EPA 'Water Chief' Tours UNH Stormwater Center

Jul 31, 2013

Durham's town engineer Dave Cedarholm shows off one of the towns several rain gardens. The town hopes innovative "green infrastructure" like this will help them avoid expensive waste water treatment plant upgrades.
Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The chief regulator of EPA’s Water division visited Durham Wednesday to check out the town’s collaboration with UNH to create innovative solutions to pollution in storm-water runoff. Town officials used the opportunity to underscore a new approach to achieving clean water.

Durham is working on a study and a plan that will identify which improvements – for both storm and wastewater – will remove the most pollution per dollar spent. They hope that their study will show that money is better invested in green infrastructure like rain-gardens, than in waste water treatment plant upgrades, and that by showing this they will be granted leniency on their waste water permit.

And comments from EPA’s “water chief,” Nancy Stoner, while touring UNH’s storm-water center, lent credence to those hopes.

“The goal is to achieve the water quality standards in the water body,” Stoner told reporters, “So if you take [pollution] out of the storm-water, then you don’t have to take as much of it out of the sewage.”

Currently towns get two water permits from the EPA – one regulating waste water, and the other dealing with storm water – but Durham is hoping to negotiate a integrated permit for both pollutions sources.

The town’s study won’t be complete until next year.