What is Stormwater?
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.
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 water bodies we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water.
Polluted storm water runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals, and people.
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 water bodies 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 storm water often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.
Preventing Runoff (Stormwater) Pollution
Pollution Prevention begins with properly identifying storm water pollution and how to prevent its release. Homeowners and community organizations can properly excel at preventing storm water runoff pollution through lawn maintenance, pet waste removal and even maintaining existing storm water BMPs.
The majority of Urbanized Areas are provided with storm sewer infrastructure that collects storm water runoff as a fast and effective way to alleviate flooding issues caused by the increase of runoff associated with these communities’ impervious footprint. Unfortunately, these systems also provide a quick route for pollution to reach downstream waterways. Simple devices or actions can be implemented to keep polluted storm water from reaching downstream waters in this manner.
Another practice that can aid in reducing the release of polluted storm water is the implementation of Silviculture.Silviculture entails the reestablishment of forest areas in or around urbanized areas to help aid in the absorption of excess water and nutrients before being released into storm sewer systems. Many aspects of Silviculture work towards establishing a vegetative growth to a past or beneficial condition usually in way directed by the surrounding community.
Various Pollution Prevention techniques have been provided as additional resources below, in an attempt to aid in the establishment of proper storm water management within all communities of City of Bessemer.
“Stormwater management is not solely the responsibility of engineers, developers, or regulators; its responsibility rests upon each and every individual who resides, labors, and interacts within the state of Alabama. It is time to learn how to do your part in the effort to reestablish the pristine waterways that once flourished in City of Bessemer.”
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 fertilizers sparingly. When use is 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 piles of dirt or mulch being used in landscaping projects.
Leaking and poorly maintained septic systems release nutrients and pathogens (bacteria and viruses) that can be picked up by storm water and discharged into nearby water bodies. 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.
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 water body.
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.
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 the storm drain and eventually into local water bodies.
Waters of the State’ Defined
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management defines Waters of the State (WoS) as: lakes, bays, sounds, ponds, impounding reservoirs, springs, wells, rivers, streams, creeks, estuaries, marshes, inlets, canals, and all other bodies of surface or underground water, natural or artificial, public or private, inland or coastal, fresh or salt, which are wholly or partially within or bordering the State or within its jurisdiction.”
The City of Bessemer is protecting and restoring the quality of all Waters of the State which has essentially became the foundation of how and why to implement a set of practices under a site-specific storm water management plan.
Restoration of all state waterways, WoS, should be approached with the broader goal of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the natural waters so that they can support “the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water.”
The quality of Waters of the State is essential for supporting human lifestyles and wildlife.
Instances may arise, during the construction and/or design phase of a project, in which small impacts to Waters of the State are unavoidable. The majority of these instances deal with the impact of Wetland areas. When such occasions arise, Federal and State Governments must grant proper authority. These authorities must approve any impacts that are to be implemented within a WoS.
Please visit ADEM 401 Water Quality Certification Section if impacts to Waters of the State are proposed before submitted a request for NPDES Stormwater Coverage. This site will provide you with information on the Federal 404 permit and the Section 401 Certification.
1700 Third Avenue North
Bessemer, Alabama 35020
(205) 424-4060 phone
(205) 481-4359 fax