Gastonia Stormwater Utility Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

 

What is stormwater?
Stormwater is rainwater that collects on our rooftops, parking lots, roadways and other impervious (hard) surfaces. This water flows directly into the storm drainage system to our local rivers and streams. As stormwater flows along, it can pick up harmful pollutants (such as automotive fluids, trash, pet waste, fertilizers, and pesticides) which can impact our drinking water and the wildlife that live in and near our rivers and streams.
 
 Are sewers and storm drains the same thing?
No. They are two separate independent collection systems. The sewer system, also known as the wastewater or sanitary sewer system, carries household, commercial and industrial wastewater through a separate underground system. This system then takes the water to a wastewater treatment plant where the water is treated and then returned to the Catawba River. This water is extensively treated to make sure that no pollutants enter the Catawba River. Types of wastewater include water from your sinks, toilets, washing machines, tubs, showers and other related sources.
 
Does stormwater get treated at the wastewater treatment plant?
No. Stormwater does not get treated at the wastewater treatment plant. Stormwater flows directly to our local rivers and streams.
 
Why do we need to manage stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff is one of the primary causes of water pollution in North Carolina. This pollution creates numerous costs to the public and wildlife. Gastonia uses surface water from Mountain Island Lake, which is impacted by runoff from development surrounding it, for drinking water. It can be much more expensive to treat and clean polluted water than uncontaminated water.
Polluted water can also hurt wildlife that lives in and around creeks, streams and rivers. Soil erosion covers up fish habitats, fertilizers can cause algae to grow, and oil and chemicals can make fish and animals sick. Having pollutants entering our waterways not only impacts the treatment of our drinking water, but can also harm our environment as well.
The amount of stormwater can also be a problem. When rain water falls on hard surfaces such as parking lots and roads, it cannot seep into the ground. It runs off to lower areas. This water runoff can cause flooding if there is not adequate drainage to safely carry the water from these hard surfaces to rivers, lakes and streams. Flooding can damage yards, buildings and vehicles. Flooding can also lead to health hazards, such as mold and disease.
 
What types of pollutants are found in the storm drain system?
We can find many different pollutants in the storm drainage system, including paint thinner, paint, used motor oil, antifreeze, pesticides and fertilizers, sediments containing heavy metals, paper trash and bottles, human and animal feces, dead animals, and food wrappers.
 
How is stormwater pollution managed?
Stormwater is managed by using “Stormwater Control Measures” or SCMs. SCMs are designed to help keep pollutants out of runoff and slow down high volumes of runoff. Preventing pollution from entering waterways is much more affordable than cleaning it up afterward. This is the basis of our public education program and is one of the Best Management Practices for stormwater.
There are also laws that require people and businesses that disturb the soil to take steps to prevent erosion, as well as laws that make dumping materials into waterways illegal. There are laws about litter, picking up after pets, and dumping materials into storm drains that also help to prevent pollution.
 
How much does it cost me?
Under the City’s current stormwater rate, a residential property will be billed $39 per year ($3.25 monthly). All single-family residential properties are charged a flat fee. Residential properties include single-family detached houses, mobile homes on an individual lot, individual duplexes and residential condominiums.
The stormwater fee for non-residential property is based on a calculated number of Equivalent Residential Units (ERU). One ERU is the average amount of impervious area found on a typical single-family residence within the stormwater service area. It was determined that the average single-family residence in our area contains approximately 2,650 square feet of impervious area. Therefore, one ERU equals 2,650 square feet of impervious area.
 
Why do we have to pay a fee?
The City of Gastonia has chosen to implement a fee rather than raise taxes or offer fewer services and believes a fee is the best option for the community. The users of the stormwater system are charged equitably based on runoff from their property.
 
Why not use property taxes to pay for stormwater?
The City could increase our tax rate to pay for the stormwater program. However, the burden would not be distributed as widely or proportionately.
 
How is the money used?
The revenues raised provide the City with a dedicated funding source to make drainage system improvements and better maintain it. The stormwater fee generates over $2.5 million annually. The fee also allows the City to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater quality requirements to reduce pollution. The generated funds are allocated to three primary areas:
• Funding for drainage projects or capital improvements
• Increased maintenance and repair for the drainage system
• Compliance with federal water quality regulations and public education
 
How do I benefit?
You benefit from adequate, properly functioning drainage and flood control systems which decrease the likelihood of flooding, erosion and pollutants from surface and stormwater runoff. You also benefit from the regulation and monitoring of the properties above and around you. Finally, efforts to protect our water system improve our environment and quality of life and provide benefits to everyone.
 
Can the stormwater fee be lowered?
The City of Gastonia offers a credit for commercial and industrial property owners if they manage their stormwater runoff through onsite water quality or quantity structural best management practices.
 
What are the requirements for the fee credit?
Requirements include:
• Having an onsite stormwater detention or retention pond that reduces the quantity of stormwater runoff from the property that is designed and maintained according to the standards of the City of Gastonia’s Stormwater Ordinance.
• Having an onsite Stormwater Control Measure (SCM) that reduces the impact of pollution on water quality and meets the design and maintenance standards in the City of Gastonia’s Stormwater Ordinance. A SCM temporarily stores and/or treats urban stormwater runoff to reduce flooding, remove pollutants and provides other amenities.
How does the City prioritize stormwater problems?
The City addresses projects with the greatest health and safety risks and community impact first. Areas where there is chronic flooding are considered high priorities. The City is responsible for maintaining its current drainage system, performing repairs and completing drainage improvement projects.
 
Why are Stormwater Control Measures required for new development?
Environmental regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality require that new developments use SCMs to control the runoff rate so that it is not more than before development began. This can be done using a variety of ways, from detention ponds to underground filtration units. Our ordinance also states these requirements and that new development must manage and control stormwater.
 
What is a storm drainage easement?
An easement is a dedicated piece of private property with certain restrictions that allow for access and maintenance of a stormwater drainage pipe or ditch. The easement is owned by the property owner, not the City, but it is provided so that the City can maintain public drainage on private property.
 
Who is responsible for maintaining the ditch/stormwater easement on my property?
Generally, the property owner is responsible for the maintenance of any open ditches on his or her property. The City will ensure that the City’s pipe outlet remains clear to ensure proper flow of stormwater, but the City DOES NOT cut or maintain vegetation in ditches for aesthetics or similar purposes.
 
What should I do if my street/property is flooding?
If you experience flooding, and you live in the city limits of Gastonia, you can call our Stormwater Utility, 704-869-1013, and a stormwater inspector will come out and assess the situation to determine if it is something that the City can help with.
 
What should I do if I notice something or someone blocking a storm drain or ditch?
You should call our Stormwater Utility at 704-869-1013. Staff will investigate the concern and take any appropriate action.
 
What is a catch basin?
A catch basin is a curbside receptacle whose function is to convey water from streets and other urban surfaces into the storm drainage system. These basins can be easily seen throughout the City.
 
Are catch basins and storm drains cleaned regularly?
Catch basins are cleaned on an as-needed basis and during rain events. If you notice a problem with a catch basin or storm drain that is not working properly, you can call our Stormwater Department at 704-869-1013 to report the problem. Someone will come out to investigate and clean the storm drain if needed. Our streets are swept on a regular basis, which helps to keep the amount of material flowing into a storm drain or catch basin to a minimum.
 
What can I do if I see people dumping used oil or trash into storm drains, what can I do?
If you see someone dumping used motor oil or trash into the storm drainage system, you can call our Stormwater Utility at 704-869-1013 to report the illegal dumping. When you call, please be specific as to the location, and it is helpful if you can take a picture of the activity.
 
How do I properly dispose of used motor oil, antifreeze, paint, etc.?
Household hazardous materials such as paint, antifreeze, oil, pesticides and fertilizers can be taken to the Gaston County Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 3155 Philadelphia Church Road for proper disposal. If you have questions about what they will accept, contact them by calling 704-922-0267.
 
What should I do if I see debris or garbage in a creek?
If you see debris or garbage accumulating in a creek that could cause a disruption or blockage of flow, please call our Stormwater Utility at 704-869-1013 to report the location. We will send someone to investigate the problem and take any appropriate action.
 
What is the number one source of stormwater pollution?
In North Carolina, sediment is the number one source of stormwater pollution. Erosion from construction sites and other areas of disturbed land causes soil to wash into the storm drainage system. Sediment has numerous impacts on the water quality of our local rivers and streams, including turbidity and habitat impacts. Sediment can often carry other pollutants to our local rivers and streams such as heavy metals and nutrients.
 
How do nutrients such as nitrogen get into stormwater?
Nutrients can enter stormwater in a variety of ways, including landscaping, leaks from sanitary sewers and septic systems and animal wastes.