MS4: What, Who, and Why?

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Now, you may be wondering, what in the world does MS4 stand for and how can this apply to me?

What: As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is “a conveyance or system or conveyances owned by a state, city, town, village, or other public entity that discharges to waters of the U.S.”

MS4 discharges are regulated under the Virginia Stormwater Management Act, the Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) Permit regulations, and the Clean Water Act. These regulations were implemented in two phases; Phase I and Phase II. In the early 1990s, operators of MS4s that were serving populations of greater than 100,000 individuals were required to apply for and obtain a permit to discharge stormwater from their outfalls. Phase II became effective in March of 2003 and required that the operators of small MS4s (defined as “urbanized areas” by the latest decennial census).

Who: For the majority of our readers, the location of our businesses and/or homes fall in “small” MS4s area, such as the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Charlottesville, etc. “Small” MS4 areas include other entities such VDOT, JMU, and several colleges within the Valley. The requirements for each of these operations are to provide public education and outreach on stormwater impacts, public involvement and participation, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site stormwater runoff control, post-construction management in new development and redevelopment, and pollution prevention, which includes good housekeeping for municipal operations. Depending on the functionality of your facility, industrial facilities must apply for a VPDES Permit or for a “no-exposure” exemption.

Why: The purpose of these regulations are to reduce the amount of pollution entering our streams. You may wonder, why is this important? Just from cities and towns, oil and grease from road ways, trash, pet waste, household hazardous wastes, and so on can enter streams, impacting water quality and aquatic habitats. Don’t forget about industrial operations and construction activities. Even if these regulations aren’t something that you may need to handle, it is still important to be conscientious of your actions and how they can affect your environment. I don’t know any one that likes dirty, polluted water, but maybe I don’t know enough people.

For more information, feel free to contact me, explore DEQ’s website, or visit your locality’s website.