What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is the runoff water from rain and snowmelt and has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the number one contributor to overland pollution of our streams, ponds, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Stormwater pollutants include litter, sand, bacteria, chemicals (such as fertilizer and herbicides from lawns), and oil and gas from cars.
Runoff from paved or impervious surfaces, such as roads, parking lots, driveways and rooftops, can contribute large amounts of polluted stormwater. To prevent flooding, parking lots and streets are often lined with storm drains to quickly move stormwater off the pavement. Since storm drains have underground pipes that channel the stormwater directly to a nearby waterbody, whatever flows down a storm drain comes out in the closest wetland, stream, or pond, usually with little or no treatment.
Stormwater pollution is one of the most difficult sources of water pollution to control. Stormwater pollution is caused by the daily activities of people everywhere, and there are many steps citizens can take to prevent stormwater pollution and help protect our water resources. By putting fewer pollutants on the land, stormwater will be cleaner as it flows into our lakes, rivers, and ponds. Residents can find helpful tips for better water quality on this website and around Town.
Clean water is necessary for drinking, swimming, fishing, boating, and for protecting wildlife. It is far less costly to prevent pollution to waterways than it is to clean them up after the fact. Keeping stormwater clean not only benefits our neighborhood and community, it benefits the entire network of waterbodies and land that make up our watershed. With your help and support, and with the support of community efforts, we can make the difference in keeping stormwater clean.
Billerica’s Stormwater Management Program
Billerica has been regulated by the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permits for Stormwater Discharges from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in Massachusetts since 2003. The most recent General Permit went into effect in 2018 and regulates the discharge of stormwater runoff that is transported through municipal drainage systems into local waterbodies. The General Permit includes six Minimum Control Measures (MCMs):
- MCM 1: Public Education and Outreach
- MCM 2: Public Involvement and Participation
- MCM 3: Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Program
- MCM 4: Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
- MCM 5: Post-Construction Stormwater Management in New and Redevelopment
- MCM 6: Municipal Good Housekeeping and Pollution Prevention
The Town of Billerica must implement specific policies and procedures for each MCM to help reduce pollution in local waterbodies. The Town has developed a comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP) that describes the Town’s status of compliance with the General Permit requirements, a summary of water bodies within Town that receive stormwater discharges, and best management practices (BMPs) the Town will implement to address the six MCMs. Billerica’s SWMP and other stormwater management documents are available on this webpage. This document summarizes additional ongoing stormwater management activities in Billerica.
MCM 1: Public Education and Outreach
Billerica has a public education program that extends to multiple audiences, including residents, businesses, schools, developers, and industry. The Town posts information about stormwater, pollution, and best practices online and at neighborhood meetings, in the Town’s annual drinking water quality report, and at municipal buildings.
This webpage contains extensive information on the Town’s stormwater program including links to the Town’s stormwater bylaws and regulations, SWMP, educational topics regarding illicit discharges to the storm drain network and pollution prevention (including proper lawn care, pet waste management, and automobile maintenance), and other stormwater-related documents. Additional stormwater-related messages are also provided on other Town webpages, including proper septic system maintenance information on the Board of Health FAQ page.
The Town’s wastewater staff completes a regular school education program and visit classrooms, from elementary schools to colleges, to discuss water quality and stormwater pollution. The Town annually participates in World Water Monitoring Day where students from a Billerica elementary school learned how to test the water quality at local beaches. Tours of the wastewater treatment plant are also routinely provided for middle school, high school, and college groups.
MCM 2: Public Involvement and Participation
The Town provides opportunities for residents and the public to participate in and provide feedback on the stormwater program. In addition to public board and committee meetings where stormwater topics are discussed, Billerica DPW holds multiple household hazardous waste (HHW) drop-off events and waste oil drop-off days to help residents properly dispose of waste.
Billerica hosts an annual ’Clean Up, Green Up’ event where hundreds of volunteers help clean up curbside debris throughout Town and the DPW collects and disposes of the trash. OARS, a local organization whose mission is to protect, improve and preserve the Assabet, Sudbury, and Concord Rivers and their watersheds, holds annual river cleanups along the Concord River, where volunteers help remove trash and debris from the watershed. The Town’s yard waste collection program in the spring and fall also helps protect local waters by reducing the amount of leaves and branches dumped into streams, wetlands, and tributaries to the Concord River.
Billerica partners with the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project to restore and maintain wetlands, streams, roadside ditches, and culverts. Efforts also included insertion of larvicides into Town catch basins.
MCM 3: Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Program
A written IDDE Plan has been developed to summarize the ongoing IDDE Program, as required by the General Permit. Article XXVI of the Town’s General By-laws, “Discharges to the Municipal Storm Sewer System," was adopted in 2007 to regulate illegal discharges, connections, and dumping to the Town’s drainage system. More information about this bylaw can be found at the Town’s Stormwater Bylaws webpage.
The Town has begun inspections of Town-owned outfalls as part of the IDDE Program implementation. An online map of the drainage system is maintained, which is used during IDDE field work and to track progress of the IDDE and municipal good housekeeping programs.
MCM 4: Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control and
MCM 5: Post-Construction Stormwater Management in New and Redevelopment
Article XXV of the Town’s General By-laws, “Stormwater Management By-Law," was adopted in 2007 to regulate construction site and post-construction runoff for activities impacting an acre or more. Associated Stormwater Management Regulations were adopted by the Board of Health in 2010 and will be updated as-needed to meet the General Permit requirements for construction and post-construction stormwater management. More information about this bylaw can be found at the Town’s Stormwater Bylaws webpage.
MCM 6: Municipal Good Housekeeping and Pollution Prevention
Billerica’s routine municipal operations, including street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, drainage system maintenance, winter snow removal, and maintenance of Town-owned properties, facilities, and equipment, help keep pollution out of local rivers and ponds. The amount of sediment removed from catch basins and during street sweeping is monitored as those activities take place. A site-specific Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan has also been developed for the DPW Garage to ensure municipal operations at the Garage do not contribute to stormwater pollution.
The Town’s Annual Reports under the General Permit must be submitted to EPA and MassDEP by September 29th each year. They will summarize the stormwater management activities completed by the Town between May 1st and June 30th. A copy of the Year 1 report is available for viewing at this link. Future Annual Reports will be posted by EPA at their webpage of regulated communities here. EPA also maintains an archive of the Annual Reports from 2003 to 2018 at this link.
The Town is a member of the Northern Middlesex Stormwater Collaborative (NMSC), whose goal is to effectively manage stormwater and improve water quality, while engaging in resource sharing among towns in the Northern Middlesex region of MA. NMSC’s website has great stormwater management information for residents, businesses, teachers, and kids. NMSC also participates in the Think Blue Massachusetts educational advertisement campaign, which published a "Fowl Water" video on social media to educate the public about stormwater runoff and pollution.
Remember, stormwater is not treated at the wastewater treatment plant. Any pollution that is washed into the storm drain ends up in Billerica’s lakes and streams!
Please contact Heather Chew, Engineering Division, with any questions or comments about Billerica’s Stormwater Management program.