Federal Stormwater Permits
These permits are:
- The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit: for most cities and towns in Massachusetts, to operate municipal stormwater systems. More information on EPA Region 1’s and MassDEP’s MS4 General Permit. Find more information on compliance information on the MS4 permit below.
- The Construction General Permit: for construction projects disturbing one or more acres. More information on EPA's Construction Stormwater General Permit.
- The Multi-Sector General Permit: to operate industrial facilities in Massachusetts. More information on EPA's Multi-Sector General Permit.
MassDEP has compiled materials to assist affected municipalities in complying with the MS4 permit; see "Stormwater Outreach Materials to Help Towns Comply with the MS4 Permit" and the documents below.
State Authorization for Stormwater Permits
To receive a state authorization of the following NPDES Stormwater General Permits, a WM15 application is required.
- Construction General Permit
- Multi-Sector General Permit
- Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) Permit
For Construction and Multi-Sector General Permits, WM15 applications are only required if the site discharges to or is near Outstanding Resource Waters, as defined in in 314 CMR 4.06.
Instructions on how to submit a WM15 application to MassDEP to obtain authorization to discharge can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/wm-15-npdes-general-permit-notice-of-intent.
The MassDEP Wetlands and Waterways program also oversees the stormwater regulations under the Wetlands Protection Act. For guidance on the stormwater regulations, access the Stormwater Handbook at https://www.mass.gov/guides/massachusetts-stormwater-handbook-and-stormwater-standards.
Local Stormwater Permitting and Management
Cities and towns may have local ordinances or bylaws that address stormwater management requirements; contact your city or town for guidance.
Many communities in Massachusetts have established Stormwater Enterprise Funds to cover the annual expenditures that arise with fulfilling the requirements of the MS4 permit. Since the 2016 MS4 permit has gone into effect the number of towns that have Stormwater Enterprise Funds has significantly increased. If your municipality is interested in establishing an enterprise fund for stormwater management, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council has prepared a Stormwater Financing Starter Kit. To see examples of existing rate structures for towns that have established stormwater enterprise funds, refer to the Massachusetts Stormwater Fee Summary sheet.
Local officials seeking guidance on developing stormwater controls are encouraged to visit the "Think Blue Massachusetts" website for information and resources.
Resources and Tools for MS4 Compliance
The Municipal Small Separate Sewer System (MS4) Permit is comprised of six elements, which are anticipated to greatly contribute to reducing pollution to water resources if implemented collectively. The six minimum control measures of the MS4 Permit are:
- Public Education and Outreach: Municipalities are required to provide educational material to four audiences - residents, industry, commercial, and construction - on how their activities impact stormwater.
- Public Participation: Municipalities are required to provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the development/implementation of their Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) at least annually. Notices must comply with state public notice requirements.
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination: Municipalities are required to proactively and systematically find and eliminate sources of non-stormwater from their storm sewer system.
- Management of Construction Site Runoff: Municipalities are required to have an ordinance for management of stormwater discharges from construction sites that disturb one or more acres of land. The ordinance should include requirements for projects to implement sediment and erosion control practices as well as requirements for site plan review.
- Management of Post Construction Site Runoff: (New Development and Redevelopment): For development and redevelopment projects that disturb one or more acres of land, municipalities are required to address stormwater runoff by retaining it on site through low impact design techniques and green infrastructure practices.
- Good Housekeeping in Municipal Operations: Municipalities are required to implement good housekeeping practices in municipal operations, create pollution prevention plans for waste management facilities and maintenance garages, carry out street sweeping at least annually, and optimize catch basin cleaning.
Aspects of the Minimum Control Measures are implemented through the permit term. For Year 4 of the permit (2021-2022), municipalities can refer to the documents below to identify which requirements are due.
Groups of municipalities have been awarded grant money through the MS4 Assistance Grants administered by MassDEP to develop tools that satisfy portions of the minimum control measures. More information about the Stormwater MS4 Municipal Assistance Grant Program.
Public Education and Outreach
- THINK BLUE MASSACHUSETTS is a statewide stormwater education campaign put together by the Statewide Municipal Stormwater Coalition that describes stormwater-related environmental issues and provides all municipalities with stormwater education materials. The campaign has produced an educational video on stormwater that is available in English and Spanish. More information at https://www.thinkbluemassachusetts.org/. The Statewide Municipal Stormwater Coalition has also organized a 3-part social media training workshop that provides skills to reach a broad audience for stormwater-related outreach. The recorded sessions are available below:
- Part 1. The “Social Skills.” In this session, participants mastered the “social skills” for posting and tweeting messages their audience might like and share. Click here for a recording of Part 1.
- Part 2. Reaching Beyond Your Choir. In this session, participants discovered how Facebook and Twitter filter messages -- and get tips to "beat the algorithms” to get through more often. Click here for a recording of Part 2.
- Part 3. Get With the Program. In this session, participants explored how top organizations incorporate social media into their operations, and how this is different from personal use. Click here for a recording of Part 3.
- The Greenscapes Coalition, with Salem Sound 2000, published a web-based interactive map of LID projects installed statewide and 3 short videos describing successful urban, suburban and coastal LID practices.
Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- The Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition worked with a consultant to develop an online video workshop that meets the annual IDDE training requirement for the 2016 MS4 permit. View the video here:
- The Massachusetts Maritime Academy, with the Buzzards Bay Stormwater Collaborative, pooled resources for an illicit-discharge-investigation mobile trailer that can be shared among multiple communities. The manual, containing a list of equipment and accompanying standard operating procedures, is here:
Mass Maritime Academy-Buzzards Bay Stormwater Collaborative Discharge-Investigation Trailer Manual. A follow-up grant was awarded to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to train municipalities on how to use the trailer and to conduct system mapping. The Final Report for the MassDEP MS4 Municipal Assistance Grant Program summarizes this project.
Post Construction Stormwater Management
- The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission developed an offsite mitigation manual for post construction stormwater management that meets the requirements of the 2016 MS4 permit.
- The Neponset Stormwater Partnership has prepared a model municipal stormwater bylaw that satisfies requirements of the 2016 MS4 permit.
- The Northern Middlesex Stormwater Collaborative has developed a model municipal stormwater bylaw and accompanying regulation that satisfy requirements of the 2016 MS4 permit.
Northern Middlesex Stormwater Collaborative model bylaw
Northern Middlesex Stormwater Collaborative model regulation
- The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission carried out a desktop analysis to identify 5 suitable sites for stormwater retrofits or green infrastructure installations to treat runoff and reduce its volume for its member communities. The final report on this project summarizes the project process.
- The Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition developed a collection of 22 MS4 relevant Standard Operating Procedures and templates.
Impaired Waters and Waters with TMDLs
- The Neponset River Watershed Association, in collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, developed nutrient source identification reports for its member communities. A step-by-step methodology for the nutrient source identification report analysis and report summarize this project.
- The Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) partnered with the Charles River Stormwater Collaborative and the Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition to develop Phosphorus Control Plan templates for communities that have Lakes and Ponds Phosphorus TMDLs or are in the Charles River Watershed Phosphorus TMDL. The templates are available from CRWA.
Stormwater Policies & Guidance
Complete Erosion and Sedimentation Control Guidelines: a Guide for Planners, Designers, and Municipal Officials
Best management practices for controlling erosion and sedimentation.
The Massachusetts Stormwater Handbook
Last revised in February 2008.
Snow Disposal Guidance
MassDEP guidelines for government agencies and private businesses to use in selecting, preparing, and maintaining snow-disposal sites.