Utilizing GIS for MS4 Reporting

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A GIS-based infrastructure asset management program can be used to document all MS4 activities, including outfall inspections, basin assessments, public outreach activities, employee training, and BMP installation and maintenance. In addition to functioning as a records management database, the program can be used to generate required compliance reports electronically.

In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency developed federal regulations that require a stormwater permit program for some communities based on size. This regulation is called the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II Storm Water Program. Under the current Phase II Final Rule regulation, all owners of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) in Urbanized Areas must obtain a Phase II MS4 Storm Water permit, which affects communities with population of <100,000 people. In order to comply with the regulation, the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has developed the Phase II MS4 Stormwater Program which meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s goal to reduce pollutants associated with stormwater runoff in communities of a certain size. There are currently 953 MS4 communities in Pennsylvania that are subject to this regulation.

MS4 Permit holders are required to prepare and submit Annual MS4 Status Reports to DEP for review by September 30th. As part of the annual report, the permittee is required to document detailed information for each Minimum Control Measure (MCM) listed in the permit. If the permittee is required to implement a Pollutant Reduction Plan (PRP) and/or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan, detailed information on all new structural Best Management Practices (BMPs) installed and ongoing nonstructural BMPS implemented during the reporting period must be documented in the annual report. Permittees are required to submit MS4 Outfall Field Screening Report detailing the results of the outfall inspection program as stipulated in the permit conditions.

With all these new compliance reporting requirements, the burden of paperwork has fallen on already over-tasked municipal employees. After the first year of the reporting cycle, municipalities are seeking to implement an easy-to-use records management and reporting system. Instead of purchasing new software to accomplish this task, some municipalities have turned to their existing GIS program for records management. Mapping of the municipal-owned storm sewer infrastructure was a required component of the recent permit renewal process. In most cases, the level of GIS mapping conducted for the permit consisted of infrastructural locations coupled with identification of ownership (public or private). By adding attribute data to the GIS data, the existing framework can form the basis of a robust informational database that can be used to house the documentation required for permit reporting.

A GIS-based infrastructure asset management program is capable of documenting all activities associated with the MS4 permit including public outreach activities, outfall inspections, construction, employee training, basin assessments, and BMP inspection and maintenance. Through the use of mobile applications, inspections are conducted on a hand-held mobile device, eliminating the need for paper field reports. The data collected in the field, including field photos, are transmitted directly to the GIS asset management program, creating a comprehensive document database. The information stored in the database is then used to generate the required annual reporting forms and tables electronically.