(RICHMOND, VA)—While commending the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for proposing tough new permitting requirements that will reduce runoff pollution in Henrico and Fairfax counties, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is calling upon the state to require additional conditions that ensure greater accountability.
"The proposed permits require Henrico and Fairfax to develop five-year plans with specific steps the counties will take to reduce runoff and comply with the Clean Water Act and the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint," said Peggy Sanner, CBF Virginia assistant director and senior attorney. "If fully implemented over the next five years, these new permits will achieve significant reductions in the pollution reaching our local streams and the Bay. But despite the permits' strong points, they lack sufficient accountability measures."
CBF therefore is calling upon DEQ to make the benchmarks and milestones in the action plans mandatory requirements rather than planning targets. CBF also is asking state regulators to ensure the permits require more aggressive and widespread monitoring of actual stream conditions so the public knows whether the permits are achieving intended results. And CBF is requesting that the permits prioritize and accelerate projects that can produce immediate improvements, such as retrofits, inspections and maintenance, street sweepings, and tree plantings.
The proposed permits in question, so-called MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) permits, are required by the Clean Water Act for the state's largest urban/suburban localities. The permits are renewed every five years and govern stormwater runoff, the water that sweeps dirt, chemicals, fertilizer, litter, and other pollutants off streets, parking lots, and lawns, often directly into nearby waterways. Polluted runoff threatens public health, streams and rivers, fish, oysters, and other aquatic life. It is one of the few increasing sources of pollution in Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay region.
"Virginia is making progress cleaning up its streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay, but its clear much more needs to be done," Sanner added. "Stronger pollution runoff permits are key."
DEQ is accepting public comment on the two proposed permits through March 4.