As wastewater professionals and stewards of the environment, you have obligations to meet the Clean Water Act, protecting your community from public health threats, maintaining your current infrastructure and fixing any type of unexpected failures in your collections system, all while simultaneously trying to keep affordable rates for your customers. This task can be daunting to say the least, and believe it or not, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is listening.
Last June, the EPA released its Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework, also known as the Integrated Planning and Permitting Policy, which lays out a strategy for the EPA regional offices, states and local governments to work together to develop integrated stormwater and wastewater management plans based on prioritized critical paths.
Traditionally, the EPA’s approach has been quite firm in regards to combined sewer overflow compliance. In the new frameworks approach, the integrated planning is to take a complete look at all of the obligations each specific municipality may face, lay each one out and figure out which is the most important. Then the tasks that are the most imperative will be done first, and the ones that don’t have a big environmental return on investment will be pushed until later in the year. By doing this, it prioritizes the work from most important.
This type of framework is not required by the EPA, but many utilities using this framework feel it is a great approach to common sense type of management. There have been several large cities throughout the United States using this approach. Philadelphia, being one of the largest, has seen many positive effects from this process. They had issues with CSOs for decades due to their extremely outdated sewer system. When they were able to focus on this problem, there was a tremendous reduction in CSO’s since its inception last June. They had one simple goal, “KEEP WATER OUT OF THE SEWER RATHER THAN EXPAND THE SYSTEM.”
The need to be adaptive and flexible moving forward is really something that could save the utilities money and also ensures that their money is spent more efficiently and effectively on the behalf of their ratepayers. For more information about the Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Approach Framework, please visit the EPA’s website at http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/integratedplans.cfm.