The cities we live in are a bigger source of pollution than all of our factories put together. In fact, storm water runoff is the single greatest threat to our water quality and watershed health nationwide. More than 40% of all our nation's waters fail to meet water quality standards for their designated use as a source for drinking water, recreation, and warm or cold water fisheries.
Industry is allowed to discharge limited pollutants to waterways under a NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit. Each pipe discharges known quantities of identified pollutants called "point sources" and are relatively easy to manage effectively using procedures identified in their permits.
Storm water discharges are a "non-point source". Unlike factories, when it rains, any kind of pollutant on hard surfaces such as roads and rooftops wash into storm drains and go directly to water bodies untreated. Because the pollution comes from a variety of sources in amounts that vary as much as there are types, it is much more complex to manage.
Historical industrialization and urbanization of the Rouge River left the watershed in severely degraded condition. In 1987 Wayne County implemented an illicit discharge elimination plan (IDEP) and in 1989 a Remedial action plan (RAP) was implemented for the Rouge, along with the first “Voluntary Watershed based General Storm Water Permit,” which was eventually adapted for use as a statewide permit. Fifty communities participated in the watershed planning efforts, although
only 45 were actually in the watershed. As part of this effort, advisory
committees were formed and the seven sub-watershed groups eventually evolved into the “Alliance of Rouge Communities (ARC)”. This was the model for what is now the National Storm Water Permitting Program. Although initially school districts had the option of being nested within these permits, the nature of the requirements and arrangement of “no liability” for the nested districts complicated the inter-relationship of cooperation. Because school districts have the potential to contribute significantly to non-point source pollution within the watershed, it was recently determined that the highest degree of water quality and reparation to impacted waters would be most efficient and effective if the schools adopted individual general permits, although some are nested within jurisdictional permits. For a more thorough understanding of this history, please visit: