August 21, 2009

Stormwater runoff in the news again

I'm "waxing poetic" for the Sixties this week. Joni Mitchell (or was it Bob Dylan) sang:

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot . . .
You don't know what you've got till it's gone? . . .
They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum.
And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em.

That's the song that came to my mind as I read this week about local governments in the Hampton Roads area resisting the proposed changes regarding proposed "storm water runoff control" regulations. They object because they see how it might (Geez, I hope so.) limit the suburban sprawl occurring across our area. Requiring the construction industry to prevent runoff or filter the accompanying pollutants sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Regs that might add to housing costs are scaring these folks. The concept is not real popular at the moment, but then who should pay for the worsening health of the Chesapeake? The Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed suit against the EPA this year for not doing enough to enforce the laws that already exist to limit pollution.

I skimmed over the proposed regs and didn't notice any onerous limitations to builders, but then again, I'm biased. Instead, I saw flexibility in them, and encouragement to leave as many trees and green space as possible and to use permeable (or porous) concrete whenever feasible.

If you haven't seen permeable concrete, think "Snap, Crackle, Pop" and Rice Krispies Treats. Visit the Prime Outlets parking lot in James City County to see the largest expanse of it anywhere.

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and about 60 other state and local environmental groups sent a letter to Governor Kaine in favor of these regulations and recommending speedy approval of them.

I don't remember algae blooms every August in the Sixties either. But runoff is a major factor. Our area of the southern Chesapeake is seeing a doozy of a "red tide" this week as the August temps affect the nitrogen and phosphorus that has washed into our tributaries with recent rains. Algae blooms not only look gunky to swimmers, but fish don't thrive in them either. One new species of toxic algae appears to be moving north into the Chesapeake Bay too.

The James City County Citizens’ Coalition (J4C) strongly endorses the state’s “new emphasis on treating stormwater as a resource and not merely a problem to be moved downstream as quickly as possible (where, of course, it becomes somebody else’s problem).”