Cape Girardeau County soon will have to engage in regulation of stormwater runoff because parts of the county now lie within urbanized area boundaries determined by a 2010 U.S. Census count.
The county is in the first steps of developing a stormwater-runoff management program similar to those seen in many other Missouri municipalities -- but as plans move along, county officials are raising questions about the program the federal government oversees to protect water quality.
About 165 areas in Missouri have regulated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, or MS4 -- basically, systems of ditches, curbs, underground pipes, etc., that collect or convey stormwater -- according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which issues permits to cities and counties with stormwater-runoff management programs. That number is growing because some areas have experienced a rise in population, resulting in their being subject to Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act requirements.
Cape Girardeau County is among eight newly designated communities in the state that must implement a program beginning this year. The county is applying for a permit through the DNR that will address the reduction of pollution in stormwater runoff with six minimum control measures: public education and outreach; public involvement and participation; illicit discharge detection and elimination; construction site runoff control; post-construction site runoff control; and pollution prevention.
The county must submit its permit application by May 14, and is working to identify property owners in the newly defined areas, which are generally located in areas surrounding the Cape Girardeau and Jackson city limits. The cities already have MS4 programs in place, and ordinances that deal with stormwater runoff, but an ordinance that could be prompted by new regulations would be the first of its kind for the county.
Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said the county is approaching the new regulatory situation cautiously.
"What we are questioning is really whether or not the county should be impacted," Tracy said. "Right now we are still in the fact-finding stage, but we want to know what exactly we are dealing with and how it affects us, and then we will move forward from there."
Tracy's main concerns are potential costs related to enforcement of a regulatory ordinance, and how such an ordinance could be applied to the 1,600 or so people who live in the designated area, but not to the rest of the population of Cape Girardeau County. He also perceives there to be a lack of a reason the areas should be regulated at all.
"There is an assumption that our stormwater is polluting some body of water somewhere," Tracy said. "There is no proof of that. It's not like you have 'X' number of people living somewhere and you therefore must be polluting."
Tracy said the EPA and DNR have not provided information to commissioners that shows there is a pollution problem as a result of stormwater runoff in the county. Commissioners are working with Ken Eftink, their recently-hired floodplain and stormwater manager, to learn how best to approach the new requirements.
Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt flows over land and accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is discharged untreated, according to the EPA.
The DNR, which will issue the county the permit, did not respond as of late Friday to emailed questions about Cape Girardeau County's participation in a stormwater runoff program.
1 Barton Square, Jackson, Mo.