Under state and federal mandate, East Hampton Town must design and implement a comprehensive program to deal with stormwater runoff, ensuring that it does not transport pollutants into water bodies such as Lake Montauk and Accabonac Harbor.
Rain washing off roads and traveling directly into nearby waters, or through storm drains that empty into harbors or bays, can carry fertilizers, toxic chemicals, bacteria, or debris that affect the health of the waters, sometimes resulting in their closing to shellfishing, or to swimming. That in turn can have an economic impact.
The program, known as MS4, for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, imposes detailed requirements for its various components, including public education, land use and building regulations that set standards for dealing with stormwater runoff, a proactive campaign to find and eliminate illicit discharges of stormwater into water bodies, and pollution prevention guidelines for town activities such as road maintenance, landscaping, and winter de-icing.
“Stormwater is a serious issue on Long Island,” and a primary cause of problems in the Long Island Sound and south shore and Peconic estuary systems, Eileen Keenan, a project manager of New York Sea Grant, a nonprofit educational organization for municipal officials, told the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.
Ms. Keenan has been working with a team of town employees, including those in the planning and natural resources departments, along with Councilman Dominick Stanzione, on East Hampton’s MS4 program.
According to the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees the municipal stormwater programs, several of East Hampton’s water bodies, including Northwest Creek, Accabonac Harbor, Lake Montauk, and Georgica Pond have exceeded the allowable maximum level of pathogens.
One requirement of the MS4 program will be to “reduce bacterial impairment” of those sites, Ms. Keenan said.
East End towns have banded together in order to more effectively address stormwater issues, Ms. Keenan said, through the Peconic Intermunicipal Stormwater Management Project.
Coordinating efforts, she told the town board, will allow adjacent towns to work together on protection of shared drainage areas, avoid duplication of efforts, and allow the municipalities to leverage their financial and technical resources.
It could also, she said, increase the chances of obtaining grants to pay for the installation of drainage structures or other work, as some funding is earmarked only for joint multitown projects.
In addition, she said, East Hampton, which has just begun its MS4 project, could benefit from the experiences of other towns that were required to begin sooner.
With funding from the Peconic Estuary Program, and working with consultants including representatives from the Cornell Cooperative Extension service, the collaborative project will identify towns’ priorities, develop an action plan and budget, and create the needed intermunicipal agreements.