New mandates coming down the pipeline
By July all localities must adopt and implement their own “action plan” to manage stormwater in their area and Hanover County is no exception.
The big issue is figuring out how to pay for all the work that will be done to comply with the federal and state mandates, said Mike Flagg, director of public works.
“Residents will pay more money to deal with sins of the past —fixing problems,” Flagg said.
But how much money or in what way people will pay for “fixing problems” is currently unknown.
Flagg said the burden will likely increase over time.
Because Virginia is one of the states that drains into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there is a Total Maximum Daily Load, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, to help restore impaired waters and reduce the amount of pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment. The agency refers to the effort as a “pollution diet,” because it limits the amount of pollutants allowed to enter the watershed each year, according to a fact sheet from the agency on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
“These affect Hanover County directly,” Flagg said.
One of the county’s efforts to reduce pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay, Flagg said, is to find streams that are eroding and do “stream remediation” to prevent any further erosion or sediment from getting into the estuary. Other efforts like litter control are less complex and already included in the public works budget.
As of now he said they will not be changing fees and that all new developments will be fitted to comply with the new mandates, which Flagg refers to as being “nutrient neutral.” New developments will not add anymore pollution to the watersystem.
The public works department will be responsible for devising a cost-effective plan, Flagg said, but as for how the mandates will be funded, it is up to the Board of Supervisors to decide.
Chairman W. Canova Peterson IV, Mechanicsville District supervisor, said the board will look at alternatives to tax increases and new taxes to pay implementation of the mandates.
“The new regulations also require reductions in the nutrient levels being discharged from previous development and existing infrastructure as well,” said Peterson. “These costs will impact all of us as citizens of the county.”
In addition, individuals will have to think twice before getting rid of household waste like kitty litter and old gasoline. Even remembering not to throw your trash on the ground or in the waterways can help.
“It’s a matter of changing their knowledge base,” Flagg said.
In order to help change people’s habits, Flagg said the county is hosting educational programs on how to dispose of household chemicals or pet waste and be more environmental friendly. They are also getting the word out in the county’s newsletter, brochures and having citizens groups educate their neighbors.
“It’s an ongoing effort,” he said.
Some of the efforts the county is already making are in the proposed budget. Right now, the public works department spends between $1 million and $2 million on stormwater pollutant reduction, Flagg said.
As far as impacts on people and their existing homes, residents won’t have make any changes to their houses in order to comply.
“In general, existing residents won’t see the impacts of this,” Flagg said.
However, developers will have to make sure homes in new developments comply with the mandates, which Flagg said could increase house prices.
Outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell will be giving grants to 31 localities to help fund specific stormwater pollution reduction related projects. Hanover County will receive a total of $416,750 for two projects—one at Laurel Meadows Elementary School to help Beaverdam Creek and another at Church of the Creator.
Flagg said they will be using existing treatment facilities to help the water system and will retrofit them to comply with the regulations.
“We’re trying to use existing lands so that we can do these things,” Flagg said. “We’re looking for the most bang for our buck.”
The public works department is also taking inventory of Hanover’s infrastructure to decide the most cost effective route in implementing the state and federal mandates, Flagg said.
The other aspect of the program is a set of ordinances on new developments that each locality has to adopt through a process of public hearings starting in February.
“Much of what we have to adopt is non-discretionary,” Flagg said.
Flagg said part of it will be that Hanover will have to issue general permits for stormwater management, which would be a “one stop shop” for developers.
Although some of the regulations are specific to Hanover, most of them were modeled after examples done by the state and will take effect July 1.
Hanover will be in charge of enforcing the programs, but Flagg said there will still be some oversight from the state and, more specifically, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
“Now, we’re the front door of it,” he said.