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Is Your Stormwater Monitoring Plan Up to the Challenge?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expanded their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements in 1999 to include municipal storm sewer systems, construction sites between 1-5 acres, small systems serving populations less than 100,000 and in other ways. All of these smaller systems are now required to obtain coverage under the NPDES permit.

In order to meet the EPA requirements local municipalities had two options. They could expand their local infrastructure to support all of their local runoff or they could create local regulations requiring industries, businesses and developers to meet stormwater quality standards. Not having the resources to expand their own systems, most municipalities have turned to greater regulation to improve the quality of stormwater runoff.

Stormwater Monitoring and Management

Two very important tools for improving the quality of stormwater runoff are stormwater monitoring and stormwater management plans. By using these tools well, municipalities continue to improve the quality of local stormwater. This, in turn, leads to improvements in all naturally occuring local waters (rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans).

Stormwater monitoring refers to specific local, state and federal requirements for regular stormwater testing of industrial sites, businesses, parking lots, construction sites, agricultural areas, etc. These requirements include mandates for regular stormwater sampling. The collected samples must be professionally tested and results sent to municipal authorities.

Efforts to preserve water quality everywhere are growing and expanding. As a result, the role of stormwater management is evolving to meet these needs. With the continued expansion of commercial development, the need to handle the growing quantity of stormwater runoff and to improve stormwater quality is growing rapidly. These challenges often necessitate that businesses develop a stormwater management plan. This plan may include ways to better handle storage, specific methods of treatment and plans for the ongoing monitoring of increased levels of stormwater runoff from these developments.

Why it is Crucial to Have a Plan

Because of the prohibitive costs for municipalities to upgrade local drainage infrastructure or sanitary sewer facilities, the management burden has shifted to the private sector. The many new requirements are challenging engineers to design new solutions for groundwater and surface water ecology for businesses and construction firms. The goal is to protect development economics and deliver the stormwater retention and detention plans required by permits.

These same businesses are also being challenged to meet the required stormwater monitoring requirements for regular inspections, sampling, testing and follow up responses to the test results. Readying for these processes and practices requires that businesses have a stormwater management plan in place to train employees on essential tasks that will allow the business to keep up with the requirements and to minimize storm drain violations, poor test results and to ensure compliance with requirements, thereby avoiding costly fines or problems.

What Challenges Can Arise?

The challenges businesses face when creating a stormwater management plan will vary depending on their land use, business size and local regulations. Land developers have to balance the usability of the lands they are developing with what potential solutions that are available. How much will their plans cost and what will the benefits be?

Another challenge many businesses run into is forgetting to monitor or are simply improperly monitoring their stormwater prevention plan. Even honest mistakes can lead to costly violations of industrial stormwater permits. This is why meeting all of the prescribed requirements is paramount. And this is true no matter how tedious or ridiculous they may feel.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for industrial facilities and businesses is fulfilling all of the basic preparations. Collecting stormwater discharge samples is not a regular part of most business work plans. Unfortunately, it can be easy to forget to complete all of the stormwater permit requirements. This can leave your business struggling to collect samples and get reports before deadlines pass.

How to Overcome Any Challenges

First of all, it is important to review all of your requirements and the strategies you have put into place in order to prevent any last-minute scrambles. Prepping your staff in the key elements of your stormwater prevention plan will help to ensure that your facility’s stormwater monitoring goes smoothly when the rains come and a qualifying stormwater event occurs.

Before collecting your samples it is really important to take stock of your property and identify several site-specific factors that will prepare you for monitoring your stormwater accurately and quickly. A few things to know are:

  • Where are the “outfalls,” those places where stormwater discharges on and around your facility? 
  • Which of those outfalls should be designated as your sampling locations? 
  • Which of the following monitoring methods should be used for each outfall?
    • Visual assessments 
    • Benchmark monitoring 
    • Impaired waters monitoring 
    • Effluent limitations monitoring

Another important step is to determine who will serve on your stormwater monitoring team. Determine and clearly identify what your monitoring and reporting deadlines are by checking on your stormwater permit. Then, plan out how you will contact your team when it’s time to sample. Perhaps most importantly, determine which laboratory you want to send your samples to once they have been collected.

How Can Torrent Laboratory Help?

Torrent Lab is your state of the art, expertly staffed laboratory. We perform stormwater testing, and any other environmental tests you need, with excellence. Torrent Lab will not only meet all of your regulatory testing needs, we will also go well beyond the “cookbook chemistry” of typical labs. This means that we can tailor our research to your exact needs, from testing, monitoring and investigation, to remediation and redevelopment.

Guided by the principles of Six Sigma, Kaizen, and Lean Thinking, Torrent Lab will get you the test results you need, reliably and quickly. And our customer service team will work closely with you to answer your questions, guide you through the regulatory, sampling and testing processes and help you interpret the results.