EPA Clean Water Act stormwater program for Queen Creek costing $174,219 in first year


Rain water flooding a roadway and spilling into the Sonoqui Wash in Queen Creek. (Special to Independent Newsmedia/town of Queen Creek)

A town of Queen Creek employee shaved more than $1 million in projected costs over five years from a new health and sanitation program for stormwater-management administration required by federal and state law.

The program is to protect the Sonoqui and Queen Creek washes, which are considered tributaries to waters of the U.S. It prohibits non-stormwater drainage in the system, with some exceptions, such as water-line flushing, irrigation water, landscape water, firefighting and swimming pool drainage.

It also gives the town authority to inspect and regulate construction-site runoff pollution controls and compliance; and to inspect and regulate post-construction sites to require maintenance of the stormwater infrastructure, reduce erosion and protect water quality, according to the town council packet.

The original estimate for permit compliance in six areas under the EPA Clean Water Act program had been $475,051 for the first year, with a five-year total of $2,166,453.

Ramona Simpson, environmental programs manager for the public works department, is credited with reducing it to $174,219 the first year, with a five-year total of $776,874.

Troy White

“Much to Ramona’s credit, what she did is she took that down from that original estimate, down to $174 (thousand) a year. What we’ve basically done is we haven’t added any new staff to take on this monster, this administrative task that the state’s asking us to do,” Troy White, public works director, said to the council Sept. 5.

“We’ve actually just used in-house staff and we’ve spread it out enough internally so we’re not overburdening anybody too much. We spread it out using our existing staff so a lot of this $174 (thousand) you see here, is a calculation of … a portion of the existing staff’s salary that we’re assuming is going to go towards their duties to do this. So most of this is already absorbed within our budget and within our formal grant,” he said.

The council on Sept. 5 voted 7-0 to approve the stormwater management ordinance, where the town is administering the program instead of the state of Arizona.

Julia Wheatley

“I just want to say ‘well done.’ Many thanks to Ramona and we are reaping the rewards of all your hard work… Millions of dollars saved. From the town of Queen Creek, thank you,” Councilwoman Julia Wheatley said.

Mayor Gail Barney

“People ask and I keep telling people we’ve got the greatest staff in the state. Our people are fantastic and wonderful, but I also don’t tell them where your addresses are. We don’t want poachers,” Mayor Gail Barney said.

Voting to approve the stormwater management ordinance were Mayor Barney, Vice Mayor Emilina Turley and council members Jake Hoffman, Robin Benning, Dawn Oliphant, Ms. Wheatley and Jeff Brown.

The six areas of stormwater-management administration and their new estimated costs are:

•public education and outreach, $9,625 for the first year, $51,208 for five years.
•public involvement and participation, $8,125; $42,708.
•illicit discharge detection and elimination program, $33,267; $132,301.
•construction activity stormwater runoff control, $21,883; $149,077.
•post-construction stormwater management, $32,476; $128,141.
•pollution prevention and good housekeeping, $10,000; $52,563.

“We’re not implementing anything more than what we’re required to implement by way of the state permit,” Mr. White said to the council.

“This is one of these things that is a mandate that’s coming down from the state. It is not anything that we’re doing any differently. The builders, their contractors, their residents, nobody’s really going to see anything different,” he said.

“The only difference that is happening is that once the town of Queen Creek reached 10,000 people, they shifted the administrative burden of the stormwater permitting requirements from the state to the town,” Mr. White said.

The town is required by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, commonly known as the Clean Water Act (as amended), to implement and enforce a program to improve to the maximum extent practicable the quality of stormwater in the town’s Stormwater conveyance system, according to the council packet.

“This ordinance ensures that the town is compliant with its Arizona Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System general permit for stormwater discharges from the town’s MS4 system requirements by establishing methods for controlling the introduction of pollutants into the town’s MS4, as mandated by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” he said in the memo. MS4 is the town’s municipal separate storm sewer system.

Editor Richard Dyer can be contacted via e-mail at rdyer@newszap.com or at twitter.com/rhdyer or facebook.com/RichardDyerJournalist

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