EPA proposes rules to govern municipal storm-sewer runoff

Storm water runoff, a major component of the pollution reaching rivers and streams, would be subject to regulation in cities of 100,000 population or more, under rules proposed yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Such runoff can carry contaminants that, without proper treatment, end up polluting waterways that are used for drinking water, swimming, fishing, and shellfish harvesting.

The origins of many of the pollutants have been traced to pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, oil from gas stations and bus and plane terminals. Other contaminants from construction sites, restaurants, dry cleaners, landfills, junkyards, and industrial sites.

The proposed regulations would require about 270 municipalities nationwide, as well as thousands of industries in those cities, to apply for permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The rules proposed by the agency, however, have upset some environmentalists, who say the regulations amount to little more than a paper chase.

The proposed regulations contain ``no regulation to reduce storm-water runoff, reduce the pollutants it picks up, or treat it before it reaches a discharge point,'' says Robert Adler, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

EPA officials counter, however, that while the proposed regulations mandate no numerical limits for pollutants or technical standards for pollution control, the permit process will flag major sources of pollution and enable regulators to identify areas needing cleanup.

The regulations have been designed ``to build the municipal programs,'' says James Gallup of EPA's Office of Water Enforcement and Permits.

A top priority of the proposed rules, Mr. Gallup says, is to identify illicit sewer connections - residential and industrial sewer lines that are connected to storm-water collection systems rather than the sewer lines that flow to sewage-treatment plants.

Identifying such connections, Gallup says, will eliminate a large portion of the pollutants washed away in storm runoff.

Industry and municipal officials have 90 days to comment on the proposed regulation. Final binding regulations are not expected before spring of 1990.

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