Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program

Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4)

A municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) is a publicly-owned conveyance or system of conveyances (including but not limited to streets, ditches, catch basins, curbs, gutters, and storm drains) that is designed or used for collecting or conveying stormwater and that discharges to surface waters of the State. Separate storm sewers carry stormwater runoff directly to local waterbodies.

As stormwater flows over streets and other impervious surfaces, it picks up pollutants such as oils, chemicals, bacteria, fertilizers, and sediments. This pollution is carried by stormwater and eventually discharged into local waterways. This can have a negative impact on water quality and recreational uses.

The Town of Bluffton’s MS4 Permit

In 1987, amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA) obligated the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require urban areas to regulate stormwater to protect water quality. The Census defines where these urbanized areas are. The 2010 Census revealed that the Town’s population met the urbanized area definition and thus fell within the purview of these requirements. The EPA and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) are responsible for oversight of all MS4 communities.

On December 1, 2015, the Town of Bluffton received a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit from SCDHEC (Permit # SCR031302). The Town of Bluffton must comply with the regulations set forth by these federal and state agencies regarding stormwater discharges from its Small MS4 (SMS4). 

The Town of Bluffton developed a Citizens Guide to the Town of Bluffton’s MS4 Program to further educate our citizens on the MS4 Permit. 

MS4 Permit Requirements

The Town’s pollution reduction program set forth by the EPA and SCDHEC must address the following Minimum Control Measures (MCM):

1. Public Education and Outreach
The objectives of the program are to distribute educational materials to the community, conduct public outreach activities, raise public awareness on the causes and impacts of stormwater pollution and inform the public on steps they can take to reduce or prevent stormwater pollution. 

2. Public Participation and Involvement
An actively involved community that participates in the planning and implementation of the Stormwater Program increases its effectiveness. Some of the ways opportunities are made available to citizens are through public hearings, representation on stormwater committees, the Town of Bluffton’s Watershed Action Plan Advisory Committee meetings, and involvement in the Town’s two annual cleanup events.

3. Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE):
The objectives of the program are to prevent, detect and eliminate non-stormwater discharges, such as spills and illegal dumping, in local waterways. Program elements include:

  • Reducing significant contributors of pollutants;
  • Implementing appropriate enforcement procedures and actions; 
  • Developing a storm sewer system map; and 
  • Informing employees, businesses, and the general public of hazards associated with illegal discharges and improper disposal of waste. 

The Unified Development Ordinance contains regulatory information on IDDE. To report an illegal discharge or to report stormwater concerns, please submit a concern through SeeClickFix, or call the Town of Bluffton at (843) 706-4500.

4. Construction Site Runoff Control
The objective of the program is to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff from construction activities. The program meets this objective through:

  • Ensuring compliance with approved plans; and
  • Ensuring compliance with sediment and erosion control practices.

5. Post-Construction Runoff Control
The objective of this program is to develop, implement, and enforce the long-term operation and maintenance of stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce pollutants in post-construction stormwater runoff. Stormwater BMPs, such as ponds or lagoons, in your community, not only provide flood control but also provide water quality benefits to stormwater runoff. These BMPs must be continually maintained to function properly. 

6. Good Housekeeping
The objectives of the program are to prevent or reduce stormwater pollution from the Town’s municipal operations. The Town must meet the same standards as the community.

Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP)

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit requires that the Town of Bluffton develop a Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP). The purpose of the SWMP is to manage and reduce the discharge of pollutants from the Town’s SMS4 to the maximum extent practicable (MEP) to protect water quality and satisfy the applicable requirements of the EPA’s Clean Water Act.

Annual Reporting

The Town of Bluffton’s NPDES Permit requires an Annual Program Assessment Report, hereby known as the Annual Report, to be submitted to SCDHEC’s Division of Water Quality. The Annual Report enables the Town to document the progress of program components outlined in the Town’s SWMP. 

Click here to view the Town of Bluffton’s most recent MS4 Annual Report.