New Palestine officials to spend thousands on stormwater program to ensure community safety


New Palestine town manager Jim Robinson said the town must have an overview program when it comes to stormwater in order to appease state and federal environmental officials.

NEW PALESTINE — Officials with the town of New Palestine say they are doing all they can to make sure the town is in compliance with newer Environmental Protection Agency and Indiana Department of Environmental Management rules.

The town’s council recently approved a measure to spend at least $41,000 over the next few years for an overview program of their MS4-stormwater system, impacts on streams and more which will include getting community members involved.

During the most recent council meeting in early July, town officials heard a briefing from an environmental compliance manager, Brady Dryer of Commonwealth, who gave them an overview of what town officials must do in order to meet new EPA and IDEM goals.

Dryer noted during the presentation that he wasn’t just talking about stormwater flow. Dryer said he wants to help the town with cleanup throughout, along with implementing new standards and even new ordinances to make sure town officials are in compliance with state regulations.

Dryer has been working with town manager Jim Robinson for several weeks, taking a look at the town’s current stormwater quality, something town officials have been mindful of since the early 2000s. Federal officials are now telling local town governments they better have their ducks in a row when it comes to MS4-stormwater in order to receive a general permit for operations.

“That new permit became effective in December of 2021,” Dryer said. “I’ve been talking with town officials the past few months about how we might implement this new program.”

Some of the new federal and state requirements call for public education outreach participation which includes working with county officials. New rules call for targeting things like litter and dog waste, which get into local streams.

“That includes looking at different facets of the customer base, commercial, residential and industrial,” Dryer said.

New rules suggest for more community involvement such as residents becoming more aware when there is a storm of how things discharge into a stream. When people call in an issue such as an oil leak, the town will have to have different response procedures in place to address issues.

“We all like fast foods, but those waste bins, the grease bins, it’s very common to see those leaking in parking lots,” Dryer said. “Those are the types of things we want to generate an awareness for as well as implementing internal town processes.”

Part of the cost for the project overview will help town officials prepare new guidelines, an annual report and water quality characterizations to turn in to state officials. Those reports will help town officials be better prepared should IDEM or the EPA audit the town.

“We have not had any permit changes in the past 20 years, so things are bound to change,” Dryer said.

Robinson noted while $41,000 is a great deal of money, he felt the town needed to invest in the overview project. He said some towns have a full-time stormwater employee, something a smaller town like New Palestine doesn’t have the luxury of having.

“MS4 (stormwater) has become more complicated,” Robinson said. “We do a lot of house keeping ourselves and that will continue, so this is a more of a as needed basis to make sure we are always compliant.”

Another element of the overview will include pollution prevention plans for town facilities such as the street department and wastewater facilities.

“We need to prohibit the discharge of chemicals, fertilizers, oils and stuff like that to the streams,” Dryer said. “We also need to take a look at post production in this area, including retention ponds, with so much production going on around here.”

Council member Clint Bledsoe noted the town does charge town users a $5 fee for stormwater which can help pay some of the cost for the new overview program. However, Robinson said they spend much of that money for repairs around town.

Council member Chris Lytle wondered if there were any federal or state grants the town can apply for or look into in the future.

“The government likes to give away money,” Lytle said.

For now however, town residents will foot the $41,000 bill, which is expected to cover the work needed for at least two to three years.