What is a stormwater fee?

A stormwater utility fee is similar to a water or sewer fee.  In essence, customers pay a fee to convey stormwater from their properties.  Beckley’s stormwater user fee is primarily the result of new environmental regulations (United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) on stormwater discharges.  This fee is used to finance annual compliance with these regulations.

Is the stormwater utility fee considered a tax?

No, the stormwater utility fee is not a tax.  It is a fee generated to maintain the storm sewer system and fund the NPDES permit compliance.  It is user based and the fee is based on contribution to the storm sewer system.

Is the storm water utility fee legal?

Yes, the stormwater utility fees are legal.  Although storm water utility fees have been challenged in the past, state and federal courts have ruled that stormwater utility fees are necessary to maintain the public stormwater system and represent an equitable way for the community to share the cost of a public service.  They are becoming more and more common throughout the United States.  Beckley Common Council must discuss and approve the proposed stormwater utility fee at public meetings.

Who else is paying a stormwater utility fee?

Every property owner in the Beckley watershed is responsible for paying a stormwater utility fee including County, State and Federal government parcels and public institutions, and commercial and industrial parcel owners.

Other municipalities in West Virginia, including the cities of Morgantown, Hurricane, Fairmont, Oak Hill, and Bluefield have implemented a stormwater utility fee.  Several more WV MS4 communities are planning to implement stormwater utilities.

Why is the stormwater utility being set up within the Beckley watershed and not limited to City of Beckley municipal boundaries?

For several important reasons, the proposed stormwater utility fee will be charged to residents within the Beckley watershed (corporate limits and extra jurisdictional areas).  First, stormwater runoff flows from land based on watershed boundaries not arbitrary political boundaries.  Therefore comprehensive stormwater management programs which consider and manage stormwater impacts at the watershed level are more likely to succeed.  US EPA has advocated water resource management at the watershed level for many years.  WV DEP’s designation of the entire Beckley watershed as the city’s MS4 permit boundary also recognized the importance of the watershed approach.  Finally, the state legislature has recognized the watershed approach and granted the city’s the ability to charge stormwater utility fees to areas outside of their corporate limits in state code.

How often will the fee be updated/changed?

Like any utility from time to time, future service fee changes will be necessary to account for rising operating expenses, new regulatory requirements and significant capital improvements.  Future service fee changes must be approved by the Beckley Common Council.

Are there any properties in the watershed that do not have to pay the fee?

Yes.  State roads are exempt since they are governed by a separate NPDES MS4 permit issued by WV DEP to the WVDOT.  City roads are considered to be part of the stormwater management system along with city owned pipes, ditches and swales that convey stormwater to waters of the State.  The City is required to monitor, identify problems and improve outfalls that are part of the stormwater management system if necessary.

Does the Post Office or federal courthouse pay a stormwater fee?

Yes

Does the city pay stormwater fees on city owned properties?

Yes

I live at the top of a hill. Why do I have to pay a stormwater fee? Alternatively, I live at the bottom of a hill and everyone else’s stormwater runoff impacts my property-why do I have to pay the stormwater fee?

Water quality affects all residents in the Beckley watershed and therefore, all property owners must pay their fair share of the cost to keep the rivers, creeks and streams clean and address drainage problems.

How was my stormwater utility fee generated?

Residential parcels are charged based on a flat fee of $3.75/month for an annual fee of $45.00.  All non-residential parcels are charged a stormwater utility fee based on total square footage of impervious surface.  The rate is $1.25 per 1,000 square feet of impervious surface.

What is considered to be an impervious surface?

An impervious surface is any surface that prevents water from penetrating the ground.  Examples include buildings, driveways, parking lots, swimming pools, patios, paved areas, gravel areas, tanks, pads and other features that do not allow rainfall to soak into the ground.

Who do I talk to if I want to dispute my bill or impervious area?

Appeals of stormwater utility bills are handled by the Beckley Sanitary Board.  You are welcome to call the board to discuss your bill and the basis for the amount.  If you desire to appeal your fee, please have the most current information regarding your parcel available.

Is there anything I can do to reduce my stormwater bill?

Yes, a credit system is being developed that will allow up to a maximum of 25% credit for qualified, properly designed, installed and maintained water quantity Best management Practices (BMPs).  This credit is only available to non-residential properties.

Residential properties are not eligible for fee reductions.  Because they typically only have a small amount of impervious surface, they pay only a small fee when compared to non-residential properties.

What is NPDES MS4?

NPDES stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which is the compliance system for the Clean Water Act.  MS4 stands for municipal separate storm sewer system.  NPDES MS4 requires that all stormwater discharges that enter waters of the United States meet minimum federal water quality requirements.

What is the history of the NPDES program in Beckley?

While the city of Beckley has had a NPDES permit for wastewater treatment for many years, Beckley did not have to hold a stormwater NPDES permit until 2003.  Beckley, like many other municipalities in WV, fell under the federal Phase II Stormwater rules, which require NPDES permit coverage and that the City develop a stormwater management plan addressing 6 minimum control measures.  Beckley’s stormwater management plan was prepared and approved in 2004.  Beckley’s NPDES permit area includes the City of Beckley and its watershed.

Since that time, Beckley has been implementing its NPDES MS4 Permit.  To continue to comply with the terms and conditions of the permit, a permanent and reliable funding source is necessary.  The stormwater utility fee is the stable funding source to allow continued compliance with permit requirements.

What is the ultimate goal of NPDES permitting?

The goal of NPDES permitting is to improve and protect the quality of our nation’s waterways by eliminating pollution from stormwater runoff to the maximum extent practicable.

How much does the City’s NPDES stormwater program cost annually?

At full operation in July 2008, the stormwater program will cost stormwater utility rate payers approximately $1.2 million annually.

What happens if the City does nothing or refuses to comply with the permit?

Should the city choose not to comply with the permit, penalties for willful non-compliance can reach up to $34,500 per day each day a separate offense or imprisonment, or both.

What will the City do about illegal dumping into storm drains?

The City will have an ordinance in place that addresses illegal dumping and litter.  Enforcement of this ordinance is part of the City’s Phase II permit requirements.  Stormwater Inspectors are authorized to cite any person or persons caught illegally dumping any material other than rainwater into a storm drain.

Will catch basins and storm drain get cleaned out?

Yes, the City will clean catch basins and storm drains as need.

Why doesn’t the city install filters or screens in front of catch basins?

Installing a filter or screen in front of a catch basin is not a practical solution to curbing the amount and type of pollution entering the storm sewer system.  Screens are difficult to maintain and do little to prevent street flooding.

I have seen storm drain markers over certain catch basins. How do I get a marker for a catch basin near me?

The City in partnership with the Piney Creek Watershed Association has been marking neighborhood catch basins that drain directly to waters of the State.  This program is ongoing and slows civic groups and individuals the opportunity to mark storm drains in their neighborhoods or other area of concern.  In addition, City staff will mark storm drains as they are cleaned or otherwise maintained.

How do I report stormwater problems (erosion, flooding, dumping, etc.)?

Call the stormwater utility at 304-256-1760.

What is a watershed?

A common geographic area drained by a stream or river and its tributaries.  The area in which all runoff is conveyed to a common outlet.

What is a catch basin?

A catch basin is a device to collect stormwater runoff and is typically connected to a pipe system or open channel to convey it to a receiving water.  A catch basin may be located in the street, on the curb or in a yard.

What is a storm sewer system?

A network of underground pipes and open channels designed for flood control which discharge straight to a receiving waterbody.

What is an NPDES permit?

The Clean Water Act prohibits anybody from discharging “pollutants” through a “point source” into a “water of the United States” unless they have a NPDES permit.  The permit contains limits on what you can discharge, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharge does not hurt water quality or people’s health.  In essence, the permit translates general requirements of the Clean Water Act into specific provisions tailored to the operations of each person or entity (City of Beckley) discharging pollutants.

What is a point source?

The term point source means any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, such as a pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, discrete fissure, or container.  It also includes vessels or other floating craft from which pollutants are or may be discharged.  By law, the term “point source” also includes concentrated animal feeding operations, which are places where animals are confined and fed.  By law, agricultural stormwater discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture are not considered “point sources”.

What is a pollutant?

The term includes any type of industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water.  Some examples are dredged soil, solid waste, incinerator residue, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials, heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste.  By law, a pollutant is not sewage or discharges incidental to the normal operation of an Armed Force vessel, or water, gas, or other material injected into an oil and gas production well.

Is it legal to have wastewater coming out of a pipe into my local receiving water (e.g. lake, stream, river, wetland)?

It is a permissible activity as long as the wastewater being discharged is covered by and in compliance with an NPDES permit, and there are enough controls in place to make sure the discharge is safe and that humans and aquatic life are being protected.  To find out if a discharge is covered by a NPDES permit, call the WV DEP, the agency responsible for issuing NPDES permits in WV.  The Beckley MS4 regulates polluted unpermitted discharges to the storm sewer system, which are referred to as illicit discharges.

Will the Beckley MS4 regulate development activities within the watershed?

Yes, the MS4 permit requires the city to develop regulations on construction site runoff and proper management of stormwater from new development to limit its impact (quantity and quality) to receiving streams.