Recent major storms offer reminder of the millions of gallons of polluted stormwater that wash off of our nation’s highways and into our precious water resources every time it rains
Washington, DC – Following a week of major storms across the region, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, has introduced legislation aimed at treating and containing highway stormwater runoff at or near the road surface to prevent pollution from ever reaching nearby rivers, streams or other waters. S. 3602, the Safe Treatment of Polluted Stormwater Runoff (STOPS Runoff) Act will require the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop performance-based standards that protect and restore watershed areas where federally funded highways are located.
“This week’s intense storms across Maryland, and the rapid amounts of rainfall they brought to our neighborhoods, demonstrate the need for this legislation. Impervious surfaces, like highways, exacerbate the problem of flash flooding and stormwater pollution,” said Senator Cardin. “We can design roads that are built to drastically reduce stormwater pollution at its source, stopping it before it reaches the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, reducing the frequency of flash flooding events, and saving downstream communities money by reducing the clean up burden after major storms.”
Every time it rains a wide variety of pollutants ranging from tailpipe emissions, brake dust, oil, sediments, road salt and de-icing agents, trash and heavy metals, among many other contaminants, are washed directly into adjacent rivers, streams and other water bodies polluting drinking water supplies, threatening the safety of recreational waters and compounding the financial burden of downstream communities to clean up the water. Highways and roads are a major source of polluted stormwater because impervious road surfaces are extremely efficient carriers for stormwater. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), polluted stormwater is the largest source of water quality impairment of our nation’s water resources and municipal governments face increasingly stringent polluted stormwater cleanup requirements.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lower 48 states are covered by more than 43,480 square miles of impervious surfaces. That is a space roughly the size of Ohio. With 985,139 miles of federal aid highways stretching from every corner of the US, polluted highway runoff is a major problem facing our nation’s waters.
The Safe Treatment of Polluted Stormwater Runoff (STOPS Runoff) Act
· STOPS Runoff t is based on a program created by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that created a design standard for maintaining or restoring the existing hydrology of construction sites for all new federal buildings and major renovations to existing federal facilities.
· STOPS Runoff applies to new federal-aid highway construction as well as major highway rehabilitation projects.
· The legislation applies to federal-aid highway projects that disturb five or more acres of land. This threshold is based on Clean the Water Act‘s NPDES requirement for construction.
· The Department of Transportation must establish minimum design standards to maintain or restore the predevelopment hydrology of the landscape for federally funded highway and road projects.
· The legislation requires that the maintenance of predevelopment hydrology, preservation of natural landscape and stormwater mitigation approaches be a part of the site selection, design and engineering process.
· The bill aims to minimize, and avoid when possible, the alteration of natural land features and encourages the use of natural features and existing terrain to control and treat stormwater runoff onsite.
· The legislation allows for flexibility and the incorporation of offsite stormwater treatment to be used when necessary to fully meet the design standard requirements.