The American Public Works Association's (APWA) first day-long focus on stormwater drew twice as many people as expected on the final day of its annual convention, all of them hoping EPA Water Office Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles would explain once and for all what "maximum extent practicable" means.

But it was not to be. How could it? Each and every community's situation is unique. As frustrated audience members—and you—know, satisfying that nebulous three-word requirement has employed hundreds of consultants, engineers, and lawyers since becoming part of the Clean Water Act's lexicon two decades ago. While Grumbles acknowledged the EPA must better clarify expectations and issue enforceable permits, the onus is still on you.

So my hat's off to Bert Rapp, PE, public works director for the 15,000-resident town of Fillmore, Calif., who asked Grumbles point-blank if his permitting body's three-year deadline for meeting Phase II requirements was practicable. Grumbles offered to contact EPA Region 9 to see what was going on.

Now that's excellent use of taxpayer dollars!

But since many of you didn't make it to APWA's convention, Grumbles also said:

  • It's back to square one for effluent guidelines
  • Because removing compounds like mercury isn't just the job of water managers, the EPA is working with the transportation sector on programs that meet clean air as well as clean water goals
  • The National Academies of Science is evaluating the effectiveness of the technology the EPA has approved to mitigate stormwater pollution. Click here for more information
  • General permits for construction sites—the largest NPDES category—expire June 30, 2008. Any construction site of 1 acre or smaller, if it's part of a larger project, is subject to NPDES requirements; if the city's permit is good, builders may be able to use that to satisfy NPDES requirements
  • Multi-sector general permits for industrial facilities, which expired in 2005, are expected to be re-issued soon
  • Click here to see case studies of successful stormwater-management programs