Why Aren't Stormwater BMP's Maintained?

More and more effort is being put forth by stormwater regulators, engineers and contractors to approve, specify and install stormwater BMPs with the end goal of cleaning up stormwater. For a variety of reasons however, very few stormwater systems are ever maintained and without regular cleanout it can take between six months and two years to render systems effectively useless, wasting all of the initial energy expended to install them.

Because of the many players involved in the industry and the lack of communication between those parties, answers about who is responsible for maintenance can get muddled or never communicated at all (see figure 1).  The groups most educated about and concerned with ongoing system performance and the long-term environmental effects are regulators and engineers but neither group is close enough to the individuals who are often unaware but ultimately responsible for maintenance--end users.

Most end users are retail managers who, like most of the population, know little about stormwater treatment and will only take action when and if they receive a Notice of Violation from the Environmental Protection Agency. Most regulators however do not have well-organized databases indicating where stormwater BMPs are installed and those that do have little time to spend on enforcement. 

The outcome is a high rate of non-compliance, mostly owing to ignorance that maintenance is even required. Our experience with services thus far has led us to believe that between only 2%-5% of Stormwater BMPs are regularly maintained. 

Fig. 1

A webinar hosted by our Maintenance and Services Manager Pasquale Napolitano last month was very well attended with hundreds of attendees, most of them engineers. The topic is one they're passionate about and when asked in the webinar exit poll, "Do you plan to recommend maintenance providers to end users moving forward?", 88% answered with either "Yes" or "If I can find out who they are".

Additionally, when asked, "What suggestions do you have for increasing the frequency with which maintenance is conducted?" some of the responses included were:

  • "Be more proactive with the developer and their client/property owner to discuss the maintenance needs from the beginning."
  • "Make permittees more aware of potential penalties for non-compliance."
  • "Educate the client/end user. Educate municipalities."
  • "Require that all new property owners be informed of the presence of SWM on their property by settlement.  This may improve communication and help inform owners ahead of time so they may budget accordingly."