Salem council to consider water discharge ordinance

SALEM — City council will consider an ordinance to prohibit illicit discharges into the city’s storm water system and create penalties for violators.

The Utilities Committee of city council reviewed the final version of the proposed ordinance during a recent meeting and agreed to forward the legislation to council.

Councilman Geoff Goll, who chairs the committee, said the main message is that people can’t just throw anything into the storm sewers and if they do and the city finds out, they’ll be paying a fine.

He explained during a previous meeting that the city didn’t have authority at the present time to stop people from putting items into the storm sewer, which is overseen by the service department. Some of the items could be hazardous materials, such as oil or paint thinner.

The proposed ordinance establishes legal authority for the city to monitor discharges into the storm sewer, do inspections and ensure compliance with the rules. The ordinance prohibits illicit discharges and connections and nothing is grandfathered, meaning any connection considered illicit must be fixed immediately, regardless of any previous history.

City Law Director Brooke Zellers previously talked about the need to protect people who may purchase a home unaware of an illicit connection, such as an improper sewage connection to the storm water system. The final version gives discretion to the authorized enforcement agency regarding any criminal prosecution. The rules will be enforced by the city service department.

The legislation includes criminal penalties for violators, including jail time and fines.

Discharges of sources not containing pollutants are exempt from the prohibitions, such as lawn watering, springs, air conditioning condensation, water line flushing, fire fighting activities or rising ground water.