Stormwater ordinance is adopted, but it will return

Friday, December 4, 2009

One of the most unusual Lewisburg City Council meetings was held in City Hall late last month.

There was no debate as Councilman Robin Minor, a U.S. history teacher, read about political parties. Councilman Quinn Stewart got her daily constitutional walk in by walking laps around rows of the mostly empty audience chairs.

Councilman Hershel Davis left the building because he's chairman of the Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Board which was meeting at about the same time.

Mayor Barbara Woods was interviewed about landfill issues which City Manager Eddie Fuller took photos to commemorate the moment.

Meanwhile, Councilmen Ronald McRady and Odie Whitehead Jr. read silently as the mayor's voice emanated from a tape recording she made four days earlier at home where she read into a microphone all 38 pages of the Stormwater Ordinance.

Instead of amending a few pages, the ordinance was changed by deleting the entire text and replacing most of the old law with new sections, paragraphs and sentences. As a result, the whole thing had to be read aloud for the record on Nov. 19.

Lewisburg received a director's order from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation because various federally mandated controls for stormwater management were not implemented here.

The order could cost the city up to $35,000, but with steps like changing the ordinance and improving enforcement, and mapping the city's drainage patterns, the civil penalty would be limited to $10,000. City Attorney Bill Haywood has sought to lower it further.

Jim Patterson, environmental manager for St. John Engineering of Manchester, the city's consulting engineer on these issues, was present if anybody had questions, but there were none.

Congress' 1972 Clean Water Act and its amendments requires control over stormwater because of its power to erode land, flood properties and pollute streams.

Controls have been based on the rate of flow of water and the city's new ordinance addresses those issues.

However, Patterson said, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue new guidelines that will address volume issues and that will require another change to the city's stormwater ordinance.

he most visible part of the controls are silt fences around construction projects to prevent sediments from being carried by stormwater to a river, creek or stream. Sedimentation is seen as one of the most common and deleterious forms of water pollution.

One of the parts of the city's new ordinance is on public education.

"I'm hoping the civic clubs will host or have speakers on this subject," the mayor said.