|Nonpoint Source Pollution Defined |
Nonpoint source [NPS] pollution is the cumulative effect of all human land uses and development that:
- Deposit pollutants such as sediments, nutrients, pesticides, and metals onto the ground or into the air such that they are ultimately carried by rain or stormwater to surface or groundwater,
- Affect water quality by increasing temperature, changing pH, or reducing dissolved oxygen, or
- Diminish the resilience of natural systems by removing vegetation, channelizing streams, or increasing impervious areas in a watershed.
NPS pollution comes from many places and many activities, including commercial timber lands, farms, construction sites, lawns and gardens, outdoor industrial and commercial activity, roads, streets, and highways. This is in contrast to point source pollution, which can be traced to a specific point of discharge, such as a wastewater treatment plant or a factory.
One of the unique problems of NPS pollution is that it results from the accumulation of many seemingly inconsequential actions. Each action has a small individual impact, but the combined affects can be large and difficult to manage using existing water quality laws.
Oregon's Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program [CNPCP]
Oregon has been working for several years to develop a Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program [CNPCP] that meets the requirements of Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Management Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 [CZARA]. CZARA is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]. The federal requirements are designed to restore and protect coastal waters from nonpoint source pollution and require coastal states to implement a set of management measures based on guidance published by EPA. The guidance contains measures for the following areas: agricultural activities, forestry activities, urban areas, marinas, hydro-modification activities, and protecting riparian areas and wetlands. In Oregon, the geographical boundaries for the CNPCP are the same as the Coastal Program boundary except in the Rogue and Umpqua basins where the CNPCP boundary includes these basins in their entirety.
In July of 1995, Oregon completed its Program Submittal for the CNPCP. Oregon's CNPCP Submittal described existing programs and proposed work tasks that would meet the terms of CZARA and EPA’s guidance and work to improve water quality in Oregon's coastal zone. Current state water quality, wetland, and land use laws, as well as the Forest Practices Act and elements of The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, insured that the state already met many requirements of CZARA. In January 1998, after reviewing the state's program submittal, EPA and NOAA returned their findings to the state that granted a conditional approval to Oregon’s program. Since 1998 Oregon has received preliminary approval for all but a few of the tasks identified in the conditions of approval.
Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program Development
Regulatory - The CNPCP is a networked program. All regulatory elements of the CNPCP exist as state rules that were developed for reasons not related to CZARA to protect water quality and manage natural resources, for example: Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) water quality regulations; Department of State Lands Wetland Program; Oregon’s Forest Practices Act; Department of Agriculture requirements for agricultural water quality management Plans; and the Water Resources Department permitting requirements for water use, dam construction and dam operation. State statutes and rules describing these programs all contribute to the state’s compliance with CZARA.
Technical Assistance and Voluntary Programs - In addition grant programs available through Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Department of Environmental Quality help to implement the CNPCP while pursuing other state objectives.
Development of the CNPCP has also resulted in a few technical assistance programs that support the efforts of individuals, business owners and local governments to reduce impacts on water quality:
- The Oregon Coastal Management Program offers technical assistance grants to help local governments gain a better understanding of watershed interactions and to amend local ordinances such that water quality is better protected from the impacts of urban development.
- The Oregon State Marine Board offers a “Clean Marina” certification. This voluntary program provides technical assistance and incentives to marina and boat yard managers who want to incorporate practices into their operations that reduce impacts on water quality.
- A handful of other TA programs have been offered over the past several years as grant funding has allowed.
Outstanding Program Requirements - There are three outstanding conditions of program approval that can be met with new state regulations or through voluntary programs with sufficient funding and accountability to assure success:
- Additional reductions in water quality impacts from forestry;
- Periodic inspection of existing septic systems;
- Implementation of best practices to reduce the impact s of urban stormwater from new development in jurisdictions not already covered by a DEQ stormwater permit.