District Launches NEW Interactive Website focusing on Watershed and Stormwater Education!
What is Stormwater?
Rain or snow that falls either soaks into the ground to become groundwater, evaporates, or flows off over the land surface. The overland flow is called runoff or stormwater and is the primary water source for vernal pools, wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes, and water-supply reservoirs.
As stormwater flows over the land it washes along or dissolves some of the materials in its path. Vegetative surfaces can slow the flow down, filter out sediments, and can break down or trap pollutants in the root zone. In contrast, buildings, roads, parking areas, and exposed bedrock increase the volume and speed of stormwater runoff since none can soak in and the hard surfaces present little resistance to flow.
To prevent flooding and protect property in developed areas, stormwater drainage systems are used to collect stormwater runoff and carry it away from roadways and structures to a discharge point. Stormwater drainage systems consist of curbs, gutters, storm drains, channels, ditches, pipes, and culverts and do not treat the stormwater. Most of these discharge into streams, rivers and lakes.
The Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual (Link to http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/View/Collection-8305/) is a tool created to assist developers, engineers, municipal officials, conservation district personnel and others involved with the planning, design, review and approval of building development projects. It describes practices and principles that are aesthetically pleasing and space efficient, while protecting water quality and improving wildlife habitat.
Issues with Stormwater…
Stormwater becomes a transportation system for pollutants. Soil that erodes from a construction site, cigarette butts and other litter from parking lots, antifreeze and oil dripped from cars, fertilizers and pesticides from turf management, and grit and salt left from de-icing operations on roadways can be deposited untreated into our waterways. Water can contain and transport sediments, metals (copper, cadmium, chromium, lead, zinc), nutrients (nitrates, phosphates, ammonia), salt, petroleum products and coliform bacteria among other materials. This is why stormwater is such a significant contributor to water pollution. Polluted stormwater runoff that discharges in urbanized areas cause serious water-quality problems. Polluted runoff to waterbodies can affect aquatic plant and animal life in streams and lakes, reduce recreational activities such as boating and swimming, and increase flooding conditions.
You can be the Solution to Stormwater Pollution!
Polluted stormwater run-off is the greatest threat to clean water. Practice these healthy household habits and you will be the Solution to Stormwater Pollution.
Healthy Household Habits
- Keep your nearest storm drain clear of debris and litter
- Never dump anything down a storm drain
- Use fertilizers sparingly
- Use pesticides only when necessary
- Do not blow grass clippings or leaves into the street
- Sweep up yard debris rather than hosing down paved areas
- Compost or recycle yard waste
- Pick up pet waste and dispose of properly
- Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on an unpaved area
- Service your car regularly to prevent leaks onto paved areas
- Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste at designated collection locations
- Produce less waste – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled or recyclable products when ever possible
- Have your septic tank pumped and system inspected at least every three years
For more information on these and other Healthy Household Habits, visit another great resource Reduce Your Stormwater!
Homeowner Stormwater Practices
There are several stormwater practices that can be easily incorporated into new or existing homes that can make a difference in the stormwater leaving your site. Rain Barrel installation is a quick and easy means to reduce stormwater by collecting roof runoff and storing it for later use around the home (non-potable uses) for watering and cleaning. Rain Gardens can be incorporated into your landscaping to serve as stormwater retention and encourage groundwater recharge as well as beautify you lawn as well as propagate native plant species and encourage birds and wildlife. To learn more about stormwater on your property and what you can do to reduce run-off check out the Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater video and detailed booklet.
What is the MS4 Stormwater Program?
The Conservation District partners with 13 local municipalities to implement the Public Education and Public Participation part of their MS4 Stormwater Program.
Polluted runoff is often transported through municipal stormwater systems where it is eventually discharged into streams untreated. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a municipal stormwater management program known as the MS4 Program that is intended to improve our Nation’s waters by reducing the quantities of pollutants that stormwater picks up and carries into the storm sewer systems during a storm event. As part of the MS4 Program, your municipality may hold a permit to discharge their stormwater into local waterways. This permit requires the municipality to design a stormwater management program that reduces the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent possible, that protects water quality and that satisfies the water quality requirements of the Clean Water Act. In Pennsylvania, the MS4 program is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The MS4 stormwater management program has six elements termed “minimum control measures” which when implemented should result in significant reduction in pollutants discharged into receiving waters. The six minimum control measures and the actions required by your municipality are outlined below.
- Public Education and Outreach
Distribute educational materials and conduct outreach to inform citizens about the impacts that stormwater runoff has on water quality.
- Public Participation/Involvement
Provide opportunities for citizens to participate in the stormwater management program or other programs which improve water quality.
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
Develop and implement a plan to detect and eliminate non stormwater discharges into the stormwater system.
- Construction Site Runoff Control
Develop, implement and enforce (often with the assistance of the Conservation District) an erosion and sediment control program for construction site activities that disturb one acre or greater.
- Post-Construction Runoff Control
Develop, implement and enforce a program to address discharges of post-construction stormwater runoff from new development or redevelopment areas.
- Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping
Develop and implement a program that reduces or prevents pollutant runoff from municipal operations.
The Blair County Conservation District and our local municipalities are committed to improving water quality in their watershed through better management of stormwater runoff. Every resident and business owner can participate in their municipal stormwater program by reducing runoff, through the reduction of impervious services; preventing the creation of polluted runoff from their own property; and by reporting any non stormwater discharges into their local waterways.