What do we do with

Urban Stormwater?

The water that runs off of our roofs, down our gutters, through our yards, across our roads, driveways and parking lots, and into our storm drains, eventually ends up in our streams and lakes. Water flowing over an impermeable surface, like concrete, has a higher velocity and is more likely to push along whatever it comes in contact with. All to often, the water comes in contact with pollutants.

There are several types of pollutants that you can expect to find in stormwater. Nutrients (from fertilizers, pet waste, etc.), soil, litter (from cigarette butts, fast food wrappers, etc.), and toxins (from motor oil, pesticides, etc.) can all be picked up by rain water. All of these so-called nonpoint source pollutants are normally spread out over several square miles, but during a rain storm they can be washed into a stormwater system and then into a single water body.

Stormwater runoff is a growing concern in Missouri, especially with the implementation of the EPA’s “Phase II Stormwater Program”. Phase I required that cities with populations larger than 100,000 obtain permits for their stormwater discharge. These permits required monitoring of stormwater discharge and that the municipalities address stormwater in the future.

Phase II imposes a similar requirement on municipalities that occur in so-called “urbanized areas”. An urbanized area has a population density of greater than 1000 people per square mile, and a total population of more than 50,000 people. Urbanized areas aren’t restricted to city limits however, and an urbanized area can incorporate smaller towns and even span across counties.

The six minimum steps that a municipality may take involves all of the following:

      1. Public outreach and education
      2. Public participation/ involvement
      3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination
      4. Construction site runoff control
      5. Post-construction runoff control
      6. Pollution prevention/ good housekeeping

I won’t go into these requirements specifically, but you can visit the internet links at the address listed below the article. Essentially what this all means is that the towns and cities within Missouri’s urbanized areas must develop a plan to reduce pollution in their stormwater or face punitive measures from the EPA.

The things we can do at home to help reduce pollution in stormwater runoff are the same things that we do to reduce nonpoint source pollution. These things include using lawn fertilizers carefully (if at all), planting in bare soil patches to prevent erosion, picking up litter, and responsible disposal of household waste and pet waste. Anything on the surface of the land has the potential to be washed into our lakes and streams. It all flows downstream, but first it must run downhill.

Tony Thorpe

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