Lee County gets passing marks on its storm water management

Lee County Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wright is responsible for managing the county’s storm water program, which passed its recent inspection.

Lee County Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wright is responsible for managing the county’s storm water program, which passed its recent inspection.

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Jim Wright, Lee County's chief marshal and code enforcement officer, is responsible for managing the county's storm water program.

But from his vantage point, it's everyone's responsibility.

Connie Haynes, environmental compliance specialist with the state's Environmental Protection Division, agrees.

"All of us, no matter who, contribute to storm water," Haynes said following a recent inspection trip to Lee County.

Haynes said officials are concerned about storm water, which is primarily rain, and what happens to it after it hits the ground.

"Before there were people here, it would just soak into the ground," Haynes said. "Now, we are paving so much and putting up buildings and roads that we obstruct that infiltration process.

"But, it still has to go somewhere, in much larger quantities than it normally would (without development). As it flows, it picks up pollutants which gives us quite a soup when it's finished.

"The main thing about storm water is that we all contribute to it. It's not like XYZ Chemical Co. that has a discharge from a pipe," she said. "Instead, we deal with what happens when it rains and somebody's car is leaking anti-freeze, oil or transmission fluid. How do we get that out of the storm water?"

Haynes says proper vehicle maintenance is a key element in reducing pollutants entering the storm water system.

"The environmentalist that I am, I want people to make sure their car is tuned up," she said. "Only apply pesticides at the right time of the year and in the right amount. Maybe get your yard tested and see if you really need fertilizer. Maybe you don't"

One of the simplest things residents can do, Haynes said, is wash their vehicles on the grass and not on the driveway.

"People don't realize that storm water does not drain into the sewer treatment plant," she said. "It goes straight to our creeks and kills animals living off the creek. Keeping oil out of our creeks is more serious than people might think."

Haynes was in Lee County to monitor storm water controls, which are monitored by Wright. Lee County has to have a new five-year storm water permit by December.

Haynes said she does not anticipate any problem in issuing the new permit.

"We didn't really find anything wrong, just a couple of paperwork things that need attention," she said. "Lee County does a great job. They are very education- and outreach-oriented. Most people comply with the law, but they are interested in people understanding why it is in their best interest to comply."

In her letter to County Administrator Tony Massey, Haynes noted that the county does need to revise its erosion and sedimentation ordinance to require site operators to control waste materials at construction sites.

Wright said his efforts in preparing for the inspection were wide ranging.

"We have about 20 chapters to report, and each chapter has different requirements that we have to meet," Wright said.

As part of the education process, Wright said Lee County hands out storm water brochures and has a web page and reporting system. At least twice yearly, Wright reports on storm water issues to the Lee County Commission.

He also arranges the Great American Cleanup in which city and county right of ways are cleaned.

Another popular program is the Rivers Alive effort which attracted about 150 volunteers last year to remove trash from Lee County's waterways.

Wright also directs an inspection program for businesses and industries.

"We rarely find serious violations among industrial users," he said.

Wright encourages Lee County citizens to call and register complaints if they see anything that might negatively impact the storm water program or water quality.

The Code Enforcement office can be reached at 759-6000.

"Or, you can reach us through he county web site which is lee.ga.us," he said. "Just type in stormwater complaint form and submit online."