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Environmental Issues

The Movement Toward Verification of Stormwater Runoff Pollutant Removal by Parking Area Sweepers

Until now, cities and other public agencies have targeted only streets for a reduction in runoff pollution. Now, with the widespread advent of stormwater runoff fees for commercial properties -- which can run in excess of $1000/month for larger properties in some locales -- there is growing interest in finding a way to gauge parking lot sweeper effectiveness. Since a reduction in the fees paid could result, there is an increasing interest in having an independent test that would show whether or not particular parking lot sweepers are effective in reducing runoff pollution.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

In the past decade an enormous interest has sprung up concerning how effective sweepers are at picking up pollution from streets. Until now, that has not carried over into the parking lot arena. From the inquiries I have received over the last six months, that may ultimately change.

During the past few months I have received more than a handful of inquiries on this topic from contractors, permitting agencies and affected property managers. They all want to know what I can tell them about the pickup ability of the current lines of parking area sweepers. Here's why:

In recent years, municipal and other authorities in many areas have begun collecting a stormwater fee from the business community. This is usually based on the amount of impervious surface area of a given property. The more pavement and roof areas, the higher the fee. And, in some of the larger complexes, the cost per month can run to a significant figure.

As a result, property managers are trying to find ways to reduce or eliminate their liability through showing they are handling their stormwater runoff such that pollution from their property is not ending up in the runoff stream. In some cases, where the business property's runoff is collected into a storm sewer system, this is done by outfitting the catchbasin(s) with the new crop of filtration and other systems designed to capture pollution before it can go further. Regulatory agencies in some areas are now offering fee discounts for properties that have such filters installed, typically based on the independent testing results supplied by the filter manufacturers.

Where a collection system isn't already onsite, however, it is typically cost-prohibitive to retrofit one. So, savvy property managers are starting to work with their sweeping contractors to try and convince regulatory agencies that their program of regular sweeping is removing the pollution prior to runoff. The problem is, regulators want hard numbers, not speculation, about the removal efficiencies of any systems in place, including sweeping. And, no such testing process has been developed for the sweeping industry.

The following audio interview is conducted with Robert Haley, MS4 Program Coordinator for the City of Murphreesboro, Tennessee. In it, Haley discusses the requirements his organization has for allowance of a reduction in stormwater fees for a business property located in his area of jurisdiction. He also touches on what other providers of stormwater solutions are providing, and expresses his agency's interest in having independent sweeper testing results that would show the overall effectiveness that parking area sweeping can attain. Here is the link to this audio interview, which is in mp3 format and is approximately 13 minutes in length.

You may also want to visit the City of Murphreesboro's stormwater information website page, which includes a pdf link to the City's stormwater fee ordinance.

If you have any questions about any of the above ideas, feel free to contact the Team for a further explanation.

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