Precipitation of any kind that falls on city streets, parking lots, rooftops, industrial properties, and lawns often becomes polluted by automotive fluids, industrial chemicals, pet waste and fertilizers before it enters the city’s combined and separate storm sewer systems through catch basins and other drainage structures. Polluted storm water runoff is then transported through the city storm sewer systems and eventually discharged into our local rivers and streams without receiving any treatment. These pollutants have the potential to adversely affect water quality in local waterways, thereby creating a potential health hazard and degrading aquatic life habitat.
Part of the mission of the City of Wheeling Water Pollution Control Division (W.P.C.D.) is to reduce the quantity of pollutants entering area waterways contained in polluted storm water runoff. The Federal Clean Water Act requires the City of Wheeling to develop and implement a Stormwater Management Program that implements six control measures (BMPs Best Management Practices) to address polluted stormwater runoff. The following provides a brief summary of BMPs and their required control measures. The City is currently planning and implementing a varied range of projects to meet all of regulatory requirements.
- Public Education and Outreach - This includes distributing educational materials and performing outreach to inform citizens about the impacts polluted stormwater runoff discharges can have on water quality and steps they can take to reduce or prevent pollution.
- Public Involvement and Participation - Providing opportunities for citizens to participate in program development and implementation, including effectively publicizing public hearings and/or encouraging citizen representatives on a stormwater stakeholders panel.
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination - Developing and implementing a plan to detect and eliminate illicit discharges to the stormwater system.
- Construction Site Runoff Control - Developing, implementing, and enforcing an erosion and sediment control program for construction activities in urban areas to control erosion and minimize the discharge of the other potential contaminants from construction sites.
- Post Construction Stormwater Management for New and Redevelopment - Developing, implementing, and enforcing a program to address discharges of post-construction stormwater runoff from new development and redevelopment areas. Applicable controls could include preventative actions such as protecting vulnerable areas (i.e. streams) or the use of structural BMPs such as grassed swales or buffer strips.
- Pollution Prevention / Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations - Developing and implementing a program with the goal of preventing or reducing pollutant runoff from municipal operations. The program must include municipal staff training on pollution prevention measures and techniques (e.g., regular street sweeping, reduction in the use of pesticides or street salt, and frequent catch- basin cleaning).
The City of Wheeling attempts to provide accurate and useful information to businesses on how they can help prevent stormwater pollution from entering local streams, creeks, and rivers. Businesses in Wheeling must follow Wheeling City Code requirements regarding stormwater pollution prevention. Construction and Industrial operators in many cases must follow state law regarding stormwater pollution prevention in addition to the City of Wheeling Code requirements.
All development and redevelopment proposals that exceed one acre disturbance are subject to the requirements of the City of Wheeling’s Stormwater Manual (not yet completed). Requirements will include management of erosion and sediment control related to storm water during the construction process and installation of permanent storm water management for the completed project. Until the City finalizes its Stormwater Manual developers are advised to use USEPA/WVDEP Guides Developing Your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and West Virginia Stormwater Management and Design Manual.
In order to minimize the impact of stormwater discharges from industrial facilities, the West Virginia National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WV NPDES) program includes an industrial stormwater permitting component. Operators of industrial facilities included in one of the 20 categories of stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity that discharge or have the potential to discharge stormwater to a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) or directly to waters of the State require authorization under a NPDES industrial stormwater permit. For information go to: www2.wvdep.org/dwwm/stormwater/multi.htm. The City of Wheeling may also require addition storm water measures.
Additional information may also be found at www.epa.gov/npdes/ stormwater.
What is stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater from naturally soaking into the ground.
Why is stormwater runoff a problem?
Stormwater 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 waterbodies we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water.
What are the effects of pollution?
Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals, and people, including:
- 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 waterbodies 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. Land animals and people can become sick or die from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.
- Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.
What are some stormwater pollution solutions?
Washing your car and degreasing auto parts at home can send detergents and other contaminants through the storm sewer system. Dumping automotive fluids into storm drains has the same result as dumping the materials directly into a waterbody.
- Use a commercial car wash that treats or recycles its wastewater, or wash your car on your yard so the water infiltrates into the ground.
- Repair leaks and dispose of used auto fluids and batteries at designated drop-off or recycling locations.
Excess fertilizers and pesticides applied to lawns and gardens wash off and pollute streams. In addition, yard clippings and leaves can wash into storm drains and contribute nutrients and organic matter to streams.
- Don’t over water your lawn. Consider using a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler.
- Use pesticides and fertilizer sparingly. When necessary, use these chemicals in the recommended amounts. Use organic mulch or safer pest control methods whenever possible.
- Compost or mulch yard waste. Don’t leave it in the street or sweep it into storm drains or streams.
- Cover mulch and piles of dirt being used in landscaping projects.
Leaking and poorly maintained septic systems release nutrients and pathogens (bacteria and viruses) that can be picked up by stormwater and discharged into nearby waterbodies. Pathogens can cause public health problems and environmental concerns.
- Inspect your system every 3 years and pump your tank as necessary (every 3 to 5 years).
- Don’t dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.
Pet waste can be a major source of bacteria and excess nutrients in local waters.
- When walking your pet, remember to pick up the waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method. Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into storm drains and eventually into local waterbodies.
- Permeable Pavement —Traditional concrete and asphalt don’t allow water to soak into the ground. Instead these surfaces rely on storm drains to divert unwanted water. Permeable pavement systems allow rain and snowmelt to soak through, decreasing stormwater runoff.
- Rain Barrels —You can collect rainwater from rooftops in mosquito-proof containers. The water can be used later on lawn or garden areas.
- Rain Gardens and Grassy Swales —Specially designed areas planted with native plants can provide natural places for rainwater to collect and soak into the ground. Rain from rooftop areas or paved areas can be diverted into these areas rather than into storm drains.
- Vegetated Filter Strips —Filter strips are areas of native grass or plants created along roadways or streams. They trap the pollutants stormwater picks up as it flows across driveways and streets.
Dirt, oil, and debris that collect in parking lots and paved areas can be washed into the storm sewer system and eventually enter local waterbodies.
- Sweep up litter and debris from sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots, especially around storm drains.
- Cover grease storage and dumpsters and keep them clean to avoid leaks
- Report any chemical spill to the local hazardous waste cleanup team. They’ll know the best way to keep spills from harming the environment.
Erosion controls that aren’t maintained can cause excessive amounts of sediment and debris to be carried into the stormwater system. Construction vehicles can leak fuel, oil, and other harmful fluids that can be picked up by stormwater and deposited into local waterbodies.
- Divert stormwater away from disturbed or exposed areas of the construction site.
- Install silt fences, vehicle mud removal areas, vegetative cover, and other sediment and erosion controls, and properly maintain them, especially after rainstorms.
- Prevent soil erosion by minimizing disturbed areas during construction projects, and seed and mulch.
Lack of vegetation on streambanks can lead to erosion. Overgrazed pastures can also contribute excessive amounts of sediment to local waterbodies. Excess fertilizers and pesticides can poison aquatic animals and lead to destructive algae blooms. Livestock in streams can contaminate waterways with bacteria, making them unsafe for human contact.
- Keep livestock away from streambanks and provide them a water source away from waterbodies.
- Store and apply manure away from waterbodies and in accordance with a nutrient management plan.
- Vegetate riparian areas along waterways.
- Rotate animal grazing to prevent soil erosion in fields.
Uncovered fueling stations allow spills to be washed into storm drains. Cars waiting to be repaired can leak fuel, oil, and other harmful fluids that can be picked up by stormwater.
- Clean up spills immediately and properly dispose of cleanup materials.
- Provide cover over fueling stations and design or retrofit facilities for spill containment.
- Properly maintain fleet vehicles to prevent oil, gas, and other discharges from being washed into local waterbodies.
- Install and maintain oil/water separators.
Improperly managed logging operations can result in erosion and sedimentation.
- Conduct pre-harvest planning to prevent erosion and lower costs.
- Use logging methods and equipment that minimize soil disturbance.
- Plan and design skid trails, yard areas, and truck access roads to minimize stream crossings and avoid disturbing the forest floor.
- Construct stream crossings so that they minimize erosion and physical changes to streams.
- Expedite revegetation of cleared areas.