Did You Know? Weston’s Stormwater By-Law

A Weston street with some run-off issues

If there is one thing that is NOT going to cause a big tempest in the Weston teapot this year, it will be water bills. Rain, rain, rain, storm, storm. If I find anyone with their irrigation system turned on these days, you shall get a slap with a feathered wing. Oh all right, if you have new trees or landscaping, I forgive you.

What is starting to cause more than a little murmuring is stormwater run-off. I’m not talking about that puddle of doom on Lincoln Road that drenches me the runner every single time a car passes after a rainstorm. I’m talking big-time construction causing big-time problems for our wetlands.

If you’re like the Owl, the thought of stormwater permitting makes you tired. But it is, in fact, incredibly important for the health of our semi-rural town and its residents. From the excellent town webpage on the subject:

Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have demonstrated that stormwater runoff is one of the most significant sources of water pollution. Rain or snow melt can pick up pollutants and wash them into the town’s drainage system, and this polluted stormwater runoff can be discharged into local rivers and streams without adequate treatment.

Common pollutants include:

  • motor oils, fuels, greases, and metals from vehicles
  • pesticides,lawn fertilizers, and yard waste
  • construction dust and sediment
  • litter such as dog waste, cigarette butts, paper wrappers, and plastic bottles

In combination, these pollutants can clog waterways, degrade animal habitat, and contaminate drinking water. The increased volume and rate of flow can contribute to increased flooding, causing erosion of streambeds and siltation of waterways, and decreasing the amount of water recharged to aquifers. Why Stormwater Matters Presentation (PDF).

When land is cleared or built upon, the stormwater that once infiltrated into ground must go somewhere else. Oftentimes, this creates adverse impacts to abutting properties, wetlands and streams, as more stormwater, dirt, or pollutants run offsite. 

Look, here’s a picture:

Image credit: weston.org

Stormwater runoff represents the state’s single largest source responsible for water quality impairments. In an attempt to lessen these impacts, Massachusetts has mandated that towns regulate stormwater runoff.

In 2011, the ever-hardworking people of Weston (or at least the small percentage who shows up at Town Meeting) passed the Stormwater and Erosion Control By-law to ensure that new development, redevelopment, and certain land disturbance activities do not increase stormwater pollution. And so was born the Stormwater Permitting Authority which works with the Department of Public Works Engineering Division.

It is at this point that the Owl admits to living at the very top of a rise on a road that has seen no new construction since ummmmm…maybe 2011? When the rains come, the street water flows down into drains and into Stony Brook at the bottom of the hill. Not to be holier than thou (especially since the Owl hasn’t attended church in decades) but it is one of the major reasons we gave up all herbicides and pesticides around our house. Mosquitos and grubs (and caterpillars and birds) love our lawn. The Owlet soccer player: not as much.

For those in neighborhoods with new construction, my guess is that the residents and developers are following their permits. If they’re not, you should take some photos with your iPhone 8000 and talk with the Stormwater division. Personally I think there is not much of a silver hammer here–first violations are warnings, second $100 and up to $300/day. It’s a whole lot of days until you’re hitting the checkbook of the large house developers. In the end, it’s not about money, it’s about doing the right thing–for our wetlands, natural spaces and drinking water. New motto of Weston: It’s nice; don’t f’it up.

2 comments

  • Maybe you *should* do a post on townies who have their irrigation systems despite loads of rain. I walk our dog through Silver Hill in the pouring rain and no fewer than 7 houses between Westland and Silver Hill Road had their irrigation systems on during a thunderstorm. Weston uses the most water per capita in the State. Perhaps if we were serious about water conservation we would have a by-law requiring all irrigation systems to either (i) have water sensors or (ii) be “smart” systems that alter the schedule based on rainfall. We have regulations requiring backflow preventers on irrigation systems, so doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch. I think a lot of people unfortunately just rely on their landscapers and don’t think twice about what their irrigation system is doing.

  • Silver Hill Resident

    I would recommend an education campaign rather than a shaming campaign. A smart irrigation controller such as Rachio is an easy DIY installation that can pay for itself very quickly – a surprisingly easy and lucrative win-win. I received nearly daily notifications from our system from mid June through mid August informing that our sprinkler program would be skipped that day (many days are just quick splashes to our flowers, not full lawn irrigation). If you are in tier 2 water rates that saves lots of money; if you are in tier three it saves double of “lots”.

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