During storms, much water runoff enters the storm system from developed areas. The runoff picks up pollutants originating from motor vehicles and lawns and often carries them to streams and lakes. To address this concern, the EPA enacted new regulations in October 1999, known as the EPA Phase II Storm Water Rule.

Check MS4 Status

Chester Creek below Interstate Highway 35
Chester Creek below Interstate Highway 35.

Take a slideshow tour (2 MB pdf)
of the Duluth stormwater system .

Amity Creek following the Solstice Flood of 2012. Learn more about this Flood.

These regulations require communities with populations under 100,000 to implement a municipal storm water management program as follows:

EPA Phase II Minimum Measures

Public education and outreach on storm water impacts:
Develop and implement a program to educate the public on impacts of storm water discharges on water bodies and the steps necessary to reduce storm water pollution.

Public involvement and education:
Develop and implement a public participation program to assist in the implementation of the surface water management plan.

Illicit discharge detection and elimination:
Develop and implement a program that includes ordinances prohibiting illicit sewer connections or discharges (including dumping), creates sewer maps, and offers public education on the hazards of illicit discharges.

Construction site storm water runoff control:
Develop, implement, and enforce a program to reduce storm water runoff from construction activities on land disturbances of one or more acres.

Post-construction site storm water management in new development and redevelopment: Develop, implement, and enforce a program that addresses storm water runoff from new development and redevelopment, generally using structural and nonstructural best management practices (BMPs).

Pollution prevention / good housekeeping for municipal operations:
Develop and implement a program that considers pollution prevention and good housekeeping measures for maintenance activities, street runoff controls, storm sewer waste disposal, and flood control management projects.

Erosion and Sediment Control 2008 Workshop

Review & Recommendations for Federal Stormwater Program 2008

A multi agency "blue chip" panel released a report commissioned by EPA in 2006 to evaluate the NPDES stormwater program program and make recommendations for improvement. The 513 page report describes the history of U.S. stormwater management and regulations, and includes information on scientific and technological issues such as hydrology, geomorphology, biology, monitoring and modeling.

Download: 11 MB pdf file

MS4 Toolkit

This toolkit was designed to help you educate citizens, businesses, municipal staff and elected officials in your community about non-point source water pollution. Within this toolkit you will find sample brochures, newsletter articles, posters, videos and more to help you teach people about water resource issues.

Click here

City of Duluth and Other Community Stormwater Permits

The City of Duluth is a participant in the NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) Phase II Stormwater Permitting Process. In March, 2003 the City submitted a permit application to the state and began operating under a stormwater permit.

The permitting process for Duluth also applies to other regional Communities, depending on their size, and to the University of Minnesota, Duluth which, because of its amount of impervious surface, is now treated as a community stormwater discharger and has its own Stormwater permit from the MPCA. More information and specific details about the stormwater plans and pollution prevent efforts for these communities can be found in the Regional Information section and in the Community websections.

The purpose of the Stormwater permit is to encourage cities to take an active role in preventing pollution from stormwater. Some recent estimates are that as much as 50% of the pollutants entering our oceans streams and lakes are from urban pollution from individuals and their automobiles. Since all stormwater in Duluth ultimately ends in Lake Superior, all citizens have an added responsibility to protect this pristine water and in doing so protect the source of our drinking water.

There are six general tasks that the Permitees
will be addressing in this permit:

1. Providing education and information to the public about pollution

This information will address many issues including what each resident can do to reduce the pollutant load and what each resident can watch for to identify and stop pollutants entering the system. In addition this task encourages the communities to develop citizen participation in monitoring, protecting and restoring the creeks and streams that can be affected by stormwater pollution. Duluthstreams.org (now LakeSuperiorStreams.org) is just one component of this program. Duluth, Superior, and the Regional Stormwater Protection Team (RSPT) are also participating actively with schools. Watch for increased information on streams and pollution through this site and through other sources in the future.


Basic information that is relevant to the region

  • Stream ecology and water quality impacts- using data from our automated stream monitoring units
  • Stream critters and fish – images and keys and links
  • Drinking water, municipal + onsite wastewater treatment; I&I (inflow and infiltration) issues
  • Public health – beach bacteria, riptides, ice-water survival
  • Regional climate, landscape, geology, ice, snow …

2. Providing an opportunity for public involvement and feedback

Over the period 2002-2003 the City of Duluth has held ten meetings with the public to discuss goals and policies that citizens feel are valuable to protecting our waters. Issues discussed range from concerns about flood, to protecting trout streams. The City will continue to hold public meetings to discuss these issues as part of their permit. Superior, WI and other permitees in the region are holding their own meetings but also contribute to larger venues via their participation in the RSPT activities.



23 organizations
working together

“It all comes down
to the water”

3. Identifying and eliminating illicit discharges

Illicit discharges are discharges to the stormwater system that are not normal stormwater. They could consist of anything from a garage drain that flows to a storm drain to an individual dumping oil down a catch basin. Some discharges may be continuous and other one time. The City of Duluth has provided staff with training on how to do the detective work involved in locating these discharges and removing them from the system. As part of its permit the City also must map all its discharges and inspect 20% of the discharges each year to ensure that the system is operating correctly. Find out about what other regional permitees are doing here.

Chester Creek and Oregon Creek examples in Duluth


City of Duluth practices:

City of Duluth - illicit discharge

U of MN - Duluth practices:

UMD - illicit discharge

Illicit Discharge Interactive Demonstration

Click one of the buttons below
to view an interactive
illicit discharge demonstration.

Illicit Discharge Do's Illicit Discharge Don'ts

(Opens in a new window)

This demonstration courtesy of MI DOT:

Michigan DOT

slideshow Duluth Illicit Discharges Slideshow

 Download here 

detective Pollution Detectives at Work:
Identifying Illicit Discharges

 Download here 

Illicit Discharge Sensors


4. Developing construction controls to prevent erosion and pollution

City of Duluth example:

The City expanded construction controls to ensure that all construction sites disturbing 1 acre of land do not increase pollution to our streams. The City currently has an ordinance in place that is stricter and addresses erosion issues on sites of 10,000 square feet. This ordinance will be expanded to consider on-site housekeeping and provide greater site control and consequences to reduce the environmental risks of construction site caused pollution.


5. Development of post construction controls

These new controls ensure that stormwater protective measures put in place at the time of development such as detention ponds or bioswales remain functional after construction is complete. Developers must provide plans as to how they will maintain their stormwater control measures.

Site Design Toolkit Lake Superior Streams
Site Design Toolkit
UMD University of Minnesota Duluth
Facilities Management
Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program
SSL SWCD Construction & Stormwater

South St. Louis County
Soil & Water Conservation District

MN Stormwater Manual

The State of Minnesota Stormwater Manual is a comprehensive stormwater-management tool that addresses the adverse impacts of stormwater runoff facing Minnesota water professionals. The manual guides professionals and newcomers alike through the process of designing sites that control stormwater, shows how to choose the best BMPs for a site, demonstrates the impact of cold climates on runoff management--and much more. The manual appendix provides detailed CADD drawings for specific BMPs.

Download the manual at the MPCA website.

calendar -- 1.8 MB pdf The " Construction Stormwater Compliance Calendar" (PDF) is designed to help property owners and contractors with record keeping requirements found in the Minnesota Construction Stormwater NPDES/SDS Permit.

Stormwater Management Practice Assessment Project The U. of Minnesota is developing a protocol to outline and explain proper methodology for assessing stormwater best management practices (BMPs). They’re looking for more accurate, cheaper and faster tools.


Wisconsin DNR Stormwater Online Wizard Wisconsin DNR Stormwater has an online Wizard for stormwater information.

Construction Stormwater
Permitting Wizard

6. Internal Good Housekeeping Measures

The City of Duluth is developing a group of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to insure that city staff do not contribute to pollution. These may include a variety of different measures from controls for fertilizers and gardens to street sweeping to actual physical BMPs such as sediment traps. Policies and procedures will be documented and progress measured. Similarly detailed measures have been outlined by the City of Superior, WI and the University of Minnesota Duluth.

In addition to the listed required measures Duluth and other RSPT partners will be addressing issues related to protecting the Outstanding Resource Value Water of Lake Superior and the trout streams. These additional components will strengthen the protection of Duluth's environment and the entire western arm of Lake Superior.

Key to all the components of the new stormwater permit is increased public awareness that they are part of the stormwater system. That our streets, our catch basins, our ditches, our streams, even the flow of water from our driveways can ultimately take pollution to Lake Superior.