Stormwater Management

What Is Stormwater?

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not percolate into the ground. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops), it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is discharged untreated. The primary method to control stormwater discharges is the use of best management practices (BMPs). In addition, most stormwater discharges are considered point sources and require coverage under an NPDES permit.

What Is The NPDES Stormwater Program?

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program regulates stormwater discharges from three potential sources: municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), construction activities, and industrial activities. Most stormwater discharges are considered point sources, and operators of these sources may be required to receive an NPDES permit before they can discharge. This permitting mechanism is designed to prevent stormwater runoff from washing harmful pollutants into local surface waters such as streams, rivers, lakes or coastal waters.

In October 2000, EPA authorized the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to implement the NPDES stormwater permitting program in the State of Florida (in all areas except Indian Country lands). DEP's authority to administer the NPDES program is set forth in Section 403.0885, Florida Statutes (F.S.). The NPDES stormwater program regulates point source discharges of stormwater into surface waters of the State of Florida from certain municipal, industrial and construction activities. As the NPDES stormwater permitting authority, DEP is responsible for promulgating rules and issuing permits, managing and reviewing permit applications, and performing compliance and enforcement activities.

What Are The City’s Stormwater Requirements?

Under the FDEP stormwater program, the City of Mary Esther has been granted a MS4 permit to convey and discharge stormwater. Stormwater from the upland areas in Okaloosa County and Fort Walton Beach is conveyed to the City of Mary Esther and ultimately ends up in the Santa Rosa Sound. Because the Santa Rosa Sound is the receiving body of water, there are strict requirements for the discharge of stormwater from residential and commercial properties. The City has an adopted ordinance titled illicit discharge which can be found in Article 11.07.00 in the City’s Land Development Code. This ordinance governs all stormwater discharges within the City limits and has specific requirements for discharge prohibitions, construction sites, post construction and best management practices. By definition, an illicit discharge is any discharge to a municipal separate stormwater sewer system that is not composed entirely of stormwater. Discharge of chemicals, sediment, chlorinated swimming pool water, etc. into the stormwater system are direct violations of the illicit discharge ordinance. Fines for violation of the City’s stormwater ordinance can range up to $5,000.00 for irreparable offenses.

For new construction, the adopted Level of Service for drainage is to retain the first inch of run-off on-site; and post-development run-off shall not exceed pre-development runoff rate for a 25-year storm event, up to and including an event with a 24-hour duration. This helps with keeping the stormwater on site and reduces the risks of flooding. It also helps to recharge our aquifer and cuts down of point and non-point source pollution.


As part of the City’s Illicit Discharge Elimination Program, City employees are trained and educated to identify illicit connections or discharges to the stormwater drainage system. The most common warning signs of illicit discharges are dry weather flow, suds, sewage, oil and gas. The City also has field crews investigating point source discharges (PSDs) as part of their dry weather screening component of the Illicit Discharge Elimination Program. A PSD is an outfall from a drainage system that is characterized as a single identifiable source. A NPSD is a source of pollution that washes from roofs, streets, yards, driveway, sidewalks, and other land areas into water bodies. Any person found to be responsible for an illicit discharge or who does not report an illicit discharge found on their property is in violation of City Codes/Ordinances.

GOAL:   To eliminate discharges introduced into the City’s lake, streams, ponds, sound, and waterways that make up the stormwater infrastructure that are harmful to both people and the environment by public outreach, ordinance enforcement, and best management practices.

PROGRAM FOCUS:   The program focuses on the elimination of improper connections to the storm water system, elimination of illegal dumping into storm sewers, illicit discharges, environmental hazards, procedures, inspections, reports, warning signs, and minimizing the amount of seepage into the storm water system from the sanitary sewer system and septic systems.


·         Illicit Discharge> any discharge (or seepage) to the separate storm water drainage system that is not composed entirely of storm water or uncontaminated groundwater.

·         Illicit Connection> a physical connection to a separate storm water drainage system that primarily conveys illicit discharges into the system and/or is not authorized or permitted by the local authority.

·         Point Source Discharge Pollution> pollution from a single identifiable source.

·         Non-Point Source Discharge Pollution> pollution that washes from roofs, streets, yards, driveways, sidewalks, and other land areas into water bodies.

·         Pollution> contamination of the air, water, or soil by the addition of harmful substances.

INSPECTIONS:   Inspections shall be performed on a regular basis in a manner approved by the department head. All inspections shall be documented and list the date, location, findings, and any debris that have been removed from the stormwater infrastructure. All illicit discharges shall be reported to the department head, stormwater operator, and/or code enforcement division. An inspection shall be made for all reports of an illicit discharge with the appropriate action to follow to remedy the violation. Any person having knowledge of an illicit discharge that has either taken place or is taking place and does not make a report may be an accessory after the fact and held liable for any damages and any violations.    


When the City of Mary Esther has reason to suspect, or receives a complaint or other evidence of an illicit connection or discharge, the following procedures shall be followed:

A. Whenever an employee obtains information in the course of his or her official duties of an illicit discharge or an illicit discharge of a hazardous material which is likely to cause substantial injury to public health or safety, the employee shall immediately report such information to his or her supervisor.

B. Emergency Response: If a employee understands or believes that an illicit discharge may cause or threatens to cause immediate or emergency hazards to responding personnel, the public or the environment, he or she shall immediately call emergency dispatch (911). Response to such an incident shall be performed by the County Health Emergency Response Team or city fire department. In no event shall a city employee perform, or allow others to perform, response activities for which they are not adequately trained.

C. Storm Drainage System Inspection: In the event an illicit discharge which, due to its chemical characteristics, physical characteristics, quantity, or concentration, is not a threat to the health and safety of the responding employee, the responding employee shall, using reasonable and appropriate safety precautions, inspect the storm drainage system in the vicinity of the suspect area to confirm the discharge and identify, locate, and characterize the source and type of discharge. Examples of such discharges include but are not limited to the release of used motor oil, small quantities of paints, paint thinners, and solvents; used antifreeze; and other non-hazardous liquid or solid waste. The inspection shall be documented on the Stormwater System Inspection Report, noting the evidence found of the illicit discharge(s) and of the potential source(s). The location and ownership of the potential source shall be identified on an Assessor’s Parcel Map. The County Health Department shall be notified for all incidents found to involve hazardous materials.

HAZARDS:Illicit discharges are generally any discharge into a storm drain system this is not composed entirely of stormwater. The exceptions include water from fire fighting activities and discharges from facilities already under an NPDES permit. Illicit discharges are a problem because, unlike wastewater which flows to a wastewater treatment plant, stormwater generally flows to waterways without any additional treatment. Illicit discharges often include pathogens, nutrients, surfactants, and various toxic pollutants.

Oil and gas can travel a long way from its original source. It is often seen as sheen on the water. If the sheen is stirred and separated and it reattaches, it is most likely oil/gas. Oil and gas, when dispersed into the environment, is very harmful to the waterways and all life forms within those waterways. Whenever oil/gas is suspected to be in the waterway, a spill kit should be used to contain the contaminants and remove them from the area of pollution.

Grass and other vegetation is not just grass. Vegetation is very rich in nutrients which can cause an increase in algae growth within the body of water of which it is located. Nutrient input can reduce dissolved oxygen levels within a water system which is necessary for biodiversity. In addition, when vegetation, grass, leaves, etc. is dumped into the stormwater system it can cause blockages within the route of the stormwater flow. The vegetation can also be deposited along banks which can kill other vegetation and lead to stability and erosion problems of streams, banks, hills, etc.

Suds and detergents are specifically harmful to fish because suds deplete oxygen levels in the water. Suds can enter any water system where there is a flow of water. This is often a problem when cars are washed on an impervious surface instead of on the front lawn where the water can be absorbed, when a car wash is improperly connected, and when a washing machine has an illicit connection to a water body.

Oil/Gas is recognized as sheen on the water. Natural sheens may be differentiated from oil/gas sheens by swirling the sheen around in the water. If it re-attaches, the sheen is oil/gas. Natural sheens will remain separated. Oil/Gas enters water bodies via storm water runoff (spills while topping off at gas stations, oil leaks on pavement, etc.) and illegal dumping. Sanitary Sewage may be present if there is black staining inside the drainage pipe; visible evidence of sanitary waste, such as toilet paper; or opaque or gray water. Sewage may originate from septic tank overflow pipes or improperly dumped travel trailer waste.
Dry Weather Flow is noted when it has not rained for at least 72 hours   and the storm drain has flow or the drain shows signs of intermittent flow (staining, odor). Suds and Detergents may be harmful to fish because suds deplete oxygen levels in the water. Suds often enter lakes and streams as a result of improperly connected car washes or washing machines.
Improper discarding of GRASS clippings in areas such as gutters, culverts, drains, ditches and streams will result in many problems within that particular setting. Grass clippings contain a large amount of nutrients including phosphorous, which can cause an increase in algae growth within the stream and receiving body of water. Nutrient input can reduce dissolved oxygen levels within a water system, which is necessary for biodiversity. Grass disposal on the banks of ditches or streams can kill vegetation, which degrades bank stability and eventually forms blockages. Grass that is deposited on the ditch bottom can also create flow blockage.  


To Report Violations During Regular Business Hours, Call 850-243-3566 ext.16 Or For Emergencies And Immediate Threats To The Public Health And Safety, Call 850-651-7400.




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