Source: Sherman Publications

DEQ critical of City stormwater management

by Mary Keck

August 29, 2012

When it comes to stormwater, Clarkston has room for improvement, according to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Since the DEQ’s audit in June, the City was asked to correct eight issues.

Many areas of improvement the DEQ cited were related to documentation. For instance flyers and brochures on the city’s Public Education Program (PEP) and record of the city’s adoption of the Oakland County Water Resources Commission’s (OCWRC) engineering and design standards were not available during the audit.

The main goals of the OCWRC standards are to prevent flooding and maintain water quality, said OCWRC Manager Steven Korth. The City had its first reading of the OCWRC standards on Monday. City Manager Dennis Ritter feels the standards are “very thorough” and “the enforcement provisions are acceptable.”

On the other hand, some feel the standards aren’t enough. Councilman Richard Bisio is in favor of adopting the OCWRC standards, but feels the city should also “take a wider view of its stormwater management role and responsibilities” by soliciting “local expertise” to develop a “comprehensive and proactive program of stormwater management.”

Hydrogeologist and Stormwater Outreach and Education Coordinator Tammie Heazlit said, “the OCWRC standards don’t apply; they are limited and outdated.”

Although the OCWRC standards were put in place in the 1960s, they were updated in 2006, said Korth. “I think we have everything covered, but there’s always room to improve,” he said. From Korth’s perspective, the OCWRC standards “should be adequate for the village.”

Alternatively, the city could make their standards more stringent than the OCWRC’s. Korth notes that some municipalities like West Bloomfield, which has “a lot of wetland areas,” have adopted stricter standards.

It isn’t the standards alone that Heazlit is concerned about, but also the process with which the city adopts them. She believes citizens should have more opportunity to participate in development of the ordinance. Otherwise the city may miss a chance to “increase understanding of stormwater,” Heazlit said.

Heazlit points out, “we live in the headwaters. Everything we do impacts everything downstream.” While she notes some aspects of the county’s standards may be appropriate, she would like to see the city adopt an ordinance that advances a green infrastructure and development. “It would be nice to be a leader in this area,” she said.

Along with adoption of the OCWRC’s standards, Heazlit is concerned about a part of the DEQ’s audit relating to the City’s disposal of street sweeper waste. In their audit, the DEQ stated, “street and parking lot waste collected by the city owned street sweeper is taken back to the Depot Park storage area and placed on the bare ground.”

Heazlit is alarmed because “the street sweeping sediment was placed on the ground with no containment, no barrier between the waste and the ground, immediately adjacent to a wetland.” Heazlit describes the street sweeper debris as “hazardous waste” containing heavy metals like mercury and led.

To correct the problem of discarding the street sweeper waste, the DEQ recommends the city store the debris in “a liner, vault, pad, or in a building or roll off until it is properly disposed of at a licensed landfill.”

According to Ritter, the city is looking into hiring a company to dispose of the street sweeper waste that has accumulated in the Depot Park area where wood chips and cut tree limbs are stored, but “we’ve not made those arrangements yet.”

Along with the street sweeper waste and documentation, the DEQ also wanted to see the city update their website with educational material on stormwater and train their staff on stormwater run off, rain gardens, and native landscaping.

Overall, the DEQ determined, “Clarkston is satisfactorily implementing most” of their storm sewer system program. The City has already begun correcting some of the areas of improvement in the DEQ audit, said Ritter who feels “we had a very good audit.”