The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that it is providing $335,000 in technical assistance to five communities to help them develop integrated plan components for wastewater and stormwater management.
The purpose of the EPA’s integrated planning process is to promote what the agency calls “a prioritized critical path” to achieving the objectives of the Clean Water Act. The process helps communities identify priorities for wastewater and stormwater projects being implemented under the CWA, offering guidance on how to address the community’s most serious water quality issues first.
The EPA proposed the integrated planning process in 2011 as a way of addressing the challenges of population growth, aging infrastructure, and increasingly complex water quality issues. These challenges, in the agency’s view, were making implementing CWA projects more difficult. According to the agency, integrated planning was intended to “help municipalities meet their CWA obligations by optimizing the benefits of their infrastructure improvement investments through the appropriate sequencing of work.” In June 2012, EPA issued a framework for integrated planning after working closely with state and local governments, water utilities, and environmental groups. In May 2014, 28 communities responded to EPA’s request for letters of interest in technical assistance. EPA selected the following communities after evaluating a variety of factors:
Burlington, Vermont: The City of Burlington proposed to evaluate its financial capability to fund an integrated stormwater and wastewater program. It also committed to developing criteria for prioritizing community wastewater and stormwater needs based on social, economic and environmental factors (along with a list of sample projects that rank highly based on these criteria) and to evaluating innovative methods of pollutant reduction.
Durham, New Hampshire: The Town of Durham and the University of New Hampshire proposed to evaluate opportunities to consolidate wastewater and stormwater resources, formulate a wastewater and stormwater funding strategy, and develop a toolkit for tracking pollutant load contributions and reductions from wastewater and stormwater.
Santa Maria, California: The City of Santa Maria proposed to develop an asset management approach to prioritize investments, identify innovative approaches such as green infrastructure, and identify environmental and public health benefits.
Springfield, Missouri: The City of Springfield, Greene County and City Utilities of Springfield proposed to develop a decision analysis tool to prioritize investments. The tool will identify, characterize and evaluate key pollutants and sources of water pollution.
Onondaga County, New York: The Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection proposed to outline a process to engage stakeholders and identify, evaluate, and select stormwater and wastewater projects.
According to the EPA, these five projects will provide examples of how communities can develop integrated plans to address components of CWA permits, and will provide useful information and transferable tools for other communities interested in integrated planning.