Although stormwater management is important for helping to preserve the environment and valuable habitat from different types of pollution, we rarely think of the impact on human health. The reality is that storm drains carry whatever ends up in them throughout large interconnected water systems. Through storm drains, to ponds, to streams, into larger lakes and rivers, and eventually to the oceans. This may seem like a small drop in a huge pond, but with enough drops you can end up with a significant amount of pollution.
Our love of cities has created a reality where large swaths of land are covered with impervious materials. Urban jungles made of stone, concrete, shingles, and asphalt make it very difficult for water to properly filter through the ground, and unfortunately the water takes all the sediment, and chemical runoff it encounters with it along the way. Objectively, public health in the United States is not bad, and we can rely on things like safe water for drinking, food production, and recreation. However, water-borne illnesses are still a concern. Many outbreaks that contaminate drinking water can be linked back to runoff, specifically after major storms. We can also become sick from eating conta minated seafood, or swimming in a contaminated water body.
It’s not all bad news, however. Proper water treatment, and the implementation of protective policies, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and programs such as the National Pollutant Discharge System (or NPDES) are in place to protect our various water sources from harm. Even thinking about the impacts of our own everyday habits can help make sure we keep harmful substances from entering waterways (Don’t flush stuff down the toilet that shouldn’t be there!). Construction activities are notorious for creating runoff issues, with large areas of exposed dirt, and all the different fuels, paints, and other chemicals that can be found around site. We use programs like the stormwater pollution prevention plan and NPDES inspections and reporting to help keep construction site runoff from contaminating waterways and causing potential health and environmental issues.
Luckily, the impact of stormwater runoff, and any of the harmful contaminants that it may be carrying can be mitigated through the effective use of erosion control and best management practices that help keep the pollution contained. Find the appropriate solution based on your site, your budget, and the type of runoff issues you may be expecting. You can learn more about what types of measures you should take or what your local regulations are by contacting a local stormwater professional, such as KCI, or consulting local permitting authorities.