Installing storm water best management practices (BMPs) for development projects is vital in ensuring public safety, preventing flooding and maintaining water quality. Unfortunately, these practices are being installed throughout the country with little or no plan for long-term maintenance. Although securing funding seems to be the biggest challenge, another key component in the equation for longevity of these systems is offering proper BMP maintenance educational resources.
To help meet this need, the state of Delaware has made it a priority to provide such information in the form of free public workshops. State regulations administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) mandate that it is a property owner’s responsibility to maintain the BMPs on that site; because many BMPs in the state are located in “common areas,” the ownership may be shared among homeowners within an association or maintenance corporation.
In many instances, these responsible parties do not have the background knowledge or resources available to know where to begin. Nurses, teachers, plumbers, moms and dads who serve on the boards of such organizations have little or no time to investigate these issues, let alone address them.
Some jurisdictions within Delaware—New Castle County, for instance—are required by federal permitting to provide BMP maintenance education. Others have found that by being proactive in educating homeowners, developers and property management corporations on the importance of routine maintenance, the chances of problems down the road are minimized; the Sussex Conservation District (SCD) is one such group.
Sussex County, Del., is a desirable place to work, visit and live because of its diverse landscape, comprising agricultural lands, beautiful beaches, natural estuaries and bays. Generally, people who live and work in Sussex County appreciate its natural resources and are willing to be stewards of the land and do their part. The state’s free BMP maintenance workshops explain that routine maintenance will save money in the long run and reduce the chance of failures, flooding and impaired waterways. In short, better routine maintenance means less private consultation and more efficient inspections by local agencies, also required by Delaware regulation.
DNREC’s Sediment and Stormwater Program has been working with SCD, among others, for more than five years to provide free public workshops on storm water pond maintenance. Partners contributing to this effort have included the Center for the Inland Bays, DNREC Watershed Assessment Section, DNREC Coastal Programs and the Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials through the University of Delaware.
Key topics covered in these annual workshops are:
- What are storm water BMPs, and why are they important?
- What are the different types of storm water BMPs?
- What are some common problems associated with the major types of BMPs?
- How do you get an inspection performed on your storm water facility?
- How do you interpret/read the storm water inspection report provided by the conservation district?
- What can be done to reduce maintenance costs?
- Where can you go for additional technical assistance and funding, if available?
- What other initiatives can be implemented in a development to offer wildlife or habitat enhancement?
Although members of the public may have a basic understanding of their responsibilities in maintaining storm water BMPs, they often lack the information on how to proceed. To aid in this process, workshop participants also receive a folder of information containing a wide variety of literature such as lists of native plants that can be installed, an extensive list of consultants that provide BMP maintenance, information on how to properly perform a soil test and guidance on BMP maintenance. In addition, several local environmental firms that provide storm water BMP maintenance are available during the workshop break to share information on the services they provide.
Offering this basic information to communities is essential to ensure proper BMP function and public safety. For more examples on resources that can be provided for your communities, visit www.swc.dnrec.delaware.gov/drainage/pages/homeowners.aspx.