Author: Mike Trainque

Mike is a Vice President and Senior Environmental Engineer at Hoyle, Tanner with nearly 40 years of experience in wastewater, stormwater and water engineering. He assists municipalities with studies, design, construction administration, regulatory compliance and funding assistance. In addition to his duties at Hoyle, Tanner, Mike is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Southeast Watershed Alliance and Chairman of the advisory board to the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UMass – Lowell.

The New Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit

Pink and purple sunset image over water with tree skyline of Great Bay Estuary

What is the Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit & why does it matter?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit (GBTNGP) on November 24, 2020. The GBTNGP is aimed at reducing the overall nitrogen loading into Great Bay, a unique coastal marine estuary. The GBTNGP covers discharges of nitrogen from the 13 communities that own/operate wastewater treatment facilities in the watershed: Dover, Durham, Epping, Exeter, Milton, Newfields, Newington, Newmarket, Pease Tradeport, Portsmouth, Rochester, Rollinsford and Somersworth. The permit allows for an adaptive management approach to monitoring and reducing nitrogen discharges. Each community has the option of being included for coverage under the GBTNGP or not (opt in or opt out). If a community decides to be included for coverage under the permit it must file a Notice of Intent with the EPA, Region 1, by April 2, 2021. The alternative to opting in to the GBTNGP will be that the community will receive a new/revised individual NPDES permit to govern its WWTF discharge. Key dates for actions to be taken pursuant to the GBTNGP are as follows:

  • February 1, 2021 – Effective date of the Great Bay Total Nitrogen General Permit.
  • March 31, 2021 – Deadline for finalizing an Intermunicipal Agreement to develop the Adaptive Management Plan.
  • April 2, 2021 – Deadline for sending EPA the Notice of Intent to Opt-In to the TN General Permit.
  • July 31, 2021 – Deadline for submittal to EPA of the Part 3 Adaptive Management Plan.

How can an Adaptive Management Approach help?

The GBTNGP allows for an adaptive management approach to be taken for monitoring and controlling nitrogen discharges and allows for the communities to develop the Adaptive Management Plan. Adaptive management is a key aspect of watershed management and restoration. Elements of adaptive management included in GBTNGP involve ambient monitoring, pollution tracking, reduction planning, and review. Adaptive Management is, by definition, a structured iterative process of robust decision making in the face of uncertainty, with an aim to reducing uncertainty over time via ongoing system monitoring. In this way, decision making simultaneously meets one or more resource management objectives and, either passively or actively, accrues information needed to improve future management and decision-making. Adaptive management is a tool which can be used not only to change a system, but also to learn about the system (Holling 1978). Because adaptive management is based on a learning process, it improves long-term management outcomes. The challenge in using the adaptive management approach lies in finding the correct balance between gaining knowledge to improve management in the future and achieving the best short-term outcomes based on current knowledge (Allan & Stankey 2009).

A holistic & cost-effective approach.

The objective of an adaptive management approach is to take a broad holistic and more cost-effective approach to implementing water quality restoration and management measures that will achieve better overall results in improving water quality goals in less time and at less cost than the traditional regulate-react approach by applying limited resources where they will have the greatest effect. In fact, the GBTNGP encourages sharing of resources and costs among the participating communities. The adaptive management approach allows for planning, implementation, monitoring and refinement in order to maximize the results with limited resources (resource optimization). The idea behind an adaptive management approach is for communities to become proactive rather than reactive in restoring water quality within the watershed. A successful adaptive management approach will require extensive collaboration and cooperation between municipalities, regulators, agencies, volunteer groups and other watershed stakeholders.

Our experience.

Hoyle, Tanner’s Northeast Municipal Engineering services Group (NEME) employs 20 engineers whose primary focus is water quality engineering – wastewater, stormwater and drinking water. Our depth and breadth of experience includes working with communities to assist them with compliance with permits such as NPDES (wastewater and stormwater), MS4 (stormwater and non-point) and a host of other regulatory and environmental permits. We have been working with communities under regulatory constraints to monitor and reduce the amount of total nitrogen discharged to local water bodies and helping them to achieve water quality goals. Jennie Auster, one of our wastewater process engineers, has been working with communities affected by the Long Island Sound Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Nitrogen for over six years including completing biological nutrient removal analysis for several facilities. Jennie completed nitrogen removal optimization plans for six communities and has presented at the Green Mountain Water Environment Association Technical Sessions on her experience with low-cost nitrogen optimization plans (presentation available upon request). We are assisting several communities on compliance with the 2017 MS4 permit which includes nutrient reduction in stormwater and non-point sources. We are also working with many communities on asset management for their wastewater, stormwater and drinking water systems, the goal of which is resource optimization to improve decision-making and maximize the life of the infrastructure.

Let us help!

Our team has a history of developing creative and innovative solutions to help clients achieve their goals in cost-effective ways while optimizing the use of limited resources. For more information please visit our website at: www.hoyletanner.com or contact Michael Trainque or Joseph Ducharme.

I am a Senior Environmental Engineer and Vice President at Hoyle, Tanner, and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Southeast Watershed Alliance (SWA). The SWA is a non-profit watershed organization for which enabling legislation was enacted by the NH State Legislature in 2009 encompassing the 42 communities in the NH coastal watershed. I have been following the development of this permit on behalf of clients.

The New Hampshire MS4 Stormwater Permit: What’s Next?

Image of a stormwater outfall area as body of water

For our friends in the MS4 communities, hopefully, you completed the Year 1 requirements to meet the June 30, 2019 deadline. This included, among other things, completion of a Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP), Illicit Discharge and Detection Elimination (IDDE) Plan, outfall ranking and prioritization for subsequent outfall investigations, construction site runoff control procedures, a schedule for catch basin cleaning, a schedule for street sweeping, written winter road maintenance procedures, distribute two targeted messages (depending on the community), and develop a Chloride Reduction Plan. So, what’s next?

MS4 communities must continue to work on/update the stormwater system mapping. This includes key elements and features of the stormwater conveyance system, structural Best Management Practices (BMPs), open channels, etc. 2003 MS4 communities have two years (until June 30, 2020) to complete the update of the stormwater system mapping. New MS4 communities as of the 2017 MS4 have 3 years (until June 30, 2021) in which to complete the mapping of their stormwater system. As part of this effort, the initial catchment delineations should be refined as well. Systematic investigation of problem catchments, or high-priority catchments if there are no problem catchments, is to be started. A written catchment investigation procedure must be developed by December 31, 2019.

The investigation of problem and high-priority outfalls starts with a field inspection during dry weather. If dry-weather flow is observed, then further screening is required to determine if there may potentially be illicit discharges present. This can be done using field test kits; however, screening for bacteria requires laboratory testing. The results of the screening will determine whether additional investigation is required to determine sources of illicit discharges. The outfall ranking and prioritization will also be updated accordingly.

Stormwater outfall concrete pipe with water draining out of itGood housekeeping procedures must be developed for permittee-owned facilities, including: develop inventory of all permittee-owned facilities; develop O&M procedures for municipal activities; develop O&M procedures to reduce/minimize/eliminate discharge of pollutants; develop and implement Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) for municipally-owned facilities such as maintenance garages, public works yards, salt sheds, transfer stations and other areas where pollutants are exposed to stormwater; and cover salt storage areas. Are you having fun yet?

Public Education and Outreach activities must be continued during Year 2. This involves distributing two targeted messages.

Permittees lucky enough to have discharges to waters with an approved Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) have additional activities to complete during Year 2 as well. Permittees subject to an approved TMDL for chlorides must begin implementation of their Chloride Reduction Plan. Permittees subject to an approved bacteria and pathogen TMDL must disseminate public education materials and work on implementation of their IDDE plan. Permittees subject to a phosphorus TMDL must have a legal analysis of their Lake Phosphorus Control Plan (LPCP) completed.

Permittees with discharges to impaired waters without an approved TMDL would be well advised to begin planning for future MS4 permit obligations as well. Impairments to waters without an approved TMDL include: nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria or pathogens, chloride, total suspended solids, metals, and oil and grease. Did you know that leaf litter contributes phosphorus and nitrogen to stormwater runoff?

Did I mention that the Year 1 annual report must be completed and submitted by the EPA-extended date of September 30, 2019? The reporting period for Year 1 is from May 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. The reporting period is from July 1 to June 30 for all subsequent years. The EPA has developed a template based on the 2017 MS4 permit that can be used for the annual report. The template can be found here.

The Hoyle, Tanner team of experts is available to assist you as needed with MS4 permit compliance. If you have questions, please contact Michael Trainque (mtrainque@hoyletanner.com) or Heidi Marshall (hmarshall@hoyletanner.com) at Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc.

 

Additional information:

https://www.epa.gov/npdes-permits/new-hampshire-small-ms4-general-permit

https://www.epa.gov/npdes-permits/stormwater-tools-new-england#arr

MS4 Regulations in New Hampshire Communities: How to Deal with Stormwater

Storm Drain Photo

Whew!! You got that Notice of Intent form submitted (hopefully) to EPA on or before October 1. Now what? Grab a cold one, sit back, relax? Wishful thinking. Now the real fun begins.

Stormwater Sampling For those communities that have not already done so, stormwater outfalls from the MS4 area must be located, mapped and assigned a unique identification number. Then an inspection and condition assessment must be done for each outfall. If you were an MS4 community subject to the 2003 permit, you would have (or at least should have) completed this. However, you are not finished. Mapping completed pursuant to the 2003 MS4 permit must be updated with significantly more detail added per the 2017 MS4 permit. You have 2 years to complete the update. If you are a new MS4 community subject to the 2017 MS4 permit, you need to start this process and complete it within 3 years. For all MS4s, the stormwater mapping must be updated annually; and catch basins, catchment areas, manholes, and other features must be added. You must also complete an outfall inventory and ranking. The ranking is based on potential for illicit discharges and sanitary sewer overflows. Are we having fun yet??

If flow is observed from any outfalls during dry weather, it will be necessary to conduct dry-weather sampling and testing of each outfall in which dry-weather flow was observed in order to determine if there are potentially illicit discharges in the outfall. Outfalls must be ranked as “Problem”, “High-Priority”, “Low-Priority”, or “Excluded” based on known or suspected illicit discharges or sewer system overflows. This is all part of the required Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Program (IDDE). Did I mention you need to complete a written IDDE program within one year (by June 30, 2019)?

A number of New Hampshire communities are specifically listed in the 2017 MS4 permit based on discharges to waters with an approved Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and/or based on discharges to certain water quality limited (impaired) waters without an approved TMDL. Approved TMDLs include chlorides, bacteria or pathogens, and phosphorus.

How is your Phosphorus Reduction Plan coming along?
Impairments to waters without an approved TMDL include: nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria or pathogens, chloride, total suspended solids, metals, and oil and grease. Did you know that leaf litter contributes phosphorus and nitrogen to stormwater runoff?

How is your Chloride Reduction Plan coming along?
The written Plan has to be completed within 1 year (on or before June 30, 2019). There are also specific requirements for public education and outreach as well as public participation including messages and outreach to target audiences.

How are your stormwater regulations?
MS4 communities need to update their stormwater regulations and ordinances (if you already have them) or develop and implement regulations for managing stormwater (if you do not have them).

By the way, did I mention that all of the foregoing has to be addressed in your Stormwater Management Plan? The Hoyle, Tanner team of experts is available to assist you as needed with MS4 permit compliance. If you have questions, please contact me or Heidi Marshall for assistance.