The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is close to adopting new regulations for the mitigation of stormwater runoff from privately owned land. 314 CMR 21.00 The DEP determined a long time ago that a large percentage of water pollution is created when storm water (rain) collects and runs off impermeable surfaces, depositing pollutants into streams, ponds, reservoirs and the like. Impervious surfaces include roads, parking lots, and roofs. To help counteract this problem, the Massachusetts DEP has proposed new regulations shrinking the size of the area of impermeable land necessary for strict regulation by the DEP. This shifts the burden of stormwater regulation, previously regulated largely by municipalities, to private land owners. If the regulations pass, any private landowner having 5 acres or more of contiguous impervious surface area (such as a parking lot), will have to file a permit with the Massachusetts DEP or face fines and civil penalties. In addition, any private land owner who alters or repairs an area of 5,000 sq. ft. or more of impervious surface area will have to file for approval under the DEP Regulations. After filing the permit, the landowner is charged with monitoring the site to assure that the stormwater is being diverted in the proper way and is not contributing to an environmentally hazardous condition.

Any such regulation could have a deep and lasting impact on private land owners in the State of Massachusetts. The number of businesses alone that will be impacted by these proposed measures is incalculable. Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Corporate Parks, Condominium Complexes, all would be affected. Furthermore, any redesign of an impervious surface area would require a variance under the new regulations. Imagine having to apply for a variance to repave your parking lot or resurface you roof. The process could take weeks or even months. These regulations will hit particularly hard in the Charles River Basin which is determined by the DEP to be a “stormwater impaired” area. In that area, as little as two contiguous acres of impervious surface area pulls you within the regulations. Businesses in the Charles River Basin will also have to comply with additional State and Federal stormwater regulations.

For any site that qualifies under the new regulations, each site must submit to the DEP an Initial Certification requesting coverage under the “Regulated Impervious Area General Stormwater Permit.” Such Initial Certification must be submitted on the approved form created by the DEP. In addition, each affected property must put together a team of personnel for regulating their site. This stormwater task force would be responsible for all of the details of the impervious area such as sweeping and keeping clear of debris, snow and ice removal, runoff, treatment during the winter with chemicals such as de-icer, and repairs to the surface of the impervious area.

As with any DEP regulation, there are exceptions. Owners of private homes are not affected. Neither are owners of multifamily homes so long as the home has 4 units or less. In addition, sporting camps, recreational vehicle parks and campsites, and manufactured housing communities are not included in the regulations.

Please note, that these are proposed regulations which have not been approved yet. Once they are approved, affected private land owners will have 6 months to initially comply with the permit system. That said, however, it will be important in the upcoming months for private land owners of properties containing significant amounts of impervious surface areas, to review the proposed regulations and prepare to comply with the same.