Blogs > Docket > Riverkeeper, community partners give input on managing stormwater in NYC

Riverkeeper, community partners give input on managing stormwater in NYC

NYC’s first-ever “MS4” permit requires the DEP to develop a stormwater management plan by 2018; comments were submitted on the first of three annual progress reports.

An egret alights amid floating trash contained by a boom in the Bronx River. (Photos: Leah Rae / Riverkeeper)

An egret alights amid floating trash contained by a boom in the Bronx River. (Photos: Leah Rae / Riverkeeper)

In New York City, stormwater systems are usually one of two types.

First, in about 60 percent of the city, the sewers are “combined” – meaning that below ground during rain, sewage from households, businesses, and industries mixes with stormwater running off streets and can overflow (raw sewage mixed with oils, garbage, and other waste) directly into NYC’s waterways.

For the other 40 percent of the city, the stormwater systems are “separated” – meaning that your household sewage always (unless there are leaks) goes to a treatment plant, while everything – and we mean everything – that goes into a street’s storm drain is directly discharged into local waterways.

In 2015, for the first time in its history, NYC was issued a permit for this municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) pollution. NYC was the last major city in the nation to be issued an MS4 permit.

This permit requires, among many things, that the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (1) develop a “Stormwater Management Plan” (SWMP) with the input of the community, and (2) issue a series of annual status reports, until a final due date for the Stormwater Management Plan of August 2018.

What is a Stormwater Management Plan? It is a plan for how a city would manage stormwater in any “separate” sewered areas. These plans typically contain things like street cleaning requirements, ordinances for pet waste cleanup, requirements that city facilities (like truck depots or public parks) have really good trash control and runoff protections in place, and even requirements for things like media campaigns urging people to recycle more!

This past week, Riverkeeper, along with partners NY/NJ Baykeeper, Guardians of Flushing Bay, Empire Dragon Boat Team, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, NYC Water Trail Association, and the SWIM Coalition submitted comments to the DEP for its first annual status update.

Commenting here and now was important in order to lay the groundwork for the next two years of work finalizing what the city’s first-ever Stormwater Management Plan plan will look like.

Our comments, which can be read below, included a host of questions aimed at a few key aspects of the city’s efforts.

How transparent will this plan be, both as it’s developed over the next two years and as it is put into practice? The city is developing new plans, databases, maps, and oversight systems that the public should have a hand in creating!

What kinds of changes will the plan be requiring? What will the future look like for agencies like Parks, Education, and Sanitation? City-owned facilities (like parks) and city-run systems (like street-side trash bins) may all be subject to new rules to capture pollution before it gets into the storm sewers. Private developers, too, will have to meet new stormwater controls, preventing runoff from new construction projects, for example.

What outcomes does the city see here? Will the city be looking to beef up its enforcement efforts to crack down on industries and businesses that violate these permit terms? Will the city be looking to have this plan make a measurable improvement in our local water quality?

Check back often with us at Riverkeeper, or with the SWIM Coalition, for updates on the next MS4 Permit public meetings, hearings, and comment periods as we work toward the goal of a full and complete Stormwater Management Plan by August 2018.

Learn more about Riverkeeper’s efforts to restore & protect New York City’s waterways

Read our comments below:


Tell Gov. Hochul to block invasive species at the Erie and Champlain canals
Become a Member