Storm Water Regs? What Storm Water Regs?

silver_line_construction

Silver Line construction

Officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) have revealed that they will have to redesign portions of Phase II of the Rail-to-Dulles project to accommodate new storm-water regulations. MWAA offered no estimate as to how much the changes would add to the estimated $5.6 billion total price tag for both phases of the project.

According to the Washington Post, MWAA has already dipped into a $551 million contingency fund for $700,000 to cover a change in storm-water treatment required by the state. That’s a trivial amount of money for a project this size. The question is, how pervasive are the problems and how much more could the remedies cost?

The distressing part of this is that it’s not as if the state popped these storm water regs on MWAA by surprise. There has been a literally decade-long build-up to the new requirements, which went into effect in July. Hopefully, the problem announced by MWAA reflects an anecdotal oversight, not a systemwide goof-up. But that anything of this nature happened at all does not exactly inspire confidence.

— JAB

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3 responses to “Storm Water Regs? What Storm Water Regs?

  1. a key phrase – ” storm-water treatment”

    many if not most, the vast majority of storm water is untreated detention or retention… and I’ll defer to TE on the particulars …

    I’m not sure when “treatment” came into the regs but that part is pretty new and controversial .. some lawsuits have been involved …

    the question is – what determines whether a given pond is okay without treating… or not… and I’m not sure that was all figured out until recently and maybe is still under discussion.

    The size of the ponds probably would not have changed since the footprint of the impervious surfaces probably remained the same.. what changed I suspect was that they had not planned on having to treat the water.

    I think some of this discussion took place with TE in the past and if he is around and so inclined.. maybe educate us further.

    • Not a bad question.

      So, lots of parts to the question.

      1) When. Well actually in the countys that are involved here (loudoun and Fairfax) there have been requirements to treat (ie stormwater quality controls) since the Ches Bay act was signed in 1988 and then amended in 1991. But, for state wide, the State didn’t enact even controls across the board until this past July. That is why VDOT was able to skirt SWM regulations for a decade + without the same controls as private projects as they stated that the Right of Way was state property. And therefore not beset to local jurisdiction requirements… whether MWAA thought they would also be given that is in question considering they are not owned by the state.

      2) What is the difference? Well it depends. Theres all sorts of different ways to achieve nutrient removal/water quality treatment in non-point source discharges (ie non-industrial uses). The old ways used to be via settlement and natural absorption which would occur in ponds. The bottom storage of the pond would be the water quality volume, the volume above it would be the storm detention for flood concerns, so it would be sized for both. That was the case for about 95% of facilities between 1991 through 2005. Then around the mid 2000s the nova jurisdictions started to see the problems in some of the older design methods with ponds, maintenance, clogging, overall deterioration of affect, and low quality treatment so they started to push for more structural controls like Bay Savers, filter boxes, filterra planter boxes, things that physically soaked up water and suspended nutrients into plants or through a mechanical system that would filter it out. The problem there was that yes the effectiveness absolutely went up but now the legal requirements and inspection became a huge problem for these smaller land owners etc. So they then moved on to create more decentralized low impact design standards that address the source of the problem, and provide more natural format (and therefore resilient) forms of controls like bioretention pocket ponds and infiltration ponds. At the same time as upgrading this, the Ches Bay counties pushed the state to improve other locations state wide because they all lead (or a large majority) to the ches bay and they were seeing that other jurisdictions through sprawl development were actually causing amplified damages even though the NOVA jurisdictions were cleaning up much of the problems. Thats the source of the new state wide regs.

      Either way, MWAA knew it was coming while going through design. MWAA knew either way they were in Loudoun and Fairfax which actually meant they were required to do those things anyways, and oh btw they already included those controls on Phase 1 (see the bio ponds under the tracks in Tysons)… so for them to plead ignorance on this is again another example of how awful MWAA truly is run.

      Hope that explanation helps

  2. The MWAA seems to be getting the job done. Phase I is open and running. Phase II is underway. If the MWAA would have included costs for regulations which had not yet been enacted there would have been an uproar. Can you imagine Jim Bacon’s commentary if the MWAA would have said, “The regulations aren’t final yet but we want to include them in the costs anyway.”?

    In a state where over a quarter billion dollars were spent for nothing on Rt 460 and where 20+ years of work went for naught on the Charlottesville bypass I’d say the MWAA is doing pretty well.

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