Stormwater Bylaw Questions and Answers

Milton's stormwater bylaw is part of a national program initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address pollutants in local stormwater. Below are some questions and answers to help residents understand what the bylaw contains.

What is the purpose of the stormwater bylaw?

The bylaw’s purpose is to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff. Stormwater is rain or snowmelt which empties into street catch basins and flows via pipes into local water bodies like Pine Tree and Unquity Brooks, and eventually into the Neponset River, which flows to Dorchester Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike wastewater, stormwater is not treated. As it flows over roofs, lawns, and paved surfaces like driveways and streets, stormwater picks up pollutants such as sediment, soil, pet waste, fertilizer and pesticide residue and carries them to local rivers and streams.

What harm do these pollutants do?

The pet waste is an unhealthy source of bacteria for people and animals that venture into local waters. Residue from use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers causes unwanted algae to grow in local waters. The algae suck up the oxygen and make it hard for the natural animal and plant life to thrive. Sediments and soils that are carried by stormwater into local water bodies clog up the water channel so that dredging is needed to keep the water running free. Sedimentation can destroy aquatic habitat and high volumes of runoff can cause stream bank erosion. If no stormwater management measures exist, a local water body may be irreparably harmed.

How does the bylaw affect residents?

The bylaw does not limit water usage for residents in any way, and should not affect a resident’s day-to-day household activities. The bylaw targets three specific areas: 1) illicit connections or discharges to the municipal stormwater drainage system; 2) construction projects; and 3) post-construction plans to route stormwater runoff.

Detecting illicit connections and discharges to the stormwater drainage system will be the responsibility of the Milton DPW. Managers of construction projects will need to file a Soil Erosion and Sediment Plan with the Town, showing how soil and sediment erosion will be minimized during construction. Finally, plans to minimize stormwater runoff after the construction phase is completed will also be required.

Simply put, the bylaw allows the Town to update its stormwater management techniques, and report its progress to the U.S. EPA. The overall goal is to make sure our local water bodies stay healthy.

Why target construction sites?

Most of us pass mounds of dirt or gravel on a construction site and don’t think much about them. These materials are needed for building. But if you think about it, stormwater freely washes over these materials, and carries them into local waters. The materials accumulate and flow into the nearest local waterbody. Construction sites have not previously been regulated for soil and sediment erosion, nor have the final impacts of construction projects on stormwater flow been regulated previously.

What size construction projects does the bylaw affect?

Construction projects affected in this bylaw include any plan to change the existing grade or remove existing vegetation of more than 2500 sq. ft. or 25% of the lot size, whichever is smaller. Construction projects storing more than 100 cubic yards of excavate or fill must also file such a plan.

Do other communities have stormwater bylaws?

Yes. Local communities like Sharon, Canton, Newton, Marshfield, Duxbury and Brookline have enacted or are in the process of enacting stormwater bylaws. In fact, 250 urbanized or semi-urbanized communities throughout Massachusetts will be implementing a stormwater ordinance if they haven’t done so already.