Stormwater pollution is a chronic problem in the United States, not only along the densely developed coastline, but also in creek and river watersheds throughout the nation, both urban and rural. In December, two environmental groups called new attention to the issue by suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a San Francisco federal court, charging that the agency has dragged its feet on obeying an earlier court order to revise and tighten its rules for pollution control in areas subject to polluted stormwater runoff.

The Reuters news agency has a report on the new suit (see: "U.S. green groups sue EPA over stormwater regulations," by Ayesha Rascoe). "The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) said in a statement that they filed the suit on Thursday in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco," Reuters reports. "The groups said EPA has not obeyed a 2003 ruling from the 9th circuit in EDC v. EPA that required the agency to redo portions of its 1999 stormwater regulations dealing with urban runoff because they were not in line with the Clean Water Act. The order also directed the agency to consider regulating runoff from unpaved forest roads. NRDC and EDC said they have asked the court to impose a deadline for the EPA to act in these matters."

In response, the EPA said that it prefers a cooperative approach to the problem, saying, ""The agency's goal is to build a broad nationwide constituency for better stormwater pollution control by educating communities and giving them an opportunity to develop strong programs before creating additional federal regulatory requirements."

Around the nation, communities are struggling to solve their runoff problems, and it's typical for environmental groups to be critical of state and municipal efforts. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an activist group pressing for cleanup of one of the nation's largest and most sensitive estuaries, releases a report every two years on the bay's health. This year, the report called out Pennsylvania for falling behind in efforts to address runoff issues, according to a report in the LNP of Lancaster, Pennsylvania (see: "Report: Pennsylvania needs to step up farm runoff, stormwater controls for Bay cleanup," by Ad Crable). The state demonstrates "substantial shortfalls in reducing polluted runoff from agriculture and urban areas," the report said. Farms in particular are slow to improve their runoff control, the report commented: "It is estimated that a substantial percentage of farms still are lacking required pollution prevention and reduction plans and have long waits for assistance."

In Connecticut, state officials are examining ways to adjust their stormwater enforcement plan to ease the cost burden on localities, reports the Greenwich Time newspaper (see: "State to alter new environmental regs to ease burden on towns," by Amanda Cuda and Robert Marchant). "DEEP [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] spokesman Dennis Schain said the state still wants to cut the number of pollutants, including animal fecal matter, that end up in municipal stormwater systems and find their way into lakes, rivers and streams," the paper reports. "Officials, however, want to be sensitive to the recent outcry from local leaders, who say some of these pollution-cutting tactics are far too costly."

And in Baltimore, Maryland, a local tax aimed at allocating the costs of cleanup onto property owners, known by opponents as the "Rain Tax," has generated millions of dollars of revenue — money that the state is now earmarking for specific projects. The City Paper has this report (see: "Your 'Rain Tax' Dollars at Work: Baltimore's mandatory stormwater-management improvement plan is out for public review," by Van Smith). Reports the paper: "The projects are detailed in an 81-page 'Watershed Implementation Plan' (WIP) released by the city's Department of Public Works (DPW) on Dec. 19, and public comments about the plan are being accepted until Jan. 30, according to DPW spokesman Jeffrey Raymond."

"The 95 projects detailed in the WIP account for the equivalent of 1,191 impervious acres," reports the paper. "Of the remainder, 2,766 acres are slated to be achieved by water-quality improvement programs such as street sweeping, cleaning up the harbor's inlets, and detecting and eliminating illicit discharges to the stormwater system, and another 279 acres via partnerships for privately developed stormwater improvements. In all, these efforts are expected to reduce the water-pollution load from the city by keeping 40,000 pounds of nitrogen, 15,000 pounds of phosphorus, and 2,400 tons of sediments from reaching the Bay between now and 2019."