casco Bay.
“Stormwater has become the leading source of water pollution in New England ,” said Steve Hinchman, a CLF attorney. “Pollution levels in Long Creek are so severe that many areas violate EPA’s health standards for toxic metals. Left unchecked, polluted stormwater from this and other streams will eventually destroy the bays and beaches that are the jewels of the Maine Coast.”
The EPA will use its Residual Designation Authority granted under the Clean Water Act to target stormwater pollution from existing commercial and industrial developments in Long Creek. Under the rules, property owners will be asked to apply for a permit that shows they are taking steps to treat and reduce pollution that flows from properties with one or more acres of parking lots, roofs and other impervious surfaces.
“We commend EPA’s New England Region for the first EPA office in the nation to begin tackling this long-running gap in the Clean Water Act’s permitting system,” said CLF Vice President and Water Program Director Chris Kilian.
A coalition of businesses, state and local governments, and community groups has already formed the Long Creek Restoration Partnership to begin addressing the problem. CLF is working with the Partnership to promote appropriate cleanup solutions and develop a coordinated cleanup strategy for pollution sources in the watershed.
“The collaborative approach being developed in Long Creek is a good one,” said Sean Mahoney, CLF Vice President for Maine . “The partnership knows the problems we face in the Long Creek watershed as well as anyone, and we look forward to working with them to develop an effective restoration plan.”
Long Creek is in violation of Maine ’s lowest water quality standards, including standards for dissolved oxygen levels, pollution from heavy metals and toxins, and loss of aquatic life such as extirpation of the native brook trout. According to federal and state government studies the sole source of this pollution is stormwater runoff from existing urban development.
During rain storms, water flows off buildings, parking lots and other paved areas picking up toxins and chemicals along the way. The polluted water eventually gets dumped directly into neighboring rivers and streams from storm drains. Along the Long Creek, there are no permits regulating the pollution that flows from industrial or municipal sources.
>> To access EPA’s stormwater information and documents visit: http://www.epa.gov/region01/npdes/stormwater/index.html
>> Final EPA Long Creek Stormwater Rules (PDF)
Conservation Law Foundation (www.clf.org) works to solve the environmental problems that threaten the people, natural resources and communities of New England . CLF’s advocates use law, economics and science to design and implement strategies that conserve natural resources, protect public health, and promote vital communities in our region. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization. It has offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; Providence, Rhode Island ; Montpelier, Vermont; and Brunswick, Maine.<