In 1972 the Clean Water Act was established to help the degrading quality of our lakes, streams, and rivers. This act made the discharge of pollution illegal, encouraged the use of the best achievable pollution control technology, and provided billions of dollars for the construction of sewage treatment plants. In 1987 the act was amended to strengthen controls on toxic pollutants and allowed states to assume responsibility for federal programs. With this amendment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established Phase I of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Phase I regulated all the “medium” and “large” municipal separate storm sewer systems (Ms4s) that we’re serving over 100,000 people. Construction activity that disturbs 5 or more acres of land is also regulated under Phase I.
In 1999 the EPA established the Phase II regulations to reduce the impact of pollution that was being created with the increase of development. The NPDES Phase II requires permit coverage for storm water discharges from small Ms4s in urbanized areas and construction activity that disturbing between 1 and 5 acres of land. The Environmental Protection Agency defines Urbanized Areas as “ a land area comprising one or more places – central place(s) – and the adjacent densely settled surrounding area – urban fringe – that together have a residential population of at least 50,000 and an overall population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile”.
The majority of Livingston County is comprised of three watersheds. In the south, storm water drains to the Huron River Watershed; to the northeast, it drains to the Shiawassee River Watershed; and to the west, storm water drains to the Red Cedar Watershed. The storm water in a small portion of the northwest section of the county drains to the Looking Glass Watershed. This means that all the creeks, streams, ditches and drains in the county eventually drain to these 4 watersheds and then into the Great Lakes. Click on map for larger view.
An Ms4 is a drainage system including roads, catch basins, curbs, gutters, parking lots, ditches, conduits, pumping devices, or man-made channels that is designated or used for collecting storm water.
Storm water is the result of rainfall or snowmelt that flows over our lawns, streets, parking lots and buildings. This water then runs into our storm drains and ditches (Ms4s) and directly into our lakes, streams, and rivers, carrying all the pollutants it picks up along the way.
As stormwater flows over lawns, driveways, parking lots, and construction sites it is picking up pollutants such as fertilizers, oil, yard waste, litter, animal waste, and anything else along the way. The storm drain system then transports these pollutants into the nearest lake, stream, or river. Everything that goes into the storm drains are ending up in the lakes. These pollutants are causing algae blooms, increased temperature, and contributing to the degradation of our lakes, streams, and rivers.
An illicit discharge is the discharge of pollutants or non-stormwater materials to storm sewer systems via overland flow or direct dumping of materials into a catch basin. These non-stormwater discharges occur due to illegal connections to the storm drain system from business or commercial establishments. As a result of these illicit connections, contaminated wastewater enters into storm drains or directly into local waters before receiving treatment from a wastewater treatment plant. Illicit connections may be intentional or may be unknown to the business owner and often are due to the connection of floor drains to the storm sewer system. Additional sources of illicit discharges can be failing septic systems, illegal dumping practices, overland drainage from a carwash, dumping used motor oil in or around a catch basin, and the improper disposal of sewage from recreational practices such as boating or camping.
To protect the quality of our lakes and streams, please report any illicit discharges you witness to the Livingston County Drain Commission.
Become aware and get involved. Contact your County Drain Commissioner, or the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) to find out ways you can improve the storm water in your area or participate in watershed management activities. Please look through the links on “Phase II-Links” page and the Livingston County Drain Commissions – “Phase II Information” page for some great resources on Phase II, watershed planning, and what you can do to make a change. Public participation is a vital part of this process and volunteers are essential to helping us to reduce pollution and improve water quality.