|Stormwater Management Program|
Historically, the community of Saratoga Springs has appreciated and understood the importance of its natural water resources. In keeping with tradition, the City remains committed to preserving the integrity of its lakes, streams, wetlands, and renowned mineral springs. These diverse water resources provide residents and visitors to the Spa City with valuable recreation opportunities, tourist attractions, and open space while also supplying our daily water consumption needs.
WHAT IS AN MS4?
In March 2003, City officials began work on a comprehensive program to preserve the quality of local water resources by focusing attention on stormwater pollution prevention. This State mandated initiative, known as the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Program (MS4 for short), grew out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (US-EPA) Federal Clean Water Act. Currently, the MS4 program is being administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation. in hundreds of municipalities throughout New York State. The City of Saratoga Springs is one of these designated MS4 municipalities.
On January 8, 2008, the City of Saratoga Springs assumed responsibility from the State to enforce MS4 regulations and implement stormwater management practices. This also holds true for (14) other Towns and Villages located here in Saratoga County. These communities have joined together as a working coalition to form the Saratoga County Inter-Municipal Storm Water Management Program whose primary purpose is to assist local governments with their stormwater management program.
WHAT DOES AN MS4 DO?
Most principles of the MS4 Program are based on the fact that stormwater runoff, either from rainfall or snowmelt, is collected, carried away and discharged to local waterways typically without any cleansing or treatment to remove pollutants. The mere fact that stormwater is not cleaned or treated before disposal is something many people find surprising not to mention concerning.
This runoff flows over paved streets, sidewalks, parking lots, building rooftops and various other impervious surfaces. Storm runoff also drains off of residential lawns, recreation fields, golf courses, and agricultural lands. Along the way this stormwater picks up common pollutants such as motor oil and antifreeze, trash and street litter, pet and livestock waste, fertilizers and pesticides, detergents and chemicals, and erosion-borne silt and sediment.
Obviously, the potential to introduce unwanted pollutants into our streams, ponds, and wetlands is prevalent. More importantly, if left unchecked, these pollutants can have detrimental impacts on overall water quality.
In Saratoga Springs, two Pollutants of Concern (POC) have been identified by the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation as having the potential to impair local waters, notably Lake Lonely and two of its’ main tributaries, Spring Run and Bog Meadow Brook. Phosphorus is one of these POC’s and is believed to stem from the prolific use of lawn and plant fertilizers which contain this excess nutrient. The other pollutant is waterborne pathogens, namely fecal coliform, which typically originate from leaking sewer pipes or illicit connections, faulty septic systems, and even pet and livestock waste.
One of the main goals of the City’s Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP) is to focus attention on POC’s in an effort to reduce (or eliminate) their prevalence and subsequent impact on local waterbodies.
Raising public awareness to the problems associated with high concentrations of phosphorus in our waterways is critical to reversing this trend, especially considering phosphorus is naturally plentiful in most soils and doesn’t need to be added to achieve lush, green growth.
The battle against pathogenic contamination of stormwater, the other POC, is being spearheaded by improved management and monitoring of the municipal sanitary and storm sewer systems. In accordance the City has implemented an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Program designed to identify, repair, and prevent problems associated with stormwater pollution.
To manage and monitor the actual quality of stormwater being discharged from storm pipes throughout Saratoga Springs, every outfall under the City’s jurisdiction has been inventoried and its vital characteristics recorded. The location of each of these discharge points appears on the Stormwater Outfall Location Map. Besides identifying the outfalls, the map helps to define drainage areas and assess other factors that could impact water quality. Additionally, these outfalls are routinely inspected by a qualified field technician to insure the stormwater being discharged is clean and safe.
As noted earlier, the City administers a comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan designed to address a wide array of stormwater pollution issues and concerns. The core of this Plan centers around (6) Minimum Control Measures (MCM) that are intended to reduce “non-point” sources of stormwater pollution through education, regulation, and advanced management practices. The following is a brief description of each MCM including objectives as well as steps that have been taken to meet these goals:
The success of the SWMP relies in large part on the diligence and efforts of public officials and employees in their respective duties as a governing entity and municipal operation. Success, however, also requires that the residents of Saratoga Springs along with the business community, particularly the development and construction industry, become genuinely and actively engaged in protecting our local water resources.
Minimum Control Measure 1 – Public Education and OutreachWHO’S INVOLVED IN THE MS4?
Here in Saratoga Springs, the Engineers Office and the Department of Public Works share responsibility for administering the City’s Stormwater Management Plan. To gauge the effectiveness of the Plan, an Annual Report is prepared each spring which identifies achievements and evaluates overall success in terms of meeting the Minimum Control Measures described above. The Annual Report is presented to the City Council at which time the public is encouraged to review the document and submit their comments.
City Council has also played an active role by adopting local legislation tailored to the prevention of stormwater pollution. For example, Local Law No.9 of 2007 was added to the City Code and is intended to prohibit discharges to the storm sewer system which could jeopardize stormwater quality. In similar fashion, Local Law No. 1 of 2008 was enacted requiring the construction industry to install controls to reduce soil erosion and limit runoff from building sites that contain sediment and other pollutants.
Perhaps the most important key to success, however, lies outside the doors of City Hall. Homeowners and tourists, employers and employees, students and teachers, business owners and their patrons… each individual must act responsibly in order to achieve and sustain a reduction in stormwater pollutants. It can be as simple as picking up a piece of street litter, cleaning up after your pet, using phosphorus-free fertilizers, or organizing a clean-up day along a shoreline or stream bank.
Only through a collaborative public and private effort will our local waters be able to carry on the legacy of Saratoga Springs.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT ME?
As a designated MS4 municipality, Saratoga Springs officials have taken on the complex and challenging task of changing attitudes toward something most people don’t consider very important – stormwater. In many instances, people simply don’t realize that the stormwater dropping into a street drain or flowing along a roadside ditch will eventually end up in a stream we like to fish or a lake we enjoy swimming in or boating on.
Simply realizing the inherent value in the natural water resources found throughout our City can have a tremendous affect on the way people think and act when it comes to preventing pollution. As citizens of Saratoga Springs, clean water depends on all of us.
The Engineers Office and the Department of Public Works would like to thank you for taking time to learn more about our efforts…your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Also please remember to check the Upcoming Events link for a chance to learn and get involved. And finally, if you see or know of a stormwater problem here in Saratoga Springs, contact us through our Stormwater Pollution Hotline. These and other links can all be found at the start of this webpage.