WHAT IS STORMWATER?
Stormwater: The flow of water that results from precipitation and which occurs immediately following rainfall or as a result of snow melt.
When a rainfall event occurs, several things can happen to the precipitation. Some of the precipitation infiltrates into the soil surface, some is taken up by plants, and some is evaporate into the atmosphere. Stormwater is the rest of the precipitation that runs off land surfaces and impervious areas.
Stormwater discharges are generated by precipitation and runoff from land, pavements, building rooftops and other surfaces. These hardened surfaces are called "impervious surfaces" and they do not allow rainfall to infiltrate into the soil surface like natural vegetation, so more of the rainfall becomes stormwater runoff. Storm water accumulates pollutants such as oil and grease, chemicals, nutrients, metals, and bacteria as it travels across land. Heavy precipitation or snowmelt can also cause sewer overflows that may contaminate water sources with untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and other debris.
WHY BE CONCERNED ABOUT STORMWATER?
Why be concerned about stormwater? Stormwater runoff can have a number of impacts. As development and imperviousness increase in an area, the natural capacity of the soil and vegetation to infiltrate and take up rainfall decreases, and more rainfall becomes stormwater runoff. This can produce negative impacts by causing erosion of land areas and stream banks, by causing or increasing flooding and also by carrying pollutants to surface waters. When more houses, roads, and business are constructed, water has nowhere to go and can cause serious drainage, pollutant, and sanitation problems.
POLLUTANTS COMMONLY FOUND IN STORMWATER RUNOFF AND THEIR IMPACT
- Sediment if often viewed as the largest pollutant load associated with stormwater runoff in an urban setting. The loadings have been shown to be exceptionally high in the case of construction activity.
- The nutrients most often identified in stormwater runoff are phosphorus and nitrogen.
- In surface waters, these nutrient loads can lead to having algae growth, eutrophication and low dissolved oxygen levels. Nutrients enter the urban system in a variety of ways, including landscaping practices (commercial and home), leaks from sanitary sewers and septic systems, and animal waste.
- Various forms of organic matter may be carried by stormwater in urban areas. Decomposition of this material by organisms in surface waters results in depleted oxygen levels.
- Low levels of dissolved oxygen severely impact water quality and life within surface waters.
- Sources of organic matter include leaking septic systems, garbage, yard waste, etc.
- High bacterial levels may be found in stormwater runoff as a result of leaking sanitary systems, garbage, pet waste, etc.
- The impacts of bacteria on surface waters may affect recreational uses and aquatic life as well as impose health risks.
Oil and Grease
- Numerous activities in urban areas produce oil, grease, and lubricating agents that are readily transported by stormwater.
- The intensity of activities, including vehicle traffic, maintenance and fueling activities, leaks and spills, and manufacturing processes within an urban setting contribute heavily to the level of these pollutants present in adjacent surface waters.
- Many toxic substances are potentially associated with urban stormwater including metals, pesticides, herbicides and hydrocarbons.
- Toxic compounds may affect biological systems, and accumulate in bottom sediments of surface waters.
- Heavy metals such as copper, lead, zinc, arsenic, chromium and cadmium may be typically found in urban stormwater runoff.
- Metals in stormwater may be toxic to some aquatic life and may accumulate in aquatic animals.
- Urban sources of metals in stormwater may include automobiles, paints, preservatives, motor oil and various urban activities.
- Stormwater runoff increases in temperature as it flows over impervious surfaces. In addition, water stored in shallow, unshaded ponds and impoundment's can increase temperature.
- Removal of natural vegetation (such as tree canopy) opens up water bodies to direct solar radiation.
- Elevated water temperatures can impact a water body's ability to support certain fish and aquatic organisms.
1.) Things that can be done to prevent polluting stormwater runoff
Urban and suburban residents of Clark County can play a big role in preventing stormwater pollution. Keep the following in mind the next time you do the chores around your home.
Select native plants that require less water, fertilizer and pesticide.
Plant pest-resistant species or species that attract beneficial insects.
Incorporate a wide variety of plants to disperse potential pest problems.
Mulch flower beds to reduce weeds and conserve water.
Hand pull weeds.
Compost lawn wastes instead of washing clippings or leaves down the storm drain.
Using Pesticides and Fertilizers
Always follow label directions for use and disposal. Remember, the label is the law.
Don't apply them when rain is likely since most will be washed away. For the same reason, avoid overwatering after application.
Sweep any product from sidewalks and driveways onto the yard where it can do its work instead of hosing it away.
Use natural fertilizers such as compost or bone meal.
Use slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.
The next time you take your dog for a walk:
Carry a plastic bag and pooper-scooper.
Flush waste down the toilet or place it in the trash.
Keep your vehicle well maintained. Routinely check for leaks, and repair engine, coolant, transmission and brake systems immediately.
Soak up fluid spills with kitty litter, sawdust or wood chips. Be sure to sweep up and dispose in the trash.
Recycle used motor oil. Clark County now has a Motor Oil, Oil Filter, and Antifreeze (MOOFA) collection facility located at the Clark County Solid Waste Management District office, 9608 Highway 62, Charlestown, Indiana. Hours of operation are 8 AM to 4 pPM, Monday through Friday.
Use a car wash to clean your vehicle. They recycle dirty water!
Do not "top off" when fueling your vehicle.
Household Hazardous Waste
Use and dispose of hazardous household materials properly - follow label directions!
Read labels and choose the least hazardous products and then use them sparingly.
Switch to safe alternatives.
Take unused household chemicals to the County's Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)collection facility located at the Solid Waste Management District office
Have your septic tank inspected every 3-5 years.
Compost your kitchen garbage instead of using a garbage disposal.
Don't pour household chemicals down the drain. They can disrupt the septic system's treatment process and contaminate groundwater.
Businesses such as restaurants, automotive services, construction firms, landscaping companies, and agricultural producers can also take steps to reduce runoff pollution, by:
Keeping dumpster doors closed and covered in order to keep them clean and avoid leaks.
Using yard and deicing chemicals sparingly.
Covering or seeding exposed soil so it doesn't erode.
Disposing of hazardous materials (paint, chemicals) at proper facilities (not the trash).
Storing and applying manure away from waterways.
Just as important as controlling stormwater pollution in your home or business is being able to recognize pollution occurring elsewhere. The links below will get you "in the know" about stormwater. Once you know all about it, you'll be able to recognize and report pollution entering our stormwater such as:
According to the EPA, this is "a discharge to the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (see the Regulations page on this one) that is not composed entirely of stormwater, except for discharges allowed under a NPDES permit or waters used for fire fighting operations." In other words, an unapproved discharge of a substance/by-product into the stormwater system.
Sources of illicit discharges are:
Effluent from septic tanks
Car wash wastewaters
Improper oil disposal
Radiator flushing disposal
Spills from roadway accidents
Improper disposal of auto and household toxic
An illicit connection occurs when a pipe intended for a sanitary sewer ends up in a storm drain.
Construction Site Runoff
Sediment (soil particles) contained in runoff from construction sites can cloud the water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to receive the sunlight they need to grow. Sediment can also fill in waterways over time, destroying aquatic habitat and leading to expensive dredging. Silt fences (the black plastic "fences" you see around construction sites) commonly used to control sediment, can cause polluted runoff if not maintained or if improperly placed (or not placed at all!).
2.) How do I help revent my basement from flooding?
One of the most common ways of preventing basement flooding is by means of a sump pump. These are pumps that take any water that is accumulating beneath the floor of the basement and pumps it out so that your basement does not flood.
This is all well and good, but many times basement flooding occurs because of sump pump failure or a power outage. In this instance, the water will collect in your basement causing it to flood. To prevent this, a back up sump pump should be utilized. These come in battery and water operated varieties. Both can help save your basement from flooding, and are therefore highly recommended.
Controlling Ground Water
Here are a few tips to help you control ground water around your house, which is the source of most basement flooding.
Make sure your gutters are clean and clear of obstruction.
Check the downspouts on your house. Is water flowing freely out the bottom opening? The water should discharge a few feet away from the foundation wall and should have a clear unobstructed path that leads it well away from the house. Make sure splash blocks are centered under downspouts so that the water is directed properly. You can also simply install a drip edge. This is a piece of metal mounted on the edge of the roof to prevent water from curling underneath the edge of the roof and bypassing the gutters.
If you have downspout extension pipes, make sure they are hooked up and pointed in the right direction to direct water away from the foundation.
Look around your yard. Are there sizable puddles forming? If so, you need to fill in low spots or dig out channels so the water can flow away. Check your patios, walks and driveways. They should slope away from the house. If they are improperly sloped, the best solution (timely) solution is to layer mortar and brick or flagstone on top of an old slab, yielding a very attractive and properly sloped surface.
Check the joints between walks, patios, drives, and the house, if exposed to direct rain, must be sealed with an appropriate caulk. Your local home center will have a variety of sealants that should be effective in this easy do-it-yourself project.
If you have a driveway that slopes down to the house, make sure the drains are free of debris.
Install covers on your window wells and stairwells. Clear plastic, dome-like covers are available at most home center stores.
To prevent window wells from filling with water, cover them with plastic well covers or a sheet of plywood that leans against the house. Make sure all your window wells and stairwells have raised lips around their edges to prevent water in the yard from flowing into the well during a downpour.
Trim dense shrubs and plants so the soil is exposed to sunlight and is allowed to dry as quickly as possible.
Make sure outer storm windows are closed. (Most people just check the inner windows.)
Make sure garden borders, debris or mulch does not create dams that hold surface water up next to the house.
Inspect any exposed walls inside your basement. Caulk any gaps or cracks.
If you have a sump pump, make sure it is plugged in and working by dumping a few gallons of water into it and confirming that it discharges the water properly.
If all that fails, make sure your interior drain is clear and that anything vulnerable to water is up off the basement floor!
Keep things in the basement at least one foot off the floor and at least on foot away from the walls to allow good air circulation and minimize the damage caused by possible moisture. Don't keep important documents, files, photos or memorabilia in the basement, in case it does get flooded.
Water pours off your gutters into downspouts. If the downspouts are dumping the water right beside your foundation, it drains directly to the weeping tile and can easily overload your home's drainage. Make sure downspouts extend at least 6 feet from your basement wall. Also, be sure the water does not drain toward your neighbor's basement walls. It should drain away from your house toward the street, rear yard, or back lane.
If your downspouts are connected to your home's sewer system, or weeping tile, disconnect them.
Clean debris from gutters regularly. If they overflow even when clean, replace them with larger size gutters and downspouts
Flood Safety Tips
Do Not Walk Through Flowing Water
Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Most occur during flash floods. Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Use a pole or stick to make sure that the ground is still there before you go through an area where the water is not flowing.
Do Not Drive Through a Flooded Area
Most people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don't drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.
Stay Away From Power Lines and Electrical Wires
Electrocution is also a major killer in floods. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to your utility company or local emergency manager.
Turn Off Your Electricity When You Return Home
Some appliances, such as television sets, can shock you even after they have been unplugged. Don't use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
Watch for Animals, Especially Snakes
Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to poke and turn items over and scare away small animals.
Look Before You Step
After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
Be Alert for Gas Leaks
Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don't smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area has been aired out.
Carbon Monoxide Exhaust Kills
Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine outdoors. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from charcoal are especially deadly -- cook with charcoal only outdoors.
Clean Everything That Get Wet
Floodwaters have picked up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories, and storage buildings. Spoiled food and flooded cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. When in doubt, throw them out.
Take Good Care of Yourself
Recovering from a flood is a big job. It is tough on both the body and the spirit. And the effects a disaster has on you and your family may last a long time. Learn how to recognize and care for anxiety, stress, and fatigue
Terms to Know and HOw to be Prepared
Flash Flood or Flood Watch: Indicates flash flooding or flooding is possible within the designated watch area. When a watch is issued, be alert and ready to take action.
Flash Flood or Flood Warning: Flash flooding or flooding has been reported or is imminent. You should take necessary precautions and actions at once.
Act Now To Be Prepared
Learn the safest route from your home or business to high, safe ground should you have to leave in a hurry.
Develop and practice a 'family escape' plan and identify a meeting place if family members become separated.
Make an itemized list of all valuables including furnishings, clothing and other personal property. Keep the list in a safe place.
Stockpile emergency supplies of canned food, medicine and first aid supplies and drinking water. Store drinking water in clean, closed containers.
Plan what to do with your pets.
Have a portable radio, flashlights, extra batteries and emergency cooking equipment available.
Keep your automobile fueled. If electric power is cut off, gasoline stations may not be able to pump fuel for several days. Have a small disaster supply kit in the trunk of your car.
Find out how many feet your property is above and below possible flood levels. When predicted flood levels are broadcast, you can determine if you may be flooded.
Keep materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber handy for emergency waterproofing.
During the Flood
Monitor the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Weather Radio or your local radio and TV station broadcasts for information.
If local officials advise evacuation, do so promptly.
If directed to a specific location, go there.
Know where the shelters are located.
Bring outside possessions inside the house or tie them down securely. This includes lawn furniture, garbage cans, and other movable objects.
If there is time, move essential items and furniture to upper floors in the house. Disconnect electrical appliances that cannot be moved. DO NOT touch them if you are wet or standing in water.
If you are told to shut off water, gas, or electrical services before leaving, do so.
Secure your home: lock all doors and windows.
Travel With Care
Leave early to avoid being marooned on flooded roads.
Make sure you have enough fuel for your car.
Follow recommended routes. DO NOT sightsee.
As you travel, monitor NOAA Weather Radio and local radio broadcasts for the latest information.
Watch for washed-out roads, earth-slides, broken water or sewer mains, loose or downed electrical wires, and falling or fallen objects.
Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
DO NOT attempt to drive over a flooded road. Turn around and go another way.
DO NOT underestimate the destructive power of fast-moving water. Two feet of fast-moving floodwater will float your car. Water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge.
If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.
After the Flood
Listen to the radio or TV for instructions from local officials.
Wait until an area has been declared safe before entering it. Be careful driving, since roads may be damaged and power lines may be down.
Before entering a building, check for structural damage. Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. Let the building air out to remove foul odors or escaping gas.
Upon entering the building, use a battery-powered flashlight. DO NOT use an open flame as a source of light. Gas may be trapped inside.
When inspecting the building, wear rubber boots and gloves.
Watch for electrical shorts and live wires before making certain the main power switch is off.
DO NOT turn on electrical appliances until an electrician has checked the system and appliances.
Throw out any medicine or food that has had contact with floodwaters.
Test drinking water for portability. Wells should be pumped out and water tested for drinking.
If health officials declare the public water system 'unsafe', water for drinking and cooking should be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes.
Shovel out mud with special attention to cleaning heating and plumbing systems.
Flooded basements should be drained and cleaned as soon as possible. Structural damage can occur if drained too quickly. When surrounding waters have subsided, begin draining the basement in stages, about 1/3 of the water volume each day.
The Hidden Danger - Low-Water Crossing
Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle related! When driving your automobile during flood conditions, look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges and low areas.
Even the largest and heaviest of vehicles will float. Two feet of water will carry most cars away.
As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Do not drive through flowing water!
A hidden danger awaits motorists where a road without a bridge dips across a creek bed.
Motorists develop false confidence when they normally or frequently pass through a dry low-water crossing.
Roadbeds may have been scoured or even washed away during flooding creating unsafe driving conditions.
Those who repeatedly drive through flooded low-water crossings may not recognize the dangers of a small increase in the water level.
Driving too fast through low water will cause the vehicle to hydroplane and lose contact with the road surface.
Visibility is limited at night increasing the vulnerability of the driver to any hidden dangers.
Heed all flood and flash flood watches and warnings.
Remain aware of road conditions!