NEWBURY — Selectmen this week approved the appointment of nine members to a stormwater management team, charged with implementing federally mandated Environmental Protection Agency requirements to monitor and improve the town's drainage system.

The details of the mandate are expected to be released by the end of this year, and the town will have five years to comply. All towns and cities across the country with a certain population density will be required to comply with the mandate.

John O'Connell, a civil engineer who is also a member of Newbury's Planning Board, outlined the six components of the project for selectmen.

"This is a classic, unfunded mandate that requires a fair amount of work to be done at a considerable cost," he said. "The group we have assembled to accomplish this task brings a host of talent to the table, but we are still going to need hours of volunteer labor to meet the mandate."

The nine members of the all-volunteer team are: O'Connell; Martha Taylor, Planning Board member; Arthur Costonis, alternate Planning Board member; Doug Packer, Conservation Commission agent; Tim Leonard, director of Public Works; Deb Rogers, Board of Health member; Yvonne Buswell, member of the Parker River Clean Water Association; Chuck Bear, selectman; and Tracy Blais, town administrator.

Over the five-year project, the team will undertake the six components of the mandate, which are public education; public participation; detection of illicit discharges; construction site stormwater runoff control; stormwater management in new development and redevelopment; and good housekeeping and pollution prevention for permittee-owned properties (where the town of Newbury is the permittee).

While the group was just formed and has not met yet, O'Connell said he has been working with Blais on establishing an organization to the team and decisions will be made during the next couple of weeks on how to run the project and how to assign the tasks that need to be done.

The town has approximately 55 storm drains that need to be checked, and each requires six different tests of the water in the drain, one during wet weather and one during dry weather.

"The end result is that we want to ensure that nothing comes out of a culvert pipe that didn't come from the sky," O'Connell said. The group will be testing for contaminants — such as chlorine, detergent, excessive fertilizer and human sewage — and will be responsible for remediation efforts.

A cost could not yet be put on the project, but O'Connell estimated that it would be at least a couple thousand dollars to get the project up and running for the December/January start date, and at least another $1,000 a year or more to complete each required task. Although the town budget is exceedingly tight, non-compliance with the mandate is not an option, said both Blais and O'Connell, as steep fees for non-compliance can reach $15,000 a day.

"The most time-consuming and expensive of these tasks will be the testing and replacement and/or cleaning up of the catch basins," O'Connell said. "We will need to rely heavily on volunteers to achieve these labor-intensive tasks and will be looking for those who have respect for the precision in which these tests have to be completed."

The town will have 60 days after the mandate is released to submit the initial application to the government, then it will have four months to formulate an extremely detailed plan that includes the who, what, where and when of each task over the life of the project.

"There is lots of work and massive amounts of paperwork required to meet the mandate and if we don't hit the ground running, we will be behind before we start," O'Connell said.

Selectmen said they felt the town was ahead of the curve, as they have already established this management team before the mandate has even been officially released.

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