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DEQ plans Brookhaven review; water pollution rules considered

Brookhaven is currently not among state communities required tohave stormwater runoff control plans, but it could be added to thelist depending on upcoming census data and a variety of otherissues, said state Department of Environmental Qualityofficials.

“It could become one of the EPA-mandated cities,” said PhilBass, head of DEQ’s Office of Pollution Control, about Brookhaven’ssituation. “But right now, it’s one of 16 cities we’ve got toevaluate.”

At first, EPA storm water guidelines applied to only communitieswith over 100,000 populations. However, regulations are expandingto include communities, such as on the Gulf Coast and Hattiesburg,with populations of less than 100,000.

Nine counties and 22 cities currently have until March 2003 todevelop plans for dealing with rain or stormwater runoff that couldcarry soils and contaminants in various bodies of water. Bass couldnot say whether Brookhaven would be added to the list.

“It’s dependent upon a number of factors,” he said.

Census-related data that could land the city on the listinvolves population and population density factors. Examples ofother issues that could warrant inclusion would be sensitive watersin the area, water problems and potential for high growth, Basssaid.

Bass said DEQ was expecting census data soon and a tentativedeadline for making determinations on stormwater plan requirementstatus is Dec. 9, 2002. He said he was aware of no provisions forextension of the March 2003 deadline for having a plan.

“We hope to have designations long before Dec. 9, 2002,” Basssaid in response to concerns that the late date could put cities ina bind for having stormwater plans.

Unknown costs of developing a stormwater plan is a main concernof cities already on the required list. DEQ officials and variouscommunity leaders seeking funding help have been meeting withlawmakers to discuss the issue this week.

“The problem is nobody can give the legislature an idea what itwould cost,” Bass said.

Costs would also depend on a variety of issues, such astopography, existing infrastructure, soil type, city growth andpast runoff control efforts. Bass said some control measures arealready being done, but it has not been called stormwater runoffcontrol.

Regarding Brookhaven possibilities, Water DepartmentSuperintendent Lanny Dickey said the city would have to take a”wait and see” approach. While potential city sites that couldinfluence inclusion have been addressed in the past, he understoodthe reasoning behind the state wanting to control stormwaterrunoff.

“Pollution’s always been a problem,” Dickey said. “They’retrying to keep everything out of the streams and rivers.”

As far as costs, Dickey indicated the city would see thoseexpenses indirectly through engineering costs as they develop plansfor various projects.

One area that will affect the city is specific local projects.Bass said EPA regulations had lowered the permit requirementthreshold from five acres to one acre.

“Just about any kind of activity that disturbs one acre or morewill have to get a permit from our agency,” Bass said.

There is no fee for the permit, but plans must show howstormwater will be handled once the building or other work iscompleted. Bass said DEQ is currently developing guidelines forpermitting projects.