Water runoff editorial 10-28

The Cape Girardeau City Council is taking steps to fix a problem with stormwater erosion that has turned some newer subdivisions into muddy messes after heavy rains.

Monday the council approved the first reading of an ordinance aimed at holding builders responsible for controlling erosion.

Previously, builders only were required to clean mud off streets twice a day. But at Arbor Heights subdivision on the city's north side, residents say debris and mud wash into their yards even when the rain is light. Complaints by Arbor Heights residents initiated the move by the city to toughen its stormwater ordinance.

Under the new ordinance builders must put in place erosion controls -- usually hay bales or silt fences -- before digging out a basement. Contractors also must put in gravel driveways to a site to cut down on the amount of dirt and mud tracked into the street.

The ordinance also limits how steep lots can be, in some cases requires sodding to soak up rainfall, and lowers the rainfall-event threshold for requiring detention basins.

At least one contractor worries that the ordinance will only be enforced when there is a complaint. We would hope the city takes a pro-active approach to curbing these abuses. The ordinance does have teeth. Developers who do not comply could be issued a summons and could be fined as much as $500 and could be sentenced to jail for up to 90 days.