Frequently Asked Questions

What is Stormwater?


Stormwater runoff is the most common cause of water pollution. It occurs when rainwater runs off buildings, driveways, roads, sidewalks, and lawns, and as it flows, it collects pollutants such as animal waste, trash sediment, chemicals, grease, and oils and transports them to the municipal storm system which ultimately leads to local rivers and streams without treatment.



What is the NPDES permit?


NPDES stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which is the compliance system for the Clean Water Act. The NPDES permit requires municipalities, like Aiken County, that discharge storm water to the waters of the United States meet minimum federal water quality requirements trough the implementation of six minimum control measures. The six minimum control measures that Aiken County must adhere to are outlined below.
1. Public Education and Outreach
Distribute educational materials and perform outreach to inform citizens about the impacts polluted stormwater runoff discharges can have on water quality.
2. Public Participation/Involvement
Provide opportunities for citizens to participate in program development and implementation.
3. Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
Develop, implement, and enforce a program to detect and eliminate illicit discharges to the storm sewer system (includes developing a system map and informing the community about hazards associated with illegal discharges and improper disposal of waste).
4. Construction Site Runoff Control
Develop, implement, and enforce an erosion and sediment control program for construction activities.
5. Post-Construction Runoff Control
Develop, implement, and enforce a program to address discharges of post-construction stormwater runoff from new development and redevelopment areas.
6. Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping
Develop and implement a program with the goal of preventing or reducing pollutant runoff from municipal operations. The program must include municipal staff training on pollution prevention measures and techniques (e.g., regular street sweeping, reduction in the use of pesticides, or frequent catch-basin cleaning).



What is an impervious surface?


Impervious surface means those improved, harder-surfaced areas that either prevent or inhibit the natural entry of water into the soil. Rooftops, buildings, streets, parking lots, sidewalks, asphalt, concrete, other paving, driveways, gravel, patios, artificial turf and storage areas are all examples of impervious surfaces.



What is a Stormwater Fee?


The Stormwater Fee is a fee generated to finance Aiken County’s efforts to first remove and/or eliminate pollutants from the stormwater system before they are able to contaminate our lakes and streams and second meet the guidelines set forth by the EPA and SCDHEC.



What is the ultimate goal of NPDES permitting?


The goal of NPDES permitting is to improve and protect the quality of our nation’s waterways by eliminating pollution from stormwater runoff to the maximum extent practicable.



What happens if the County does nothing or refuses to comply with the permit?


Should the County choose not to comply with the permit, SCDHEC and/or the EPA may issue penalties for willful non-compliance that can reach up to $75,000 per day with each day a separate offense or imprisonment, or both.



What is an ERU?


An ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit) is the average size of a residential home in Aiken County.



How are Stormwater fees determined?


Residential, agricultural, and commercial parcels with improvements are billed $24 annually. Manufacturing properties are charged based on a the commonly accepted rate for stormwater fees know as the Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU). This is a descriptive value based on the property's size and the amount of solid surfaces on it, such as parking lots.



How is the Stormwater Fee billed?


The Stormwater Fee is billed in conjunction with yearly real property tax notices. The Stormwater Fee will appear on your real property tax bill and will be collected by the County Treasurer with your property taxes.



How do I dispute my Stormwater fee?


Please see information regarding the Stormwater Appeal Process.



Is the Stormwater Fee considered a tax?


No, the stormwater fee is not a tax. It is a fee generated to finance the County's Stormwater Program, which is tasked with the responsibility of minimizing or eliminating pollutants from the County stormwater system.



I live at the top of a hill. Alternatively, I live at the bottom of a hill and everyone else’s storm water runoff impacts my property. Why do I have to pay the storm water fee?


Water quality affects all residents in Aiken County and therefore, all property owners must pay their fair share of the costs to keep the rivers, lakes, and streams clean



Am I still charged the stormwater fee even if it does not rain for a long time?


Yes. The pollution potential is actually much greater when it has not rained in a long time because pollutants can build up on all impervious surfaces. In any storm, the initial runoff, or first flush, is the most contaminated. Contrary to what some people believe, stormwater charges are not based upon rainfall. Costs are incurred to reduce pollution. Rainwater is simply the carrier that transports the pollutants to open waterways.



Hasn't the county always had storm drains? Nothing has changed at my home or business. Why am I being charged now when I wasn't several years ago?


Yes, the County has had storm drains for a long time. However, the federal regulations that require a comprehensive stormwater quality management program are new. The stormwater fee enables the County to meet its responsibility of instituting programs designed to remove and/or eliminate pollutants from the stormwater system before they can contaminate our lakes and streams.



What is a catch basin?


A catch basin is a curbside, box-like receptacle that collects storm water runoff from the street and empties into the underground storm drain pipe which carries the runoff to our lakes and streams.



Do catch basins and storm drains get cleaned out?


Yes, currently the County cleans catch basins and storm drains as needed. Under the new stormwater program a regular maintenance schedule will be developed as part of the County’s permit requirement, to insure the stormwater discharges meet SCDHEC quality guidelines.



I have seen catch basin labels. How do I get a label for a catch basin near me?


The County is developing a program to label catch basins. This program will allow civic groups and individuals to label storm drains in their neighborhoods or other areas of concern. If you are interested in helping with this effort please contact the Aiken County Stormwater Manager.



Are sewers and storm drains the same thing?


No. They are two separate systems. Wastewater from homes, industry, etc. travels through the sanitary sewer system where it is treated at sewage treatment plants before reuse or discharge into the streams. Runoff from streets, parking lots, yards, etc. enters the storm drain system, receives no treatment, and flows directly to our lakes and streams.



What Are the Effects of Stormwater Pollution?


  • Health: ; Stormwater pollution poses a serious health risk to people swimming or fishing in contaminated waters.
  • Environment: Countless plants and animals can become sick or die from contact with stormwater pollution.



What kinds of pollutants are sometimes found in stormwater runoff?


Paint thinner and paint products, motor oil, pesticides, Styrofoam cups, paper, human and animal feces, antifreeze, dirty diapers and dead animals are but a few of the possible pollutants found in stormwater runoff.



What is the County doing about illegal discharges into the storm drains?


The County is developing an ordinance that will address illicit discharges. Enforcement of this ordinance is required as part of the NPDES permit requirements. County officials will be authorized to cite any person or persons caught discharging any illicit materials into a storm drain or waterbody.



What can a resident do when they notice a stormwater impact?


The County Stormwater Manager is on hand to take calls or emails reporting stormwater impacts between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. During non-business hours, calls can be made to the Sheriff's Office who will contact the Stormwater Manager to respond to the report.



Here are some things home owners can do to help prevent water pollution:


  • Water your lawn only as needed
  • Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly – use organic mulch or safer pest control whenever possible
  • Compost or mulch yard waste
  • Cover piles of dirt or mulch used in landscaping
  • Inspect your septic system every 3 years and pump your tank every 3 to 5 years
  • Dispose of household hazardous waste responsibly (avoid sinks or toilets)
  • Wash your car on your lawn so the water infiltrates into the ground
  • Repair leaks and dispose of used auto fluids and batteries at designated drop off or recycling locations
  • Pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing is best.



Who do I contact if I have questions about Stormwater Management?



For questions, please contact the Aiken County Stormwater Manager:
By phone: 803.642.1535
By email: shutson@aikencountysc.gov
By mail:
Engineering - Stormwater Division
Attn: Scottie Hutson, Stormwater Manager
1930 University Parkway, Suite 3300
Aiken, SC 29801



Government Center, 1930 University Pkwy | Aiken, SC 29801 Aiken County Government | © 2017