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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 11, 2009

Rock and Stone care for Earth
Scouts mark storm drains in Guilderland as Stone raises awareness

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Boy Scouts of Troop 149, under Eagle Scout candidate Brendan Rock’s leadership, worked for 130 hours to help bring stormwater pollution to the attention of the public.

Rock, a Guilderland High School student, decided on the task as his Eagle Scout Leadership Project, which requires public service. In order to reduce the amount of pollution through storm drains, and raise public awareness, Rock and his fellow Scouts placed heavy-duty stickers next to drains in over 200 locations throughout Guilderland.

The stickers alert the public to the fact that the storm drains empty directly into the Normanskill, without going through any type of filter or purification first.

Rodger Stone, Guilderland’s zoning enforcement officer and stormwater management officer, who worked with Rock on the project, said, “People think the storm sewers are treated and they’re not; they go directly into a local body of water.”

Stone became the stormwater management officer for Guilderland in 2008, after specific local laws, providing regulations for storm water management, were passed. The laws were drafted after the federal Environmental Protection Agency designed six specific stormwater measures, including public awareness and participation, illicit discharge and regulation, and rules for avoiding soil runoff at construction sites.

A Stormwater Coalition of 12 municipalities, including Guilderland, was formed in October 2008. Nancy Heinzen, the stormwater program coordinator, began working part-time with stormwater issues in Albany County in August 2005 after teaching part-time at Voorheesville’s high school, and receiving her master’s degree in geography, with a concentration in physical geography and geographical information systems.

When the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation offered a grant for stormwater implementation, Heinzen moved to full-time for Albany County; part of the $250,000 grant was allocated to form the Stormwater Coalition.

Heinzen worked with an attorney to iron out the details of the coalition — how much to charge for membership fees, how many people to hire as representatives for each municipality, and how to regulate each municipality. In addition to adopting local laws, according to MS-4 permits, municipalities have the power to enforce the laws. Stone, as the stormwater management officer in Guilderland, has that power.

One of the local laws requires that any developer disturbing more than one acre of land submit a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), detailing the ways in which storm water will be handled before and after construction. Another law, focused on illicit discharge detection and elimination, is designed to prevent people from dumping pollutants into storm drains — materials such as pet waste, gasoline, motor oil, and fertilizer qualify as pollutants.

Developers are required to have an engineer investigate construction sites once a week, and that engineer submits a report to Stone. If there are violations of the SWPPP at the site, Stone investigates and informs the developer of the violation. If the next weekly report reveals that the problem has not been addressed, Stone can levy a fine of up to $5,000. There have been three construction site violations, and Stone said they have all been remedied after the first warning.

The same goes for violations by members of the public. If Stone receives a call notifying him that someone has been seen dumping material into a storm drain, he finds the individual and informs that person of the law. Again, the person can be fined up to $5,000. Stone said he would not fine the uneducated violator, but rather someone who knowingly and maliciously violated the law.

But, said Stone, the biggest issue right now is public education and outreach. Most, if not all, of the violations that have occurred since the formation of the coalition, have been the result of unawareness.

“As a municipality, it’s our duty to educate our public, and we’re doing very well,” said Stone. He said the town has displays at fire department events and at the Altamont Fair, and provide brochures at the town hall.

The stickers that the Boy Scouts put by the storm drains are a perfect way to help bring the situation to the attention of the public, Stone said.

“We’re working on this, and we’re going to make it work,” he said.

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