Completed last year, the stormwater park in Marion, North Carolina, performs double-duty; it provides a place for people to relax while helping protect the water quality of Marion’s creeks. Pollutants from streets, such as engine oil, can be treated by plants and soils.
This park has two stormwater bioretention areas that can filter and treat runoff before it enters other water sources. “Everything that is draining off of this area is being treated in this site,” said Fred Grogan of Equinox Environmental. “What we’re trying to do is get that first inch of rain and divert it into the bioretention cell.”
Florida City Could be Sued
Environmental groups say they will sue the city of Cape Coral, Florida. The group filed a 60-day notice of a lawsuit to enforce a previous Settlement Agreement and Department of Environmental Consent Order requiring replacement of the Ceitus Barrier on the North Cape Coral Spreader Canal.
The barrier historically separated stormwater from flowing directly into Matlacha Pass, until it was removed by Cape Coral. Without it, stormwater now dumps directly into the pass, which is designated as an Outstanding Florida Waterbody.
The notice states that the barrier is an essential component of a functioning spreader system, the purpose of which is to maintain historical stormwater flows through the wetlands. Without it, the wetlands have been denied fresh water essential to the fish nursery. In addition, portions of Matlacha Pass have been poisoned by excess fresh water and siltation.
Los Angeles Struggles Over Controlling Stormwater
Environmentalists got a win at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in their odyssey to hold Los Angeles County, California, responsible for pollution carried into the sea by its stormwater. Regardless of whether that court decision sticks, it’s a reminder that the issue of how to control coastal runoff isn’t going away.
“Stormwater runoff is the number one source of pollution in Los Angeles’ rivers and beaches and the county is the largest discharger of stormwater,” said Liz Crosson, executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper. “Holding L.A. County responsible for its pollution and working with them to find regionwide solutions is the biggest victory we could imagine.”
Los Angeles Waterkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council brought the Clean Water Act case up five years ago. They argued that stormwater runoff has exceeded pollution standards measured by the county’s own instruments. Because it violates the permit regional water regulators issued to the county, the county is in violation of the Clean Water Act.
EPA Fines Top $800,000
Four Seattle area companies were fined a total of $847,000 by the EPA for violating stormwater regulations in Puget Sound. Three of the violations happened on the Duwamish River, due to pollutants from industrial stormwater runoff.
All the fines involve violations to the Clean Water Act. The EPA used photo evidence to levy a $177,000 fine against Special Interest Auto Works of Kent, who the agency says polluted the Green River with toxic chemicals.
Waste Management agreed to pay a $33,000 fine for muddy water runoff from washing its trucks’ wheels. In a statement, the company says it takes stormwater drainage seriously, and a discrepancy about where to monitor the water led to the violation. Gary Merlino Construction has also agreed to pay a $36,000 fine for a stormwater violation.
Ash Grove, a Seattle cement manufacturer, was the biggest offender, receiving more than $500,000 in fines. The EPA says pollutants in the company’s stormwater included the toxic metals copper and zinc. The EPA says Ash Grove operated without a stormwater permit for 18 years.
Sewer District Halts Fee but Holds Money
The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is advising its customers not to pay a stormwater fee that was struck down in court. However, those who send or have already sent in their money won’t get it back, at least not immediately.
In a 2-1 decision, the court said the district had to stop collecting the fee because it’s not part of the waste water that the sewer district was formed to clean up. The fee was expected to bring in $35 million a year for controlling erosion, debris removal and other tasks.
The Court of Appeals did not order return of the $13 million collected since the fee took effect. The collected funds will be placed in escrow while the sewer district turns to the state Supreme Court.
How Sweet It Isn’t
The Environmental Protection Agency fined Amalgamated Sugar Co. $7,500 for violating the Clean Water Act at its plant in Paul, Idaho. The federal agency claims that last year Amalgamated dumped 4,000 gallons of stormwater into a drainage ditch feeding right into the Snake River, without a permit.
“Industries that discharge stormwater must follow the pollution controls required by the industrial stormwater permit,” said an EPA official. “Companies who fail to comply with the stormwater permit can put the environment at risk and face federal penalties.”
Nonprofit and City Plan to Filter Runoff
The city of Spokane, Washington, and the Lands Council, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the inland Northwest forests, water and wildlife, have announced a pilot stormwater project as a part of the city’s new integrated clean water plan.
The $30,000 project will manage stormwater and wastewater that impacts the Spokane River. “We’re pretty excited about this,” said Mike Peterson, executive director of the Lands Council. It’s the first time the council has contracted with the city. The project’s main focus is the construction of stormwater gardens along streets and parking lots.
Peterson said the street-side gardens will draw rainwater runoff from surrounding pavement and filter it through layers of engi neered dirt. This includes a layer of a charcoal-like material that filters out major contaminants like PCBs. “The whole point is to keep contaminated stormwater out of the river and to clean it here, on the spot.” he said.
Town Mandates Stormwater Treatment
The town of Salem, Oregon, will require that new homes and businesses treat their stormwater runoff and limit how fast it flows into the municipal system. Under the modified rules, new construction also will have to include a way to treat that water before it is released back into the system.
The new rules require that homes create or replace 1,300 square feet of impervious surfaces. The requirement will add $1,500 to $2,000 to the cost of a new home.
Runoff control measures for commercial buildings could include mechanical stormwater facilities or green infrastructure that mimics natural surfaces. Part of the plan is to include “bioswales” at the lots adjoining the streets.
The threshold for commercial projects will be increased from 3,000 to 10,000 square feet of impervious surfaces.
Chicago to Curb Flooding
To limit chronic street and basement flooding throughout Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced that $50 million will be dedicated to investments in green stormwater management over the next five years. The $10 million in annual funds will reduce the amount of pollution that flows into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. These projects will ultimately create an additional 10 million gallons of natural stormwater storage in the city, which could reduce runoff by 250 million gallons each year.
The first element of the initiative is building capital projects that include green stormwater in their plans. Potential projects include the use of permeable pavement to decrease stormwater runoff into the sewer system, tree plantings with bioswales, and green stormwater installations that will be a part of streetscape projects.
Volunteers Help Save the Watershed
Scores of Air Force Academy cadets and other volunteers gathered at the top of the Rampart Range Watershed near Woodland Park, Colorado, to clear and clean a 250-acre stretch of the Waldo Canyon burn scar. Drainage from the remote watershed brings water along West Monument Creek to the Colorado Springs Utilities’ water treatment plant at the Academy, which treats a majority of the city’s drinking water.
“It’s difficult to treat water when it’s full of sediment and ash,” said Kenneth Carlson, principal soil scientist for Habitat Institute, Inc.
Colorado Springs Utilities asked Carlson’s company to find solutions to minimize soil erosion and protect local drinking water.
The rough, steep terrain proved too treacherous for vehicles, so the cadets formed what Carlson called a “human conveyor chain” along the steep hills and canyons and moved nearly 700 bales of wood straw used for erosion control. “It would have taken weeks to do it with just our crew,” Carlson said.
Eight Million Gallons of Sewage
Due to record rainfalls in the Pacific Northwest, roughly eight million gallons of stormwater runoff and raw sewage flowed into Washington’s Port Angeles Harbor. Because of the untreated sewage, the discharge could contain fecal bacteria.
The first phase of the city’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) project will cost $16.7 million and is designed to reduce the amount of CSO discharges into the harbor. Completion is expected by February.
The work includes retrofitting a 5-million-gallon storage tank to hold untreated stormwater and sewage during heavy rains until it can be treated in the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Rain Garden Rocks In Tennessee
Nonprofit water protection group Harpeth River Watershed Association (HRWA) recently planted a 4,000-square-foot rain garden at the Brentwood, Tennessee YMCA. Filled with native grasses, plants and shrubs, the garden will remove pollutants in rainwater runoff and reduce erosion at the same time.
The garden was a collaborative project between HRWA and its many partners, including Brentwood’s Engineering Department, which helped design the project. Other partners offered volunteer hours to construct and plant the rain garden.
The design calculations were based on Metro Nashville’s Rain Garden manual and will pose as a pilot project for Brentwood’s stormwater regulations, which will take effect next year.
Baltimore Praised for Stormwater Progress
The Maryland Department of the Environment recently praised the Baltimore Department of Public Works for its efforts to restore impervious surfaces and improve water quality runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.
The city of Baltimore has made great strides in reducing stormwater pollutants through a variety of methods. These include street sweeping and inlet cleaning, stream restoration and impervious surface removal.
Since its inception, Baltimore’s impervious surface restoration program has totaled 2,472 acres; 139 acres have been completed in the last eighteen months. The impervious surface restoration program aims to replace concrete and blacktop with mulch, gravel and soil.
Stormwater Runoff Really Runs
Would you run for runoff? Local promoters in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, did just that. As a way to involve the community, encourage creative solutions to stormwater problems and show off a healthy sense of humor, Lower Merion held a “Stormwater Runoff 5K” trail run and race in October.
The primary goal of the run was to raise awareness about stormwater runoff and to educate citizens, individual property owners and the community how to handle these problems. Proceeds went to support stormwater initiatives and other programs of the local conservancy.