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Selectmen Nix Stormwater Fee, Brace For ‘A Monster’ Program With Increased Costs

May 14, 2019 10:28PM ● By Lisa Redmond

DRACUT – The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday rejected imposing a fee to pay for $900,000, second-year cost of the federally mandated stormwater program, instead trimming police, fire and Department of Public Works FY20 budgets but not touching the proposed school budget.

After a lengthy presentation by Town Manager James Duggan that included five options, ranging from some fees to no-fees options, the board voted unanimously to avoid a fee for FY20 until officials can see the scope of what the town will need to do to meet the minimal requirements of the federal MS4 Stormwater Permit.

Dracut Town Manager Jim Duggan

 Selectman Tony Archinsky said he favored no fee with the option of “tweaking’’ some of the budget cuts once the town knows the impact of the stormwater program. “Maybe it’s not as bad as it looks,’’ he said.

The town is mandated to meet federal requirements for a five-year Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) MS4 Stormwater Permit that mandates all municipalities meet federal regulations to eliminate all pollutants to the waters within their jurisdictions.

MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems) permit, which went into effect July 1, 2018, requires that every community in Massachusetts implement a program to prevent stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, such as driveways, walkways and roof to pollute waterways, according to Neal Campbell, a project manager with CDM Smith, the town’s consultant.

Stormwater is rain, snow melt and anything else that flows into the storm drains that is then dumped into waterways and wetlands. The stormwater contains contaminants from grease to feces.

According to the MassDEP, all of Dracut’s eight waterways are impaired with E. coli levels that exceed MassDEP limits. E. coli bacteria found in animal waste, runoff from lawns and farms, flocks of geese and illegal septic connections. The Merrimack River is also impaired by phosphorus.

All that runoff travels through Dracut’s stormwater system, including: 77 miles of pipes, 1,125 culverts, 3,800 catch basins, 150 detention ponds, 430 outfalls and 160 miles of public streets. The estimated cost of the program is $900,000 in FY20 to a high of $1.3 million by FY 22.

The most expensive charges are: Investment in capital equipment, such street sweepers and vacuum truck and staff; additional stormwater sampling and testing; a robust catch

basin cleaning program; additional street sweeping; and stringent monitoring for illegal discharging.

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