A new, environmentally-friendly system for handling rainwater runoff on development projects is being phased in and will put Chattanooga in the spotlight nationally. Washington, D.C. is the only other city in the country with this type of system.
The deadline to meet the new regulations is December 2014. On Monday afternoon, Dr. Minkara Mounir, the City Manager of Water Quality, spoke to the Chattanooga Engineers Club about the new standards.
He said, "This is the continuation of a project the city has been involved in for many years. This is not city imposed. It is actually driven by the EPA and the state."
He said currently, rainwater can be piped off projects, but in the future, the first inch must stay on the development site. He said a high volume of runoff creates stream bank erosion when the water finds its way to a stream, creek, or river. This type of erosion is the leading cause of sediment pollution in waterways.
He told the audience that developers will have to determine what they are going to do with the volume of rainfall that hits the surface on their sites.
He next discussed how the city would accomplish this change. Dr. Mounir said there would be an incentive program. Developers who go beyond the regulations can get discounts on their annual Water Quality Fee. The percentage discounted will correspond to the inches of water about the baseline kept on site.
In an example, he said if someone redid their parking lot with porous pavement, they would likely receive a high discount.
He also said there would be fees for those developers who did not meet the regulations after the December cutoff date, unless they could prove a noneconomic hardship. Possible hardships included bedrock below the development site and contaminated soil.
Dr. Mounir said he understood that these would be major changes and encouraged everyone to start updating now.