Speaking . . . Stormwater Runoff, Common Questions
Stormwater runoff that enters a storm sewer system is being routed to some type of treatment process before entering our surface waters. Not true! In almost every case there is no pre-treatment of stormwater! Storm sewer systems are designed simply to capture the stormwater and carry it to the nearest surface water carrying pollutants into our
rivers, lakes and streams!
What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is the flow of water on the ground immediately after precipitation - rain or snowmelt. After a rainfall, some of the precipitation is infiltrated into the soil, some of it is taken up by plants, and some is evaporated back into the atmosphere and the rest runs off land surfaces and other impervious areas. Unfortunately, the stormwater runoff picks up any oil, grease, chemicals, nutrients, metals, even bacteria as it travels across land. Heavy rainfall or snowmelt can cause sewer overflow, which will also be carried by the stormwater. All of these chemicals and pollutants
will then enter our lakes, rivers, and streams.
Where does Stormwater Go?
Stormwater is either drained into drainage systems which carry the water into rivers, lakes, or streams, or it is directly discharged into our
Why Should We Care about Stormwater?
Stormwater runoff can have negative affects on our environment. When chemicals, oil, grease, salt, etc. are carried into our rivers, lakes, and streams, all of these bodies of water become polluted. Pollution of our water may not be immediate, but as the pollutants keep appearing and chemicals increase, our waters may become unusable for fishing, swimming, canoeing, etc. In some
communities, even the drinking water can be affected.
Does Development Affect Stormwater Runoff?
It most certainly can. As development and imperviousness increases (due to construction of roads, buildings, parking lots), the infiltration
ability of soil decreases. Consequently, more rainfall becomes stormwater runoff, which can cause erosion of land areas and stream banks or increased flooding.
Speaking . . . Storm Water Runoff
Storm water runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or
snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways,
sidewalks, and streets prevent storm water from naturally soaking
into the ground. Storm water can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt,
and other pollutants and flow into a storm sewer system or directly
to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water. Anything that
enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the water
bodies we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water.
Polluted storm water runoff can have many adverse effects on plants,
fish, animals, and people. Sediment can cloud the water and make it
difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment also
can destroy aquatic habitats. Excess nutrients can cause algae
blooms. When algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a
process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic
organisms can’t exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels.
Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create
health hazards, often making beach closures necessary.
Debris—plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette
butts—washed into water bodies can choke, suffocate, or disable
aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds. Household
hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents,
used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life.
Animals and people can become sick or die from eating diseased fish
and shellfish or ingesting polluted water. Polluted storm water
often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect
human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.
This article is part of a series of articles that will
be passed along to our citizens over the next several years. It is
our hope that with increased awareness we can work together to
significantly reduce the amount of pollution entering the creeks and
rivers in the Niles area.
The municipalities in Cass and Berrien Counties are working
together to ensure cleaner and safer water in the Lower St. Joseph
River Watershed. We will need your help, to learn more about these
efforts visit http://www.swmpc.org/water.asp