Frequently Asked Questions

What is stormwater runoff?

Stormwater runoff is rainwater or melted snow that flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets and other hard surfaces.  Stormwater runoff is also the water that flows off grass surfaces and wooded areas that is not readily absorbed into the soil.   


Why is stormwater runoff a concern?

Stormwater runoff not absorbed into the ground flows into ditches, culverts, catch basins and storm sewer drains untreated.  Stormwater contains pollutants from the surrounding land use and airborne deposits that can impair neighborhood streams, creeks, and the bay, and can impact wildlife, prevent shellfish harvesting, and close beaches. If inadequately controlled, stormwater causes flooding and acute traffic hazards during storms, and often enters the sewer system thus overloading the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant.


What is the source of flooding and stormwater pollution?

Numerous studies have shown that flooding and stormwater pollution are directly correlated to the amount of pavement and other hard surfaces or impervious cover, on a site. There are several potential sources of pollution including illegal sewage connections, sediment from soil disturbance, excessive fertilizer usage, pesticides, herbicides, trash, automobile drippings, pet waste, anti-icing agents, automobile exhaust deposits, and industrial plant fall-out.


Why must Bristol improve the management of its stormwater runoff?

Management is essential to protect the quality of our freshwater and marine waters for fisheries, wildlife habitat, drinking water supplies and recreational activities.  Improved management of stormwater runoff will also ensure the public’s safety and minimize the risk to private property during severe storm events. 


What are key steps to correcting Bristol’s stormwater problems?

Bristol must replace its old, corroded or undersized drain pipes, periodically clean all catch basins and clogged pipes in public streets, reduce pavement area were possible, redirect stormwater away from  the drainage system, treat or retain stormwater at the source, infiltrate stormwater where soil conditions allow, and keep stormwater from entering the wastewater treatment plant. 


What is the current source of funding for stormwater runoff in Bristol?

Stormwater is currently funded mostly from general revenues and issuance of bonds, paid for through property tax collections. Additional funding is provided by state and/or federal grants, and from fees on new construction projects.               


What alternative funding mechanism is Bristol evaluating?

Bristol is exploring the concept of a “fee” as part of a Stormwater Management Enterprise Fund (SMEF) based on the amount of impervious cover on each parcel of land.


Will it cost more?

Yes. The stormwater needs of Bristol have been underfunded for many years. The flooding impacts, pollution, and effects on the wastewater treatment plant resulting from stormwater runoff can’t be fixed with the current level of funding. A preliminary study conducted recently estimated that approximately 54% more funding was needed to upgrade and maintain the existing system.


How might a SMEF affect individual property owners?

The tax burden for those affected would be reduced. Instead, a fee would be collected based on amount of impervious cover on each lot.  On that basis, a recent study estimated that single family lot (SFL) homeowners would pay about $9.75 per month, which is a 30% reduction in the share cost under the tax formula compared to the share cost for non-residential properties under the SMEF formula. Non-residential properties have a greater percentage of impervious cover on average per lot than SFLs. Properties that have stormwater treatment systems would be credited.