GUILFORD – The town’s engineering department is conducting its annual state-mandated stormwater outfall study, testing for pollutants that are being discharged into nearby bodies of water.
Such pollution can lead to beach closures in areas like Jacobs Beach, which closed July 11 and 12 for high levels of bacteria in the water.
Town Engineer Janice A. Plaziak said that Guilford operates on a general permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to operate its stormwater system.
“It has a number of best management practices and requirements in it,” Plaziak said. “In order to be in compliance with this permit, we have undertaken mapping of our system, and good housekeeping practices such as cleaning of catch basins and sweeping up roads.”
Part of the requirements, she said, is to test stormwater and conduct dry weather inspections, searching for illicit discharges that might be connected to the stormwater system.
“An illicit discharge would be something that is not stormwater, that’s connected to a stormwater system that could provide pollutants to a stormwater system,” she said. “A stormwater system always discharges into a larger body, whether it be the Long Island Sound, a stream, a pond, a lake, a wetland. It’s all about clean water and trying to improve our water quality.”
The town has been collaborating with consulting firm Weston and Sampson in Rocky Hill to keep up with deadlines regarding testing.
“We’ve been doing stormwater testing and we’ve narrowed it down to six locations regularly,” Plaziak said. “At first we had to do a number of locations and working with a consultant identified the six that would be our targeted area. We’ve consulted with them to do these dry weather inspections to try to identify illicit discharges.”
Given the significant rainfall of late, she said they’re a little behind schedule.
“Dry weather inspections are challenging because you have to do it when there’s no snow melt, when there’s no rain,” she said. “The storm water testing, you have to get out there within a certain time period of when the rain started in order for the testing to be counted. They don’t want it having rained for so long that everything is diluted. They want you to get in there when there’s the highest pollutant load possible. It’s a bit challenging, but it’s doable.”
Every year, she said, they have to test six locations where the pollution levels are highest. The locations are near Indian Cove, Waterside Drive, Vineyard Place, Prospect Avenue, Goose Lane, and Cornfield Lane.
“These are identified as ones that are impacted and need to be tested,” she said. “We need to see what we can do to improve the water quality there.
There are also 800 stormwater outfalls that they try to inspect every year.
“We’re continuing to try looking at all the outfalls in dry weather and testing if needed if we find any discharges happening when it shouldn’t be because it’s dry weather,” she said.
According to the 2022 general report to the town on the water testing results, four of the impacted points are along the shoreline and two are inland.
To reduce bacteria and harmful pollutants in the local waterways, Plaziak said her department is looking to reduce impervious areas like rooftops and hard surfaces in town by 2%, reducing the amount of stormwater that runs off and hopefully improving water quality.
“You can limit the amount of impervious areas,” she said. “That’s where zoning regulations come into play, new developments. There are impervious surface limitations on a development for property and if there is stormwater involved with impervious areas. There’s requirements for water quality management, stormwater management, even implementing things that will improve water quality like detention basins and storm interceptors that take out sediment and things like that.”
She said the town is also trying to implement rain gardens and bioswales, which represent best practices in developed areas for improving water quality and reducing runoff.
The biggest concern, Plaziak said, is bacteria from human and animal fecal matter and other contaminants like nitrogen, but she said her department hasn’t been able to identify the exact sources of pollution.
“It could be septic systems that aren’t working, animals, water fowl, animal waste that is caught up in the stormwater runoff,” she said. “We have farming throughout town. That can play a role as well.”
Nitrogen pollution can come from fertilizer or a septic system, she said.
“We ask people to make sure they’re maintaining their septic system well,” she said, and that people need to abide by the Water Pollution Control Authority directive that septic systems be pumped out at least once every five years or more often if needed.
“If you are having any problems with your septic system, reachout to the health department to have it rectified as soon as possible,” she said.
She also urged people to be more conscientious about yard maintenance, like limiting how much fertilizer you use.
“If you don’t need it, don’t use it, because it’s just going to run off and pollute the waters,” she said. “Even the way you stockpile yard debris, make sure it’s not in the path of flowing water, so it doesn’t get washed into the waterways.”
She said, when tidying up around your property, make sure to not blow leaves or sand into catch basins.
“We spend a lot of money every year cleaning them out and having any organic matter in the catch basin only adds to it,” she said. “We have a brush and leaf facility in town that residents can use if they don’t have a large enough yard for stockpiling on site.”
She also encouraged people to clean up the gutters in front of their property.
“It sits there and decays and then it gets washed into the catch basin and then into a nearby stream or pond or Long Island Sound with a lot of nutrients that causes a lot of problems with bacteria,” she said.
The recent situation that closed Jacobs Beach, Plaziak said, was caused by polluted stormwater.
“It’s because of pollutants from stormwater getting washed into Long Island Sound and bringing in those contaminants into that beach,” she said. “Some areas may be more susceptible to capturing and holding those pollutants. The cove there at Jacobs Beach is an isolated little cove.”