National & State Law


Both the United States EPA and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulate stormwater in Massachusetts. In addition municipalities may have local drainage, sewer, wetland or other ordinances that regulate stormwater.

In 1987, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to help improve the quality of the Nation’s water supply.  Yet while overall conditions improved, some water bodies remained polluted.  The 1996 National Water Quality Inventory, which examined each State’s water quality, concluded that 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies are still polluted and fall short of water quality standards.  A major contributor to this contamination is polluted runoff.

State Stormwater Regulations

At the state level, Massachusetts enacted a Stormwater Management Policy in 1997 to promote nine stormwater management standards. These were the first state-wide requirements for stormwater quality treatment, maintaining groundwater recharge processes and maintaining stormwater treatment systems. The policy was added as an amendment to the Wetlands Protection Act, and enforced by local Conservation Commissions.

National Phase I and II Stormwater Regulations

The issue of stormwater runoff was first addressed at the national level in  Phase I of the EPA’s stormwater program in 1990.  Phase I required permit coverage under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).  Those required to apply for permits included municipal separate sewer systems that serve populations of approximately 100,00 people or more, and construction activity disturbing 5 or more acres of land.

Storm Water Phase II Final Rule is the EPA’s next step in addressing stormwater runoff pollution.  Phase II expands upon those required to hold permits under Phase I to include all of the towns on Cape Cod except Provincetown, Wellfleet and Truro because they are considered to be “operators of MS4s (municipal separate storm sewer systems) in urbanized areas”. Phase II also applies to operators of small constructions sites that disturb between 1 and 5 acres of land, and ten categories of industrial activity.

Phase II is anticipated to further reduce adverse impacts to water quality and aquatic habitat by controlling the unregulated sources of storm water discharges that hold the greatest likelihood of significantly contributing to stormwater pollution.

The law states that towns must comply with the six required minimum control measures of Phase II to maximize community awareness of stormwater pollution. Click on the links below to view the EPA fact sheets for each of the minimum control measures.

  1. Public Education and Outreach to inform communities of the impacts of stormwater pollution
  2. Public Participation/Involvement allowing communities to participate in the creation and implementation of stormwater control programs
  3. Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination identifying illicit links to storm sewer systems
  4. Construction Site Runoff Control helping to reduce runoff on projects disturbing between one and five acres
  5. Post-Construction Runoff Control encouraging improved approaches for stormwater controls or treatment in new developments and redeveloped sites
  6. Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping introducing stricter house keeping practices for routine operations and maintenance of storm sewer systems
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