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Emmett Jordan

Pollution Controls

When it rains, dense urban neighborhoods of buildings and pavement create impervious surfaces which don’t allow stormwater to infiltrate. Instead, stormwater washes over these surfaces, potentially moving a variety of pollutants into the storm drain system. Water flowing into storm drains (above) is not treated, and may flow directly into rivers and lakes.

technology-based limits because so many of the state’s streams provide little or no dilution flows at certain times. A discharge permit may also include whole effluent toxicity (WET) testing requirements. This type of testing measures the potential toxicity of a discharge by exposing aquatic organisms (e.g., fathead minnows) to varying concentrations of effluent. Most industrial facilities and cities with greater than 10,000 people are required to conduct WET testing. Before a permit is finalized, the Water Quality Control Division issues a draft permit to allow for public comment. Notice of permit actions is published in the Denver Post, on the Water Quality Control Division’s website and in a monthly Water Quality Information Bulletin prepared by the Division. To subscribe to the Water Quality Information Bulletin, please contact the Division at 303-692-3500. Under state law, permit violations are subject to potential civil penalties of up

Septic Tanks

In many areas of Colorado, wastewater from individual homes does not go to a central wastewater treatment facility. Rather, it is treated on the homeowner’s property in an underground septic tank and leach field—commonly referred to as an individual sewage disposal system (ISDS) or On-site wastewater treatment system (OWTS). It is estimated that there are over 600,000 such systems in Colorado, serving about onefourth of the state’s population. Individual household septic systems do not require point source discharge permits.

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C o lo r a d o F o u n dat i o n


to $10,000 per day. In addition, the EPA can issue federal civil penalties of up to $27,500 per day. Finally, under the federal Clean Water Act, citizens have a right to bring a lawsuit against a discharger not meeting applicable requirements if the state and federal agencies have failed to act.

Stormwater Discharges Stormwater runoff is rainfall or snowmelt that runs over the land surface potentially carrying pollutants into streams and lakes. Exposed industrial materials, erosion, pet waste, excess lawn fertilizer, motor oil, cigarette butts and trash are examples of sources that can result in polluted stormwater runoff. Point source discharges of stormwater runoff are often subject to different permit requirements than typical municipal and industrial wastewater discharges, largely due to the different nature of this discharge. Rather than discharging continuously at a relatively consistent volume, stormwater runoff can be extremely variable both in volume and in the quantity of pollutants it conveys. Therefore, a principal focus of stormwater management is on control and minimization of the pollution sources in order to minimize the need for treatment prior to discharge. Colorado’s stormwater permit regulations, adopted in 1993 and updated in 2001, require discharge permits for the discharge of stormwater runoff from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, industrial activities and construction activities in Colorado. Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permitting requirements cover stormwater runoff that discharges from stormwater collection systems owned or operated by cities, counties, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and other public entities in Colorado that own or operate public stormwater drainage systems located in urban or designated areas or that have populations of 10,000. These MS4 permits require an inventory of all stormwater discharge points and development of a Stormwater Management Program. The MS4 permits

W at e r E d u c at i o n

Citizen's Guide to Colorado Water Quality Protection  

Curious as to how the state decides what rivers are healthy for fish, or what lakes are safe for swimming? This desk reference tackles the c...

Citizen's Guide to Colorado Water Quality Protection  

Curious as to how the state decides what rivers are healthy for fish, or what lakes are safe for swimming? This desk reference tackles the c...