Indiana County has Plans to Manage Stormwater Pollution

Feb. 28, 2005

Allen County (Ind.) Surveyor Al Frisinger recently presented a five-year stormwater management ordinance and program to county commissioners, who will review the proposal and vote in a few weeks.

The ordinance is just one part of a larger plan to reduce stormwater pollution. According to environmental and government experts, runoff pollution is one of the top sources of water contamination. Managing stormwater runoff is essential not only to protect water quality but also to prevent state authorities from interceding and federal authorities from imposing penalties for non-compliance.

The county could face $27,500-a-day fines if it fails to comply with federal mandates regulating National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permits.

As stormwater flows into rivers, it carries with it pesticides from fields, chemicals from roads and any other debris that crosses its path. Because it brings so much pollution into the rivers, the federal government is cracking down on the problem.

Frisinger said the ordinance does not necessarily pose any new or outlandish regulations. It does place into law the efforts of the surveyor’s office and make the stormwater pollution regulations clearer.

It will have the biggest effect on builders and developers who must comply with regulations during construction to prevent soil erosion, pollution and drainage problems. "We’ve tried to keep it as close as we can to the actual requirements without putting too high of a burden on Allen County residents," Frisinger said. It will not mean that washing your car in your driveway will be illegal.

Frisinger says the five-year cost for the program is about $4.5 million, which will mean $2.1 million in new spending. Last week he asked County Council for $500,000 to implement the stormwater management program. Council members gave him $200,000, which will be enough to hire new employees to oversee the program. The council wants a more detailed plan before committing more money to the program. Council members are right to be concerned about the costs, but additional spending for stormwater management may be inevitable.

The council also encouraged county officials to look for ways to collaborate with Fort Wayne and New Haven on stormwater management to reduce costs. One current example of successful collaboration is the shared water resources education specialist, Allison Van Zandt, who works throughout the county to educate the public on water-quality issues. It is only logical for city and county leaders to look for other ways to jointly tackle water quality and management issues. It will mean more efficient spending for an expensive problem. It also makes sense because water pollution does not adhere to city limits; it is a regional issue.

The idea of clean water is consistently popular with the public. The federal government has been anxious to enact mandates for local governments. All communities are struggling with the expense and long-term programs necessary to combat the problems of deteriorating water quality.

Source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette