Environmental group sounds alarm over proposed changes to stormwater regulations

Stormwater regulations
Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 19:16:47-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With all of the new construction going on in Nashville, it's easy to want to look up. But Amanda Garcia with the Southern Environmental Law Center has her eyes fixed on the ground.

"There’s a lot of construction going on all the time," said Garcia. "Rolling back our construction stormwater protections right now is absolutely the wrong move."

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is considering allowing developments that are 50 or more acres to start using a General Stormwater Permit instead of an Individual Stormwater Permit. Essentially, that means less oversight. "So it takes the public out of the process, it takes an individual look by the agency out of the process for protecting our rivers and streams," said Garcia.

The proposal also lowers the number of stormwater inspections required out at a construction site. "And that’s really to prevent dirt from moving off of the site," she said.

That could be a problem, because sediment is the number one source of pollution for Tennessee's waterways. It can harm plants, fish and wildlife while degrading the quality of the water. "All of that dirt can run off during storm events into our rivers and streams or into the stormwater system," said Garcia.

Construction runoff can also cause flooding concerns because that sediment can get clogged in storm drains.

But supporters of this policy change argue it would align Tennessee with federal stormwater standards that are less cumbersome. "What TDEC’s argument ignores is the federal permit is meant to be a floor, not a ceiling," replied Garcia.

A department spokesperson tells NewsChannel 5, "TDEC is committed to protecting water quality. These proposed changes are currently in draft form and the public comment period remains open. Once the public comment period closes and TDEC has had the opportunity to review all comments, we will make a determination and send a formal response to all who submitted a comment during the public comment period."

Of course, Amanda hopes people raise their concerns because she thinks this proposal just doesn't hold water. "Lining the pockets of developers is not a reason to ignore the protection of our shared resource," said Garcia.

If you’d like to submit a public comment, and learn more about the proposal, you can do so here.