Polluted Stormwater Runoff- NC’s #1 Pollution Problem
When rain falls in a natural setting, almost all stormwater infiltrates the soils and groundwater or is taken up by vegetation. But when land is developed, the impervious cover (roads, rooftops, driveways, parking lots) increases the volume of stormwater that is not absorbed by the land and accelerates the transport of stormwater across the surface of the land. As impervious cover increases, so does the volume and velocity of contaminated surface runoff into streams, lakes and sounds.
Polluted stormwater runoff, including sediment from poorly maintained construction sites, is the number one reason for poor water quality in North Carolina. Sediment can cause severe problems for creeks, rivers and estuaries on which we depend for our drinking water, recreation, wildlife habitat and fishing. Stormwater is one of the main causes of pollution in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico Rivers.
Stormwater pollution results in a multitude of economic losses. Sediment, toxic pollutants and pathogens in stormwater leads to poor quality fish catch and financial losses for the commercial and recreational fishing industries. Contaminated beaches result in medical expenses to treating water related illness and the beach community suffers from losses in sales and services. Stormwater pollution leads to increased water treatment costs. Increased stormwater runoff creates significant flood damage repair costs and dredging costs. Measures to decrease stormwater impacts can significantly increase property values.
In order to deal with the increased problems from polluted stormwater runoff, Sound Rivers began a restoration program in 2010 to implement on-the-ground projects to restore water quality.
The photo on the left is a created stormwater wetland constructed in 2015 at Edgecombe Community College in Tarboro. The wetland treats stormwater from the campus main parking areas. Two more created wetlands were built, along with a rain garden and bioretention cell. Click to view image of educational sign.
A similar project has been completed on East Carolina University’s campus in Greenville, NC. Sound Rivers in cooperation with ECU build one created wetland, three bioretention cells (engineered rain gardens) and installed permeable pavement on the campus to improve Green Mill Run, a stream that runs through the heart of the city and the campus.
What Can You Do?
Everyone can do their part to reducing polluted stormwater runoff. Limit your impact by:
- Applying fertilizers and pesticides sparingly and do not apply before rain events.
- Test soil first to determine fertilization needs. Tips.
- Reduce bacteria by picking up after your pets and dispose of the waste properly.
- Wash your car on your lawn where the chemicals and soap can be absorbed and filtered by the soil instead of washing directly into a stream.
- Dispose of lawn clippings in a compost pile.
- Harvest and reuse rain water via rain gardens, rain barrels and cisterns.
- Preserve and plant trees.
- Maintain your septic tank! Tips.