State & Federal Involvement

The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted in 1972 and directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulations and programs to improve the water quality of the nation’s waterways. The Act also requires states to identify and publish a list of waterways that are impaired due to stormwater runoff from existing development. Two of these are partially in Essex; Indian Brook and Sunderland Brook. The remaining streams are currently "unimpaired" and a key objective of the Town stormwater program is to maintain good water quality in those streams and to prevent those streams from becoming impaired.

EPA Phase I & II Programs

EPA developed regulations in 1990 under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) that address the water quality impacts of stormwater. The regulations apply to land developments and "municipal separate storm sewer systems" (MS4s). EPA imposed these stormwater regulations on large communities in 1990 (Phase I). In 1999, EPA expanded these mandates to smaller municipalities under their Phase II program. In Chittenden County, the affected MS4 Phase II entities are:

  • Burlington
  • Burlington International Airport
  • Colchester
  • Essex
  • Essex Junction
  • Milton
  • Rutland
  • City of St. Albans
  • Town of St. Albans
  • Shelburne
  • South Burlington
  • University of Vermont
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation
  • Williston 
  • Winooski

Objective of Phase II Program

The objective of the USEPA Phase II program is for the municipalities to develop effective, site-specific storm water management programs that reduce the discharge of pollutants from the MS4s to the maximum extent possible. The Town of Essex has incorporated the following elements into its stormwater management program:

  • Best management practices (BMPs)
  • Funding and Staffing
  • Government coordination
  • Legal authority and comprehensive planning
  • Public education and participation

Town’s Program Goals

The Town’s program has the following goals:

  • To reduce the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent possible
  • To protect water quality
  • To satisfy the water quality and legal requirements of the Clean Water Act


EPA has delegated the responsibility for administering the Vermont stormwater program to the State Agency of Natural Resources. The State has developed and published a technical manual in 2017 defining the standards for construction of facilities called the Vermont Stormwater Management Manual Rule and Design Guidance. The document can be viewed here

Areas Impacted

The Agency of Natural Resources administers the legal aspects of the federal NPDES stormwater program through a series of permits. These permits will drive the community’s stormwater program for the foreseeable future and have a direct impact in the following areas:

  • An increase in Town staff workload and workforce to effect permit compliance
  • Increased municipal budget costs as the best management practices are put into place
  • Complicate the sale of property until the responsibility/obligation under old permits is fixed

Other Permits Issued by the State of Vermont

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources provides useful information relative to permit requirements. Due to the changing nature of these permits, it is advisable that users seeking permit information relating to new construction, new development, stream alteration and other activities go directly to the State’s website for the latest information and requirements.