Crawford County officials have adopted new regulations to help prevent groundwater pollution that will have violators facing fines and other penalties.
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has set out new rules and regulations for cities and counties as part of its Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program in order to protect water quality and meet the requirements of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, known as the Clean Water Act.
Crawford County justices of the peace voted Monday to adopt a plan incorporating the new regulations. The plan includes a stormwater map for the county’s unincorporated urbanized areas based on the 2010 census and a penalty clause.
County officials had to write the plan from scratch and make it site specific, said Crawford County Judge John Hall.
Personnel with county road department and emergency management will be observing the areas for water runoff, to determine its origin and whether it may contain pollutants, said Dennis Gilstrap, director of the Crawford County Department of Emergency Management.
"During dry periods, we’ll monitor those areas," Gilstrap said. "If we see any water running across the road, that will give us an opportunity to backtrack and see where it’s coming from."
Unincorporated urban areas that fall to the county to monitor include a section along the northern edge of Alma, the northeast section of Van Buren where the Highland Hills subdivision is located and areas along U.S. 64 between the two cities.
In the Crawford County plan, five items that impact the environment were identified and will be targeted by those watching for runoff, Gilstrap said.
Those impacts include litter, oil, large herbicide and pesticide spills, defoliation for erosion - particularly during property clearing - and construction stormwater erosion control.
Violations of "illicit discharge" could stem from a large number of things, from an overturned and leaking semi truck to an overflowing septic tank, to even using a backhoe to break ground, Gilstrap said. Where these discharges could run into streams or groundwater are called "outfalls."
"We’re required to track what’s going in the Arkansas River; that’s the final outfall," Gilstrap said.
County residents are welcome to report any concerns, Gilstrap said.
Grader operators and those performing road maintenance will be on the lookout yearlong for unusual water runoff and pollution violations, Hall said.
But Hall was quick to point out that the road department is not overseeing enforcement of ADEQ regulations. That responsibility falls to Gilstrap and the CCDEM.
"The road department can’t do anything about the issue," Hall said. "We will just be the eyes and ears of emergency management. Emergency management will have to enforce it."
Enforcement means fines and penalties, which include a fine of $250 a day per violation, a stop-work order and permit revocation.
A copy of the plan and map will be posted soon to the CCDEM website and at area libraries, Gilstrap said. Anyone with concerns or doubts about the plan can contact him at (479) 651-4501 for guidance, he said.
Crawford County falls into the Fort Smith Arkansas-Oklahoma Urbanized Area. Cities within the area such as Alma and Van Buren will be setting forth their own plans to meet the ADEQ guidelines.