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Stormwater Education

STORMWATER BASICS
 

Newton County residents may call Water Resources at 678-625-5093 or send email to to report any stormwater-related problems.



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Stormwater Basics

What is stormwater?

Stormwater is usually rain and sometimes other forms of precipitation, like snow and sleet. When rain falls to the ground, some of it is used by grass and trees and other plants; some of it is absorbed and becomes part of the water table; and some of it evaporates. The water that is left becomes stormwater runoff.

This water runs off houses, driveways, roads, and parking lots and goes down stormdrains or into ditches. The water may go through a series of pipes and culverts that eventually lead to the nearest body of water—usually a small stream or lake.

Most water pollution in Newton County (and around the world) is caused by substances that stormwater runoff pushes and carries along during rainstorms. The runoff water carries these pollutants into the stormdrains or ditches and then into the nearest waterways.

Most of the pollution is considered to be non-point source pollution, which is pollution that comes from many places. Some examples of non-point source pollution are: dirt, litter, animal wastes, oil and other liquids leaked from cars, fertilizers, and pesticides.

Another type of water pollution, point source pollution, gains more attention. Point source pollution is pollution that comes from just one source. An example of this type of pollution is the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone knew exactly where the source of the pollution was.

Even though it is much less dramatic and gets much less notice, non-point source pollution is actually a much worse problem. Local stormwater inspectors, the Environmental Protection Division, and/or the Environmental Protection Agency can easily identify and fine point source polluters and make them repair and clean up any damages. Non-point source polluters are not so easily identified because nearly everyone contributes in some way to non-point source pollution. The only way to effectively reduce non-point source pollution is to educate everyone about how to stop contributing to the problem by addressing sources of pollution in their own homes and workplaces.

Regulations are in place for builders and developers, requiring them to use silt fences and other measures to keep dirt from washing into stormdrains. Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful has active anti-litter campaigns to teach people the importance of proper disposal of trash. Newton County’s stormwater education program teaches people to “scoop the pet poop” and place it into trashcans or flush it down toilets. It teaches people to repair their cars if possible, and if not, to place cardboard or basins underneath them to catch leaking fluids. Another solution for oil on driveways and parking lots entering stormdrains is to spread cat litter across the puddles and sweep after the liquid is absorbed. To prevent excess fertilizer from entering waterways, the program advises people to use only a small amount because when excess fertilizers get into lakes, they can cause plants to grow on the water’s surface. These plants can take the oxygen away from fish and other animals. If a broad range of citizens learn and consistently implement these practices, non-point source pollution from communities can be significantly reduced.

Areas where many people live closely together have more pavement and other impervious surfaces (that do not absorb water). Pollution is worse in these areas than in more rural areas with less development and more pervious surfaces (that do absorb water—like grassy fields and wooded areas). Pavement causes runoff to move faster and enter lakes, streams, and rivers at a faster rate. This is why urban areas often flood faster than rural areas. Clogged stormdrains, pipes, and culverts contribute to street and road flooding. For these reasons, it is important for urbanized communities to establish programs, ordinances, procedures, and guidelines to properly manage stormwater.




What are the impacts of stormwater runoff when left unmanaged?

Flooding
Flooding occurs when an excessive volume of runoff is generated. This is a product of the amount of impervious land surfaces and the rate at which runoff is delivered. Flooding accounts for most of the nation's disaster declarations. Floods are one of the most deadly types of weather conditions and claim hundreds of lives each year. They also cause more damage to property and infrastructure than any other weather hazard. Annual property damage estimates range in the billions.

Pollution
Untreated runoff increases the amount of pollutants in our water bodies. Pollutants can damage the quality of a lake or stream, adversely impacting the aquatic habitat of many insects and animals. The major kinds of water pollution are physical, biological, and chemical and fall under three categories: agricultural, industrial, and municipal. Water pollutants commonly consist of petroleum products, hazardous wastes, organic matter, trace metals, heat, and herbicides and pesticides.

What are the types of pollution?
Point Source
Point source pollution is generated from pollutants that enter a body of water directly from a specific sourc, usually a pipe.  These are generally discharged as a result of agricultural, industrial or municipal activities.  The point sources of pollution typically include:

Pipe discharges from an industrial or municipal plant
Sewage system overflows and bypasses
Chemical spills from oil and gas companies
Seepage from underground storage tanks
Illegal discharges into storm sewers and drains

Non-Point Source
Non-point source pollution is generated from a variety of sources.  The pollutants are indirectly deposited.  Asrunoff travels, it picks up and carries man-made and natural pollutants, tranferring them into the various water sources.  Non-point sources include the following:

Sediments from construction sites
Stream bank erosion
Animal wastes
Hazardous wastes from landfills
Oil, grease, and chemical spills
Herbicides, fertilizers, and insecticides
Trash, litter, and other debris

What are some benefits of stormwater management?
Reduced flooding
Reduced auto accidents and traffic congestion as a result of flooding
Reduced street and property damage as a result of flooding
Improved insurance rates
Cleaner and healthier water sources


Regulation

Who is responsible for stormwater management?

State Government
The state is responsible for protecting state and local waters, such as streams, lakes, and rivers, as well as state wetlands.

Federal Government
The federal government is responsible for protecting federal waters and wetlands. The waters may include navigable waters, tributaries to the navigable waters, and interstate waters.

What types of legislation are in place to regulate stormwater?
Local
Newton County and the City of Covington have enacted a number of regulations for stormwater management and watershed protection, including:
Stormwater Conveyance and Management
Watershed Overlay Zoning
Agriculture Waste Impoundment
Erosion and Sedimentation Control
Groundwater Protection
Groundwater Recharge Protection

State
The pollution of our waters prevents these resources from meeting water quality standards and designated uses regulated under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) administers the NPDES regulations for the state of Georgia. The first phase of the NPDES issued in 1990 was aimed at medium and large Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) with populations of 100,000 or more. The MS4s include but are not limited to conveyance systems such as roads with drainage systems, local streets, curbs, gutters, ditches, and channels or storm drains owned and or operated by municipal entities, institutions, or any authorized organization. The first phase addressed pollution from certain construction, industrial and municipal activities. The second phase issued in 1999 requires that MS4s with populations of between 10,000 and 100,000 prepare and implement stormwater management plans to control and mitigate pollution.

Federal
In the early 1970s U.S. Congress enacted the Clean Water Act to safeguard water resources throughout the country from harmful pollutants. The primary goals of the act were to eliminate pollutant discharges and achieve improved water quality levels, providing water that is safe for human recreation, consumption and the support of aquatic habitats. The legislation provided the country with a structure of technical tools, principles, and financial assistance to reduce pollution and improve water quality. The Clean Water Act resulted in a series of water quality improvement programs and methods including the NPDES, which has been responsible for substantial improvements to water quality throughout the nation.

Funding Overview

Newton County is now required by federal law to improve its stormwater management program (SWMP) because of high population density in certain areas of the county. The County currently spends approximately $500,000 annually on its stormwater program. Engineering consultants hired by the County have estimated that the current budget will be adequate for only a short while. More funding may be needed in order to meet requirements under the law for a more formal and complex SWMP.


LINKS AND CONTACTS

Are there other sources I can use to obtain additional information on stormwater management?

Local 
City of Covington
Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful (See information regarding recycling under Main Menu.)

 

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 05 July 2011 )
 
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