Marginalized Monitoring: Adaptively Managing Urban Stormwater

By Scanlan, Melissa K.; Tai, Stephanie | UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Marginalized Monitoring: Adaptively Managing Urban Stormwater


Scanlan, Melissa K., Tai, Stephanie, UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


I. INTRODUCTION II. ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT THEORY AND SHORTFALLS III. LEGAL FRAMEWORK   A. The Federal Framework for Municipal Storm water   B. The Federal Framework Prohibiting Non Stormwater     Discharges from MS4s IV. SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENTS V. ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT APPLIED TO STORMWATER   A. Research Methodology   B. Research Findings     1. Clean Water Act Obstacles to Adaptive       Management        a. Water Quality Standards        b. Regulations of MS4s' Illicit Discharge         Program Are Barriers to Addressing Human         Sewage Problems        c. MS4 Permits Lack Clear Standards for 3rd Party Data      2. Non-Regulatory Obstacles to Adaptive        Management         a. Dissemination of Science Through Trusted           Intermediaries         b. Science Interpretation and Communication           to Non-Scientists         c. Awareness of Science Not Disseminated to           Field Staff--Appropriate Scale of Adaptive Management         d. Practical Concerns About Testing Methods         e. Lack of Clear Standards Impacts Budgeting for Stormwater         f. Triage Barrier    C. Analysis and Lessons Learned     1. Clear Procedures Are Needed for the Use of       Monitoring Data Generated by 3rd Party or       Non-Agency Scientists     2. Clear Standards Are Needed to Update       Monitoring Methods     3. Discretion May Allow Avoidance of       Management Responsibilities and Regulators       and Citizens Will Find Enforcement Impracticable     4. Lack of Clear Standards May Undermine       Agency Budgets and Make it Difficult to       prioritize Actions to produce Cleaner Water     5. Time and Resource Costs of Adaptive Management May       be Balanced by Cost Savings from Scientific Accuracy     6. Trusted Intermediaries Are Essential for       Science Extraction and Communication to Resource Managers     7. The Clean Water Act and its Implementing       Regulations Need to Be More Adaptive to Science VI. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

A child returns from playing at the beach and within two days is severely sickened with intestinal illness, fever, and eye infections. (1) She has been unwittingly exposed to microscopic fecal pathogens from human sewage. (2) This is not an isolated story; in the United States, pathogens from fecal contamination are the leading cause of impairments to river, stream, bay and estuary water quality, and one of the top ten causes of impairments to lakes. (3) Images of raw human sewage in waterbodies are often associated with the need to build infrastructure for sanitation projects in developing countries. (4) However, this narrative comes from the United States, and is a story about the aging, crumbling and leaking water infrastructure buried beneath major urban population centers.

Due to scientific advancements, researchers now have the ability to identify the presence of human sewage in places it should not be. Across the United States, from the California coast to the East Coast and the Great Lakes in between, scientists are finding evidence of human sewage leaking out of cracked and corroded or misconnected pipes. In some situations, this raw sewage is seeping into groundwater supplies; in cities dependent on groundwater for their drinking water, this poses a significant public health problem. (5) In other situations, human sewage is reaching stormwater pipes, which are designed to quickly move rain and melting snow from urban streets and discharge it untreated into rivers and lakes. (6)

The scientific research provides a new window into the world of water infrastructure. Previously, concerns about human sewage contaminating water centered almost exclusively on issues related to the management of wastewater treatment plants and their combined or sanitary sewer overflows. (7) Similarly, academic and professional literature about municipal stormwater presumes stormwater only contains pollutants related to runoff from city streets and lots - things like fertilizers, oil and grease.

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