July 28, 2006 – The territory's construction industry will soon need stormwater management permits when it builds on an acre of land or more, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said Friday at a workshop sponsored by the EPA and the St. John-based Island Green Building Association.
About 30 people attended the "Erosion Control and Stormwater Management Workshop" held at the Westin Resort and Villas; many in attendance were from the territory's construction industry, but it also attracted a smattering of environmental activists.
"We're preparing you guys for what's coming along," said Sergio Bosques of the EPA's Caribbean Environmental Protections Division in Puerto Rico.
One retired civil engineer, Jiri Hajek of St. Thomas, said the topic was definitely interesting. "It's time to start doing something," he said.
At issue is the need for the construction industry to control stormwater runoff from work sites because the runoff causes sedimentation on the territory's reefs, which smothers the reefs and kills the fish habitat.
Additionally, as the stormwater runs down the hill to the territory's bays, it picks up pollutants from a variety of sources, including failing septic tanks, farms, roads, pet waste, car washing waste and lawn fertilizer.
Bosques said the territory's' Planning and Natural Resources Department elected to develop a stormwater management permit system for construction projects one acre or more rather than leaving the job to the EPA.
He said Planning could decide to issue individual permits for each project, but Planning's environmental program manager, Syed Syedali, told the Source that the department intends to have a general permit for the territory. In that case, all construction projects of an acre or more will have to adhere to Planning's general permit rules.
Syedali said that the department is currently in the process of gaining the authority from EPA before it can put the actual program in place. However, Syedali said there is no target date for this to happen.
"EPA and Planning are diligently working on it," he said.
The proposed regulation has its roots in the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, which put the EPA on track to improve the nation's water. In 1977, the focus shifted from conventional pollutants to toxic pollutants and the name changed to the Clean Water Act.
In 1987, the rules governing stormwater management permits passed. The EPA issued the first permit in 1992.
The stormwater permit program comes under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, called NPDES by the industry.
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