Town Council Passes New Ordinance in Compliance with MS4 Permit

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Town Council passed an ordinance Tuesday that will allow the town to monitor and give fines for the ‘illicit discharge’ of pollutants into storm drainage systems.

By Ryley McGinnis

The Town Council voted 6-2 Tuesday to pass an ordinance that gives the town of West Hartford the authority to monitor pollutants in the storm drainage system and give fines to people or businesses that are responsible for discharging pollutants into the system.

This ordinance is part of West Hartford’s compliance with the MS4 General Permit, which is a state/federal permit that, in part, requires towns to have an ordinance that regulates non-storm water discharges. Violators could be subject to a $250 fine per day for violating this ordinance.

The ordinance is a state requirement, that in actually part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water management regulations. The state made a decision to manage itself rather than letting the EPA do it, and according to Director of Community Development Mark McGovern, who outlined the ordinance at a public hearing in advance of the Town Council meeting, each community is required to have its own storm water management plan by June 30.

McGovern said that the ordinance is a “model ordinance,” used by other municipalities around the state that all are required to implement the measure.

Town Council Minority Leader Chris Barnes voiced questions and concerns about the ordinance and the cost to the town. Barnes was concerned about the fact that this was an unfunded federal/state mandate that requires the town to purchase equipment, hire new employees, and keep track and monitor the water supply while also footing the bill when violations are found unless the source can be found and fined.

Council member Leon Davidoff asked for clarification between “runoff” and “discharge,” noting that in the end they’re both ending up in the catch basin. Town Engineer Duane Martin said that if something “reaches a water body or watercourse it can be a discharge,” but likely would need to reach a high enough concentration to become a concern. Martin said that determining the source is one of the challenges the town faces and tracking it can be complicated, but this is a required ordinance.

Not complying is really not an option, Davidoff said, adding that he completely understands Barnes’ objections.

Corporation Counsel Pat Alair said that when state was implementing MS4 and developing the model ordinance, there was a lot of public outcry. “This ordinance is the result of DEEP [the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] saying we hear you but this is what you’re getting anyway,” Alair said. While MS4 is called a “permit,” it’s really a regulation.

Barnes, along with Republican Mary Fay, voted against the ordinance.

This ordinance will take effect on June 30.

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Ryley McGinnis

1 Comment

  • Chris Barnes can take comfort in the fact that a town that puts a hotel and shopping center next to a waterway won’t be spending any money to enforce this ordinance. Parking lots are big contributors of oil and other contaminants to storm drains.

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