WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today announced the introduction of the Highway Runoff Management Act, S. 518, a federal measure to reduce the pollution and erosion damage caused by untreated stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces.
“We have got to do more to control the unabated flow of pollution into our waterways, along with the erosion that follows surges of stormwater. This bill address these problems head-on, and better places the financial responsibility for the solutions on the agencies that most directly contribute to the problems,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Far too much of America’s transportation infrastructure is obsolete and not up to the task of adequately protecting our waters. Ignoring this problem any longer gives rise to unacceptable risks on the road for the public and does a chronic disservice to our creeks, streams, rivers – and the Chesapeake Bay.”
Untreated runoff from impervious surfaces like buildings, roads and parking lots is a growing source of pollution nationwide. Stormwater that falls on roadways, for example, washes oil, grease, asbestos brake-dust, nitrogen deposits from tailpipe emissions, trash, sediment, salt and de-icing agents into nearby waters. Worse, the erosion that too often accompanies storm surges chokes waterways and can undercut roadways, causing them to collapse.
“Big, fast surges of untreated stormwater routinely rush off road surfaces and erode unnatural channels next to and underneath roadways, compromising the integrity of roadway infrastructure and increasing overall stress on storm sewer systems,” said Senator Cardin. “This shortens the useful life of this infrastructure and ultimately degrades nearby lakes, rivers, streams and coastal waters. We spend too much on our roads and depend too much on our waters to tolerate continued inaction.”
Many federal-aid highways contribute directly to this costly problem. Yet the responsibility and expense for remediation and repair to the damage highway runoff causes to water resources and water infrastructure is borne solely by water utilities or state natural resource agencies, with very little if any help from highway authorities whose infrastructure is a leading cause of the damage.
The Highway Runoff Management Act would require states to analyze the hydrological impact federal aid highways are having on water resources and develop approaches to reducing the destructive impact of heavy stormwater runoff volumes and flows. A bottom-up approach that puts states in control of developing the hydrological impact analysis of federal aid highways in their state, the bill aims to better manage stormwater flows and volumes to reduce the erosive force high runoff. Once states have completed the relevant hydrological analysis, they then decide what appropriate measures to take to control flow and volume of stormwater from projects covered under this act.