Belmont Stormwater Fact Sheet


Stormwater Fact Sheet about Belmont

This fact sheet was developed by the Belmont Citizens Forum and is based on interviews and publically available information spanning 2013-15.  It is intended to provide a snapshot of stormwater-related projects and activities in Belmont.  Please direct comments to

For more resources about stormwater, visit, and click on the Stormwater tab. 

What is Stormwater? 

Stormwater is simply rain that falls from the sky onto buildings, roads, green space, and water bodies. In Belmont stormwater is either absorbed in the soil and atmosphere, or flows into Boston Harbor. It does not affect Belmont drinking water, which is supplied by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) from the Quabbin, a reservoir owned and operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).


Federal Law  The 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) requires Belmont to meet the compliance conditions of its Small Municipal System (MS4) General Permit for discharging stormwater into the nations rivers and oceans. This permit is issued under EPA’s Phase II National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).  More strict draft MS4 regulations are under review for likely 2016 publication.

Belmont received a CWA notice of violation from the EPA in February 2013 for exceeding threshholds for E.Coli  and enterococcus bacteria. These indicate the presence of human sewage at the EPA measurement locations in the Winn’s Brook and Wellington Brook.  MyRWA also consistently measures high levels of E.Coli , phosphorous, and other contaminants in these tributaries.  The town conducts its own measurements, with the next measurements planned for Fall 2015 once certain construction projects complete.

State Law  Construction projects near a wetlands resource must comply with  Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (WPA) stormwater regulations enforced by the Belmont Conservation Commission (see “green infrastructure” below).  Compliance with WPA by the Uplands project was debated in the courts, with a final 2014 ruling in favor of the developer.  WPA references 1961 estimates of extreme precipitation events for its stormwater requirements.

State environmental regulations require that the town take steps to ensure that former landfill sites are properly managed to protect water quality.  In Belmont, the former incinerator site and ash landfill at 1130 Concord Avenue is under study to assess the site, cap the ash landfill, and determine a post-closure use. 

Local Law Belmont’s 2013 stormwater bylaw applies to all properties in Belmont, not just those near a wetlands resource.  Belmont references 2011 estimates of extreme precipitation events in its stormwater regulations. Prior to these regulations, the Planning Board required certain stormwater conditions at the Cushing Square development project.  With the new regulations, the Planning Board now refers projects to the Office of Community Development to ensure compliance.

Belmont does not have a local wetlands protection bylaw, a stormwater utility fee, or a requirement that homeowners inspect for illicit connections of stormwater sump pumps or gutters into the sewer system or for damage to sewer laterals.

The Role of Sewage    A significant source of pollution from Belmont’s stormwater is Belmont’s sanitary sewer system leaking into Belmont’s stormwater system.  As is true with many New England towns, most of Belmont’s clay sanitary sewer pipes were installed in the 1920s, and many are in need of repair or replacement.  Most of Belmont’s stormwater mains were installed side-by-side into existing sanitary sewer trenches in the 1940s or earlier.  In order to provide a gravity-designed channel for rising ground water in big storms, the joints between stormwater pipe segments were left unsealed.  While sanitary sewer pipes are sealed, as they age, they develop cracks, collapse or disintegrate. Sewage then leaks into ground water and into the cracks and unsealed joints of stormwater pipes. During storms, stormwater leaks into cracked sewer pipes, exacerbating issues with both systems.

Green Infrastructure   

Belmont’s green infrastructure includes preserved open space, street trees and deltas, parks, athletic fields, private lawns and gardens, and various “Best Management Practices” (BMP’s) required by the Massachusetts WPA.  These properties and practices  slow down stormwater through storage or soil infiltration, thereby mitigating peak flooding as well as the pollution resulting from flooding.  New studies also show that living soil acts an effective carbon sink.

In 2014, the Parks & Cemetery Division of DPW maintained the fields and parks at Concord Avenue, Hittinger Street, Town Field, Pequossette Field, Chenery School Field, Grove Street Field, Payson Park Playground, and Winn Brook Field.  Workers are trained on “green landscaping” techniques to reduce fertilizer runoff.  A new synthetic turf field with new drain grates was completed at Harris Field.

BMPs  As the local enforcer of WPA regulations, the Belmont Conservation Commission has required that new development projects include a number of mitigation measures, including porous pavement at Leader Bank, pavers and a rain garden at Belmont Manor, a rain garden at the Belmont Electric sub station, and a Conservation Restriction at the Uplands site.

In 2014, the town collaborated with the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) and the town of Arlington to identify the best places for green infrastructure in Belmont using a 604B state grant.  Using a similar analysis to that presented by Professor Richard Vogel of Tufts at BCF’s 2012 Stormwater Forum, sites at the Belmont High School and Belmont Library were selected and high level concept diagrams for rain gardens were designed.

Trees Belmont has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation. The town celebrated this holiday in 2014 at Winn Brook Elementary School on the occasion of the rebuilding of Joey’s Park Playground.  With its 2014 budget, the town planted 140 trees, and removed 117 dead and dangerous trees.

The state and town divide responsibilities for green space associated with state and town roads.  For example, as a state project, the current Trapelo Road reconstruction includes tree planting to be maintained by the town once the project is complete.  The town has ensured that irrigation is included in the current Belmont Center Improvement project so that green space can be more easily maintained.

Open Space The Belmont Land Trust, the Trustees of Reservations, the Belmont Conservation Commission, Massachusetts DCR and others own and enforce Conservation Restrictions on Belmont’s preserved open space.  The Belmont Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) has commissioned an assessment and prioritization study to identify the best opportunities for additional preservation.  A draft study is under review.

Volunteers  Civic and state organizations provide several green infrastructure-related services in Belmont. The Belmont Garden Club works with the town’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and other civic groups to plant and maintain gardens on many of Belmont’s 52 traffic deltas, islands, and grounds, and at the Public Library, Town Hall, Veteran’s War Memorial, and September 11 Memorial Garden. In addition, the Club donates plantings and assists community groups with planting decisions such as the trees along Concord Avenue.

The town’s soccer associations have also played a key green infrastructure role, maintaining grass fields and proper drainage for both natural and artificial turf fields in town.  The Belmont Second Soccer Association’s 2014 Winn Brook field irrigation and drainage project is a notable success.

Gray Infrastructure    

Stormwater entering Belmont’s 1,941 catch basins travels through 54 miles of main lines maintained by the DPW.  Belmont maintains a sewer and storm drain model and GIS database that locates all drainage system structures.  Most main lines are located under a subset of the 77 miles of public roads in Belmont, and flow into culverts containing Winn’s Brook and Wellington Brook.  These culverts have more limited capacity and direct storm overflows in different ways than the original “daylighted” brooks.  Winn’s Brook flows into Little Pond, which flows into Little River.  Wellington Brook flows into Little River through Clay Pit Pond and Blair Pond.  Little River discharges into Alewife Brook near the Alewife T station in Cambridge. Alewife Brook flows into the Mystic River near Dilboy Stadium in Somerville.  On the other side of Belmont Hill, a small portion of the town’s stormwater flows into Junction Brook or Beaver Brook, which flows through Waltham into the Chester Brook by the campus of Bentley University, and then into the Charles River.  Both the Mystic River and the Charles River flow into Boston Harbor.

Belmont’s “gray infrastructure” includes sanitary sewer mains, sewer laterals to homes, and three sanitary sewer pumping stations.  The Winn Brook Mitigation Project included installation of a pumping station under Channing Road in 2011.   This project has successfully prevented previous storm-triggered “fountains” at manhole covers in the Winn Brook neighborhood due to inadequate infrastructure to handle the pressure from stormwater that runs off of Belmont Hill.  The other two small pumping stations are on Stony Brook Road and Woodbine Road; these help pump sewage uphill for a short distance into the usual gravity-based sewer lines.

The town prioritizes inspection, repairs and relining of sewer and stormwater pipes on pipes located beneath roadways slated for reconstruction in the town’s annual Pavement Management program.  This work is done in coordination with the Water Division’s 30-year Plan for reconstructing and repairing water mains and laterals.  In 2014, private contractors made 22 new connections to the sanitary sewer and 11 new connections to the storm sewers from residential properties.

The Town of Belmont had an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Plan which included completion in 2015 of a $2.3 M Phase IV rehabilitation project to reline 30,000 feet of sewer and storm drains, and to replace or reline over 90 sewer service laterals. The federally funded State Revolving Fund (SRF) program funded this project. MWRA also provided financial assistance for an I/I  removal sub-project completed in February 2015. Borrowing for these infrastructure projects is limited to 30-year loans, despite the projects’ 100-year lifetime.  The I/I sub project removed 200,000 gpd of infiltration by lining 4,000 feet of  drains, testing & sealing 4,500 joints, and replacing or lining the 90 sewer service laterals. Overall, between 2003 and 2014, the town has spent almost $8.5 million on Engineering and Construction of Water Quality and Sewer and Storm Drain Rehabilitation projects.  The next phase of Belmont’s IDDE Plan will start with the design of a water quality monitoring program, and will be formalized based on an analysis of the results of Fall 2015 water quality measurements to assess the benefit of recent projects.

In addition to capital projects, DPW clears all catch basins annually,  does sweeps streets from March to first snowfall, and inspects major systems, including pumping stations.  Neighborhood volunteers also assist by noting when catch basins need cleaning and clearing debris. The town spent $450,000 in 2014 for such expenses.

Pollution Prevention As part of the town’s Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP), the DPW conducts routine inspections of vehicle and equipment maintenance and cleaning, road salt application and storage, and hazardous material storage.

The Belmont Health Department receives calls from time to time regarding questionable items being dumped in the stormwater system. These range from dog waste deposits (which belong in the sanitary sewer system) to chemicals from small businesses.  In addition, the Health Department manages the few septic systems in town, and has a FOG (Fats Oils and Grease) initiative to ensure that restaurants have adequate facilities and processes to limit such deposits in the sewer system.

Public Outreach

The Town is required by its NPDES permit to take action to educate the public about stormwater issues and to engage the public in its SWMP. Among the items listed in the town’s 2015 annual SWMP, the town references its stormwater web page (, stormwater information flyers, its participation in Meet Belmont, a Year 2 (2004) workshop on landscaping and non-point source pollution, a Year 3 (2005) Lawn Care/Landscaping Survey in the Spy Pond Watershed and a limited storm drain stenciling program.   It also references the town’s lack of funding and staff to conduct a stormwater awareness attitude survey. 

The Belmont Citizens Forum has published many articles related to stormwater management since its founding in 1999, and is hosting its second Stormwater Forum in 2015 after a successful forum in 2012.   Many of the participants in these events also include a significant public outreach component, most notably the Mystic and Charles River Watershed Associations, Mass Rivers Alliance, Sustainable Belmont, and vendors with green infrastructure solutions.

More Information Coming   At their meeting on August 17, 2015, the Belmont Board of Selectman committed to requesting a Fall 2015 public presentation of the Town’s stormwater management system from the Director of Community Development at an as yet unscheduled date.  In addition, the Director of Community Development made plans earlier this year to request additional water quality measurements this Fall, to assess progress after recent sewer and stormwater infrastructure improvements.

 Posted by at 11:57 am