Stormwater pollution poses serious threat

  • Published
  • By Amy Tharp
  • 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron
Currently, there is much concern over the water pollution caused by the recent oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Many people are volunteering to help with clean-up efforts and are trying to figure out what can be done to help.

The magnitude of the oil spill seems to overshadow anything else that can cause water pollution, but environmental managers in 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron would like to remind everyone to keep efforts vigilant to prevent stormwater pollution of any kind.

Stormwater is water from precipitation that flows across the ground and pavement due to rain, and may seep into the ground, flow in ditches or streams, or enter the storm drain system.

The storm drains are what you see at street corners or at low points on the sides of streets. Storm drains lead to a discharge point such as open channels or directly into natural water bodies, wetlands, rivers or creeks within the community.

Natural creeks have a small amount of base flow, which is caused by groundwater recharge and high water tables that are relatively clean. When it rains, the base flow is supplemented by stormwater runoff from buildings, parking lots and streets.

Stormwater runoff is a major problem when it is polluted by garbage, debris, sediment, chemicals, automotive fluids, fertilizers, leaves, pet wastes and other pollutants from yards, parking lots, streets, businesses, house roofs, etc.

This type of pollution is called nonpoint source pollution and is actually more of a problem than direct discharges from commercial industries. The result of unclean stormwater runoff discharge is the loss of fish and aquatic wildlife from the community's waterways, streams and creeks. It can also mean loss of recreational use of the area, if the water is determined unsafe to swim in.

There are many ways for individuals to protect stormwater. The easiest way to make a difference is to avoid polluting in the first place. Conserve and recycle resources such as newspapers, plastic containers, glass jars and metal cans.

Never dump hazardous substances such as used oil, household chemicals, yard fertilizer or other wastes onto pavement or into storm drains. Practice picking up litter, and dispose of leaves and yard waste properly. Prevent excess runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides by using them properly and efficiently.

Participate in the local household hazardous waste materials collection events. Encourage active citizen participation in stormwater protection and public group education on stormwater quality.

If you have questions or want to know more, please contact 1 SOCES/CEAN at