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Compliance of Central Massachusetts Municipalities with Stormwater Regulations

We are a group of WPI students working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). MassDEP is the state agency in charge of protecting the environment of Massachusetts through the management of toxic spills, the preservation of wetlands, and the management of air and water quality.

Our team is composed of three juniors: Hannah Bond, an Electrical and Computer Engineering major; Michael Racine, a Computer Science and Interactive Media and Game Development major; and Yang Yang is a Chemical Engineering major.

Left to right: Yang Yang, Hannah Bond, Michael Racine
Left to right: Yang Yang, Hannah Bond, Michael Racine

Throughout our project, we will work with three municipalities in Central Massachusetts in order to study the challenges they face in managing stormwater runoff and complying with the upcoming 2013 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. Specifically, we will be working with Grafton, Leicester, and Shrewsbury.  Additionally, we will communicate our findings to MassDEP so that we can collaboratively find solutions to these challenges and ultimately reduce stormwater pollution in Massachusetts.

Stormwater runoff is the flow of rainwater and melted snow across impervious surfaces, such as parking lots or rooftops, that water cannot seep through. Not only can stormwater flood urban areas, but when water flows across impervious surfaces into storm drains, it picks up and carries pollutants such as oil, grease, and any other contaminants one might find on top of these surfaces.

In 1972, many amendments were added to the 1948 Federal Water Pollution Control Act, which are largely responsible for creating the present day Federal Water Pollution Control Act or Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA sets limits on the amount of pollutants that can be discharged from a point source into America’s surface water bodies. This act eventually led to creation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which requires permitting on point source pollution. Point source water pollution originates from a discrete conveyance, such as pipes, channels, or wells. Under the NPDES program, any municipality wishing to discharge stormwater must obtain an MS4 permit.

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