In 1972, the United States Congress passed the Clean Water Act that was promulgated specifically to prohibit the discharge of pollutants to navigable waters of the US.

The major intent was to prevent point source discharge unless authorized by an National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES). The NPDES was designed to track point sources (implementation of controls and monitoring). As it became evident that other sources of pollution, such as stormwater runoff from large surface areas, contributed to water quality impairment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a storm water program to address three non point source discharges - industrial, construction sites, and Muncipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) which was intended to include pipes and ditches in urban areas.

The Phase I MS4 program began in 1990 and was based on population of urban areas. The MS4 Permit includes 11 components:
  • Structural Controls and Stormwater Collection System Operation
  • Post-Construction Storm Water Management in New Development and Redevelopment
  • Existing Roadways
  • Flood Control Projects
  • Municipal Waste Treatment, Storage, or Disposal Facilities Not Covered by an NPDES Storm Water Permit
  • Pesticide, Herbicide & Fertilizer (PHFs) Application
  • Illicit Discharges and Improper Disposal
  • Industrial Runoff
  • Construction Site Storm Water Runoff Control
  • Monitoring Program
  • Public Education and Outreach on Storm Water Impacts and Public Involvement/Participation
City of Columbia’s MS4 permit became effective January 25th 2010
NPDES - MS4 Permit SCS790001

Richland County’s MS4 Permit became effective September 11, 2006
NPDES - MS4 Permit

The MS4 permit requires the creation of Stormwater Management Plan which outlines the tasks that will be completed within a certain timeframe. The City’s Stormwater Management Plan is available at: Stormwater Management Plan - NPDES Permit SCS790001

One of the requirements of the City and County’s Stormwater Management Plan is to revise local stormwater ordinances to address water quality. In 2008-09 Richland County attempted to revise their buffer ordinances to require undeveloped and protected land next to all streams and lakes. Miscommunication regarding this ordinance led to a major backlash from the development community and no agreement could be reached. County Council requested that developers, regulators, and the environmental community (including the GCWA) work together to create a “roundtable” and suggest a compromise solution. Richland County contracted with the Center for Watershed Protection, an organization that has worked with many local governments to revise their land development codes. CWP acted as the facilitator for a stakeholder roundtable process in which all parties had to reach 100% consensus on 22 land development principles that have an impact on water quality. The buffer ordinance was agreed upon and passed in 2009 and the remaining principles are still going through legal review and will be presented to council this year. The roundtable is still together has been a wonderful example of traditionally opposing parties working together to improve water quality.

The City of Columbia also passed a buffer ordinance in 2012 that was very similar to Richland County’s. Although the City did invite participates from all parties to participate in the creation of this ordinance, they were at an advantage because the County had already gone through this process. Therefore, they were able to use much of the County’s language that developers and environmentalists had previously agreed on with very little controversy. The City of Columbia will be revising their Best Management Practices manual in 2012 and plans to have stakeholder participation into this process also.

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

Under section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, states, territories, and authorized tribes are required to develop lists of impaired waters. These are waters that are too polluted or otherwise degraded to meet the water quality standards set by states, territories, or authorized tribes. The law requires that these jurisdictions establish priority rankings for waters on the lists and develop TMDLs for these waters. A Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still safely meet water quality standards.

Gills Creek has a TMDL for Fecal Coliform bacteria and a TMDL for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD5) and Ammonia (which is meant to address the Dissolved Oxygen impairment since D.O. is not a pollutant). All of the entities within the watershed are expected to comply with this TMDL including Richland County, City of Columbia, Fort Jackson, and SC DOT. However, since there are no direct discharges of any of these pollutants in the Gills Creek Watershed, the TMDL must be implemented by managing stormwater runoff, the source for the pollutants. In many ways, the TMDL and the MS4 permits overlap and have many of the same solutions for addressing stormwater runoff.

For information on storm water ordinances see the following web sites:

City of Columbia Proposed Storm Water Management Ordinance 12/26/2011 (pdf)

Richland County New Stormwater Regulations effective February 02, 2010

Richland County Richland County National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program

Evironmental Protection Agency Summary of the Clean Water Act
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