Williams Explains Proposed Storm Water Program as “Robust” Fair Start Up

by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Williams Explains Proposed Storm Water Program as “Robust” Fair Start Up

Baby Steps.

That’s what Huntington Mayor Steve Williams emphasized  when discussing the proposed storm water program both during the Huntington City Council work session and afterwards in a short interview.

“Make no mistake about it, we are starting a storm water program . We are building something that’s going to last for decades. If we do it right in ten years people will say that group in 2013-2014 took action when nobody else would,” Williams said.

Preventing polluted runoff drainage into bodies of water is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act (CWA). Many of the country’s largest cities  ( such as New York City or Detroit, Michigan) have similarly hundred year old combined sewer systems which exceed capacity when storms occur and forces untreated sewage and potentially contaminated surface runoff  to flow directly into bodies of water.

Some WV cities have already taken storm water improvements.

“There are untold numbers of cities --- Milton, Hurricane, Charleston, Martinsburg, Beckley, and Morgantown --- that have already done this,” the Mayor explained. Although EPA fined Huntington for violations of the CWA last year, “we are being forced to do what we should have been doing to begin with. If we do not take the action ourselves, there will be mandates placed upon us and we will lose control. I’d rather that Huntington control our own destiny , rather than receive dictation from either Charleston (WV DEP) or Washington (EPA).

Other cities both in state and nationwide  face the unfunded regulatory order that resulted in a more than $150,000 fine (later reduced) from EPA. Williams denied that Huntington had been targeted by EPA.

“We are not being picked on. The City has just not acted,” he said.

Emphasizing that a storm water program has “never been implemented” in the city, he explained the new proposal differs widely from 2012 plans and has a “fairer” tiered fee structure.

“This is an entirely different and more robust proposal. It has provisions for on-going planning that will guide our future efforts. The funding mechanism is a graduated scale that is more fair for constituents, It starts with  a lower dollar amount for the smaller structures to larger dollar amounts for the largest structures,” he said.

Accountability transparency would compares to the dedicated user fee, which provides additional funding for the police department and street paving, Mayor Williams pointed out “we’re up to the highest level of police officers in 30 years.” The city’s $3 a week fee includes paving which  “took me fighting three years” to achieve that level.  

The start-up proposal calls for both regulatory and shovel-ready activities.

“Immediately visible” projects will, according to Williams, be cleaning out storm drains (not touched in 20 years), an  organized street cleaning  effort “structured all over the city, each neighborhood will have a street cleaning crew,”  clearing catch basins, analyze infrastructure plans and how to pay for them.

First reading of the ordinance will be Monday, Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m.. The storm water committee will meet and accept public input on Wednesday, Jan. 8  at 6:30 p.m.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The New York Times in 2009 published a “Toxic Water” series, which compiled data from 200,000 sites nationwide, revealing half a million   non-acted upon CWA and Safe Drinking Water (SDWA) violations nationwide. In 2010, the EPA proposed an overhaul drinking water standards.

Based on the then published data table, two Berkley County public service districts (the first included Martinsburg) had 354 and 292 violations, respectively.  Wayne , WV had 179 violations, Huntington had 151, Beech Fork Park (WV Division of Natural Resources) 151, Charleston 125, St. Albans 120, Wheeling 111, Morgantown 110, Nitro 99, Pt. Pleasant 93, Clarksburg 91, Logan 84, Village of Barboursville Sanitary Board 78,

“There are a range of chemicals that have become more prevalent in our products, our water and our bodies in the last 50 years,” then E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said in a 2010 speech. Regulations have not kept pace with scientific discoveries, and so the agency is issuing “a new vision for providing clean, safe drinking water.”

Many of the new water quality EPA proposed components and CWA water quality revisions are ongoing. See: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/lawsguidance/wqs_index.cfm  (Public comment has been extended until January 2, 2014).

ALSO See: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/business/23water.html  or  http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/the-nations-big-water-repair-bill , orhttp://water.epa.gov/drink/standardsriskmanagement.cfm .

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