As of March 2019, the City of Walton has introduced a MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) program. Similarly to how Walton manages its own water and sanitary sewer systems, the City is now formally managing its stormwater system. Regulations and standards set by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW) govern the program, and these agencies can issue major fines if the City is found to be out of compliance. In coordination with KDOW, the City has obtained the necessary permits and developed a Stormwater Quality Management Plan that will be used as the basis for our stormwater management and inspection. The City will also prepare an Annual Compliance Report for KDOW, which will be posted on the website for public information.
Stormwater regulation in the US originated under the Clean Water Act of 1972, later modified in 1987. KDOW serves as the local authority for the program, and oversees the Phase I KPDES (Kentucky Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) and Phase II MS4 permitting processes. These programs monitor development in urbanized areas, the pollutants and erosion they generate, and their impacts on local bodies of water.
As we roll out the program, additional information and educational materials will be posted on this page. Please check back for updates!
What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is defined as any water that falls to the ground during a precipitation event (rain, sleet, snow, etc.) and results in runoff. A portion of this runoff is slowly absorbed into grass and soil areas, but precipitation falling on impervious areas (roofs, roads, sidewalks, gravel) is not absorbed and flows over the surface. The more impervious area, the more runoff there is and the faster it flows. This runoff must be collected with storm drains to lessen the risk of flooding and ice on roadways.
Where do these storm drains go?
Some drains from large commercial and industrial areas end up in detention ponds, which hold large amounts of runoff and slowly release them downstream. Most small culverts and yard drains will discharge to a grass ditch or swale, which eventually follows the natural topography downhill to a body of water.
What is a watershed?
A watershed is an area of land in which all drainage reaches the same body of water. Watersheds can be defined broadly (all stormwater in Northern Kentucky eventually reaches the Ohio River) or more specifically (stormwater within Walton city limits drains to Mud Lick Creek or Cruises Creek). We all live in a watershed!
Why is stormwater important?
For one, as development and building/paving increases, it increases surface runoff, so we must take care to construct and maintain our storm sewer system to capture and divert that flow to decrease the risk of flooding in our streets, homes, and businesses. Also, unlike sanitary sewers, stormwater is not treated before it is discharged to our lakes and streams, so any garbage, chemicals, or bacteria in the runoff goes directly to those water features. This pollution can be harmful to the wildlife and livestock that drink that water, and to our children that play in and around those lakes and streams.
What is an MS4?
MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. MS4s are municipally-owned sewer systems dedicated only to stormwater runoff, which must meet a set of construction, maintenance, and inspection regulations as defined by State and Federal law. Decades ago, sewer systems were designed as combined sanitary and storm sewers, meaning the same pipes carried stormwater, sewage, and industrial waste, and dumped into streams and rivers with little to no treatment. These combined systems may still be present in some of the older areas of Northern Kentucky, but they are considered obsolete and are being phased out wherever possible in favor of separate sanitary and storm sewers.
Why is Walton just now starting an MS4?
MS4 programs are mandated and overseen by the EPA and the Kentucky Division of Water as part of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Previously, Walton’s population was small enough to be exempt from these requirements. However, recent Census data combined with our location within the Greater Cincinnati urbanized area met the State requirement for Walton to become an MS4 entity. In most of the Northern Kentucky area, Sanitation District No. 1 handles MS4 duties, but Walton is not a part of their service area. However, we feel we can provide these services at a lower cost to the citizens by handling it ourselves.
What does the MS4 program involve?
For the initial MS4 permit application, the City created a Stormwater Quality Management Plan (SWQMP), which establishes “minimum control measures” in 6 categories:
- Public Education & Outreach
- Public Involvement & Participation
- Illicit Discharge Detection & Elimination
- Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
- Post-Construction Stormwater Management in New Development & Redevelopment
- Pollution Prevention & Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations
The City sets goals based on these categories and will prepare an Annual Compliance Report for KDOW to review their progress towards them. Additionally, the City has created a map of major storm outlets within the city limits and will inspect these annually.
What are Illicit Discharges?
Illicit discharges are illegal and unpermitted discharge into stormwater or surface drainage systems. Illicit discharges can be divided into two categories: point and nonpoint sources. Point sources are clearly defined individual pollutant sources (example: a factory outlet pipe dumping chemical waste into a river) and can be easily identified and addressed. Nonpoint sources are broader in nature (example: passing vehicles leaking oil onto roadways, which rainwater washes off the pavement and into curb inlets), cannot be traced to a single source, and are therefore harder to treat.
Does this mean I have to start paying a “rain tax”?
Some jurisdictions will fund their MS4 programs by passing a stormwater fee (sometimes referred to as a “rain tax”) where all property owners pay a rate based on the amount of impervious area on their property. With Walton being a relatively small town and wanting to avoid any unnecessary taxes on residents when possible, for now we are looking to run the program through existing funding as well as a portion of construction inspection fees collected by the County. As we get the program up and running, City Council will consider additional funding sources as needed.
What can I do to help?
Everyone that lives and works in Walton has a direct or indirect impact on our water supplies, but fortunately there are many ways you contribute without a lot of effort:
- Do not litter, especially around roadways or streams.
- Properly dispose of paint, used motor oil, cooking grease, medication, and other hazardous chemicals. Do not dump them in storm drains!
- Check your vehicles and equipment for oil, fuel, or antifreeze leaks.
- Pick up pet waste and dispose of it in the trash or toilet.
- Wash your vehicles in the yard—where the water can be absorbed into the grass—rather than in the driveway.
- Use fertilizer and pesticide/herbicide per manufacturer instructions. Do not apply to yards and crops immediately before a rain event, when the chemicals will be washed away before they can be absorbed.
- Make sure that your home or business does not have any sanitary sewer pipes (sinks, toilets, bathtubs, septic lines, washing machines, etc.) that tie into the storm sewer system.
- Talk to your neighbors and consider setting up a neighborhood litter pickup group.
What do I do if I see a possible stormwater problem?
Residents can report a possible illicit discharge or other stormwater concern by contacting the City Building at (859) 485-4383 or by using the Code Enforcement reporting form at https://cityofwalton.org/index.php/code-enforcement/. Illicit discharges will be investigated and cited by the City Code Enforcement Officer. Other stormwater issues will be forwarded to Public Works and the City Engineer for review.