Navigating the New Stormwater Regulations in Massachusetts

Mass DEP has recently revised the Stormwater Management Standards and Handbook to promote increased stormwater recharge, low impact development (LID) techniques, pollution prevention, the removal of illicit discharges, and the maintenance of stormwater BMP’s.  The Stormwater Standards, originally adopted as Policy in 1997, are now adopted as part of the State’s Wetlands Protection Act (WPA) and Water Quality Certification Regulations that took effect in early 2008.

Many of the 350 cities and towns have enacted local by-laws requiring compliance with the new rules which went into effect on January 2, 2008. Unlike previous iterations, the new standards apply to smaller projects such as telecommunications facilities, parts of phased projects, and in some instances, a discharge outside a protected area.  The Applicability of the regulations has in the past been ambiguous in certain instances and has been clarified to include stormwater runoff from all industrial, commercial, institutional, office, residential, and transportation projects including site preparation construction, redevelopment and all point source stormwater discharges from those projects.

The updated Standards accomplish seven goals listed below through a series of substantive and minor changes made to seven of the original nine standards, the addition of a new tenth standard, and the inclusion of Low-Impact Development (LID) Site Development Credits.

Increased Stormwater Recharge: Developers are encouraged to allow run-off to be absorbed into the ground on-site rather than routing the water away from the development. This allows for continual recharge of groundwater sources which are being depleted across the Commonwealth.

Low Impact Development (LID): New techniques are designed to treat stormwater at its source using natural features and processes leading to more recharge and decreased pollution. DEP now requires that LID techniques be “considered” for every development.

Redevelopments must improve existing conditions: All redevelopments — large and small — must contribute to a continual improvement of the site’s stormwater management. Redevelopments can no longer get away with maintaining the status quo.

Eliminate Illicit Discharges: Illicit and unknown discharges must be identified and removed. Removal is critical in sensitive environments where small amounts of contaminants can have far-reaching effects.

Operation and Maintenance: Mass DEP requires that the stormwater controls put in place during construction be maintained through the life of a development. A plan of inspection will be outlined to gauge the effectiveness of the controls over time and repair or replace them as necessary.

Soil Evaluation: New procedures have been enacted to more thoroughly evaluate the on-site soils while the design process is in its infancy. A certified soils professional will visually identify the depth to groundwater, infiltration rates, presence of fill materials, and soil classification.

New Stormwater Attitudes: A number of regulations within the Stormwater Handbook have been revised to reflect more progressive attitudes and the latest scientific data from the past decade of active stormwater management in the Commonwealth.

The new standards reflect changing attitudes towards stormwater management in the Commonwealth. The complexities of stormwater permitting in Massachusetts and many other jurisdictions require knowledge and careful review of state, municipal and federal guidelines and regulations. Let the professionals at ProTerra assist you with your next stormwater or jurisdictional project or make sure you have a design that meets the new standards. For more information about Massachusetts stormwater visit the MassDEP website.  Other state regulatory guides can be found at Stormwater