Stormwater Management

What is a MS4 Storm Water Program?

The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is required under the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES); a federal program designed to eliminate storm water pollutant discharges to receiving waters of the United States. In 1987, the EPA was required under Section 402 (p) of the Clean Water Act (N40CFR Part 112.26) to establish final regulations governing storm water discharge permit application requirements. The NPDES program is permitted through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the permit requirements are issued and inspected by ADEM. The goal is to reduce Non-Point Source (NPS) pollution which occurs from rain run-off from various sites.

What is Phase II and who is affected by the Phase II program?

The Storm Water Phase II Final Rule applies to operators of regulated small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), which are designated based on the criteria discussed in this fact sheet. In this fact sheet, the definition of an MS4 and the distinction between small, medium, and large MS4s is reviewed. Conditions under which a small MS4 may be designated as a regulated small MS4, as well as the conditions for a waiver from the Phase II program requirements, are outlined. This fact sheet also attempts to clarify possible implementation issues related to determining one’s status as an operator of a regulated small MS4.

What is a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4)?

What constitutes an MS4 is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. The term MS4 does not solely refer to municipally owned storm sewer systems, but rather is a term of art with a much broader application that can include, in addition to local jurisdictions, State departments of transportation, universities, local sewer districts, hospitals, military bases, and prisons. An MS4 also is not always just a system of underground pipes – it can include roads with drainage systems, gutters, and ditches.

Why are we regulated as a Phase II community?

Storm water discharges from MS4s in urbanized areas are a concern because of the high concentration of pollutants found in these discharges. Concentrated development in urbanized areas substantially increases impervious surfaces, such as city streets, driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks, on which pollutants from concentrated human activities settle and remain until a storm event washes them into nearby storm drains. Common pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers, oils, salt, litter and other debris, and sediment. Another concern is the possible illicit connections of sanitary sewers, which can result in fecal coliform bacteria entering the storm sewer system. Storm water runoff picks up and transports these and other harmful pollutants then discharges them – untreated – to waterways via storm sewer systems. When left uncontrolled, these discharges can result in fish kills, the destruction of spawning and wildlife habitats, a loss in aesthetic value, and contamination of drinking water supplies and recreational waterways that can threaten public health.

Whom do I contact with a storm water concern?

Please contact:

  • Carl Prewitt, P.E.
    Assistant City Engineer
    (256) 341-4878
    Office address: 308 Cain Street NE
    Decatur, AL 35601
  • Gloria Robertson
    Engineering Secretary
    (256) 341-4876
    Office address: 1802 Central Parkway SW
    Decatur, AL 35601

What does the MS4 permit require?

The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requires six basic elements to be implemented and include the following:

  • Public education and outreach
  • Public involvement and participation
  • Illicit discharge detection
  • Construction site runoff control
  • Post-construction storm water management for new development
  • Pollution prevention & good housekeeping practices for Municipal operations

An Annual Report is provided to ADEM of the activities performed in the MS4 region.

What can you do?

There are several things that you can do to reduce Non-Point Source pollution from around your home and yard.

  • Report pollution. If you see a construction site that has run-off, a road that has litter, or any type of spill, call.
  • Don’t litter. Litter and debris can wash into the streams and tributaries eventually polluting the Flint Creek or Tennessee River systems.
  • Properly dispose of yard waste. Yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings that wash into drains and streams will biodegrade. As the bacteria decompose these organic materials, they utilize the oxygen in the water and cause a strain on the aquatic life in the stream.
  • Be responsible when washing your car. Take your car to a car wash facility or wash it in your yard over the grass. Don’t wash your car on the concrete or asphalt driveway as the water will run into the storm drain increasing the amount of detergents that enter the stream .
  • Reduce pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Follow manufacturers recommendations for dosage and don’t overspray onto concrete or pavement. Don’t apply just before a rain – the majority will run off into the drain or stream and will not help your lawn and can damage the rivers and streams  near you.
  • Prevent oil from entering the storm drains or streams. Take your vehicle to an oil change facility or properly dispose of oil products if you do it yourself. Fix oil leaks on your vehicle. Always remember if it hits the pavement, oil will run into the stream  the next time it rains.