Stormwater Pollution Prevention Focus of Whitacre Greer July Employee Safety Talk

Stormwater pollution prevention was the topic of Whitacre Greer’s July employee safety talk.  The information below was provided to all employees so that they may better understand the important roll stormwater management plays in reducing pollution and mitigating the effects of development on the environment.

This month’s safety talk is on Stormwater Pollution Prevention.  Perhaps you have recently seen in the papers or heard on the news that Alliance may soon be visited by representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency. That is because Phase II of the EPA’s amendments to the Clean Water Act of 1972 restricts Stormwater Pollution within small towns, cities, and counties. Phase II is more commonly known as the MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System).

The Clean Water Act established the structures for the regulation and discharge of pollutions into the waters of the United States. It is unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained under its provisions.

In order for Whitacre Greer to comply with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) we obtained a Storm Water Permit. Our permit requires that we have a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWP3) to assure that storm water from our property is not responsible for the degradation of the surface water. An additional requirement is that we make everyone aware of the problems associated with stormwater runoff and ways to prevent their pollution.

Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Water is necessary for the existence of everything. Although we all recognize this fact, we disregard it by polluting our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Subsequently, we are slowly but surely harming our planet to the point where organisms are dying at a very alarming rate.  In addition to innocent organisms dying off, our drinking water has become greatly affected as is our ability to use water for recreational purposes.  In order to combat water pollution, we must understand the problems and become part of the solution.

The best solution to reducing pollution levels in stormwater runoff is to eliminate runoff contamination at its source by either eliminating the pollutants or minimizing their effects by doing things such as cleaning up spills.

In order to accomplish this, we can follow the advice of experts on how best to protect the soil and use Best Management Practices (BMP), that is, tried and true methods that contain runoff, remove pollutants, or help them settle into the ground.

Some of the BMP that we can use at home as well as at work are:

  • Plant vegetation in and around curb openings to trap pollutants and sediment and slow the runoff.
  • Reuse stormwater by running gutters into landscaped areas. This allows the roof runoff to seep into the ground and reduce the need for further watering of plants
  • If you must water, do so in the coolest time of the day and only when needed
  • Protect exposed soil by mulching with grass clippings
  • Have a temporary storage system to reduce the amount of runoff and absorb the runoff
  • Have a permanent storage system that can extend stormwater wetlands and bioretention areas by collecting and holding runoff

Many causes of pollution including sewage and fertilizers contain nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates.  In excessive levels, nutrients over stimulate the growth of aquatic plants and algae.  Excessive growth of these types of organisms clogs our waterways, and use up dissolved oxygen as they decompose, and block light to deeper waters. This in turn, proves very harmful to aquatic organisms as it affects the respiration ability or fish and other invertebrates that reside in water. To help eliminate runoff, don’t apply fertilizer before a heavy rain or apply it too heavily.

Petroleum often pollutes water bodies in the form of oil, resulting from oil spills.  The spill from the Exxon Valdez is an example of large -scale water pollution.  However, even one quart of oil can cause an oil slick contaminating two million gallons of drinking water. Recycle your used motor oil and never pour used motor oil down a storm drain or onto your grass or driveway.

Many household products we use daily contain toxic materials that can threaten public health and the environment.  Drain and oven cleaners, paint thinners, and bathroom cleaners are just a few of the items we use that can cause serious health and environmental problems.  Unused products such as these should be disposed of at a local hazardous disposal site.  Or alternative natural items could be used.

Pesticides and herbicides contain toxic materials that pose both environmental and human health risks. Humans, animals, fish, and plants can be severely threatened by these chemicals. The toxins found in pesticides and herbicides can run off lawns and gardens into storm drains and streams whenever it rains.  Minimize the use of these chemicals and, again, use natural alternatives when possible.

Anti-freeze can seriously deplete oxygen from water, and can be harmful to all plant and animal life, including humans.  Recycle your used anti-freeze.  Consider using the newer type anti-freeze which has less impact on the environment.

Litter, plastics, yard waste, and pet waste should not be thrown into the streets. These substances can clog the storm drains making it difficult for them to adequately carry away excessive water. The pet waste can release untreated bacteria and other harmful materials into streams.   Plastics take hundreds of years to biodegrade and can be harmful to birds and animals who mistake them for food. Litter and yard waste ends up floating in streams, rivers and lakes.

At our plant Manganese Dioxide (MnO2) is a SARA 313 chemical. It is a regulated substance and our usage of it is reported yearly to the EPA through the Toxic Releases Inventory program. It is important that spills of manganese be cleaned up and disposed of properly. Spills should not be washed down the storm drains. It is acceptable that some be washed down the sanitary drains.

You may be aware that we are in the process of redesigning the Boardwalk paver for use as a permeable paver.  A permeable paver is a paver that is spaced and laid on an aggregate such that the water will flow between the pavers and be absorbed into the ground rather than off the property into catch basins, streets, ditches, and streams.  The use of permeable pavers is one way businesses and individuals can help prevent the pollution of the waters.