Storm Water Information:
In an effort to keep our local waterways safe and reduce the amount of water pollution, The City of Butler and the Department of Environmental Protection are working together to help educate the public about stormwater runoff and how each and every one of us can have a positive impact on the quality of the waterways around us.
Here is some basic educational information as well as guidance on improving the environment and waterways around us.
Just the “Facts”
Pennsylvania has a total of 83,161 miles of stream, enough to circle the Earth more than three times! The PA Department of Environmental Protection has analyzed about 45,000 miles of our streams, and found that almost two out of every ten miles do not meet water quality standards due to polluted storm water runoff. This adds up to over 6,500 miles of stream impaired by people’s decisions. So this leads us to some questions – what is stormwater runoff and what is polluting our streams?
Where does that water go?!?!
Most people are surprised to learn that there are actually two separate underground systems to carry waste and storm water. The first system, which you are probably most familiar with, is the sanitary sewer. This is the system of pipes that connects to your home, and removes waste from things such as toilets, sinks, and washing machines. Once in the system, these wastes are carried to a treatment plant, where pollutants, bacteria, and other contaminants are removed, and it is safely discharged into nearby waters.
The second system, which you may be unfamiliar with, is the storm sewer system. Every time that it rains or snows, when the water hits the ground it has two options. It can be absorbed into the earth’s soil or will form into runoff that will flow overland. The main thing is that it always flows downhill until there is so much runoff that it forms into a stream which then forms into a river. Storm sewers are usually installed along roads, parking lots, and other paved areas to direct this storm water runoff to a nearby stream or ditch. This system collects the storm water runoff and discharges the untreated runoff directly into a nearby water source.
Why is clean storm water important to us?
As you have read, sanitary sewers carry polluted water to a treatment plant, but what happens if contaminants get into the storm sewer system? And why is clean water so important to us?
This runoff that is created from the natural water cycle provides us with drinking water, a place for recreation, and supports habitat for wildlife. Clean water is important to the entire ecosystem (Not just humans). Impacting any one part of the ecosystem affects everything within that system in some way. As such, maintaining clean waterways will have a positive impact on the entire ecosystem.
Many of the choices that we make every day can have an impact on water quality. Storm water runoff is a major contributor to stream water pollution.
Here are just a few examples of how a stream can become polluted and what the effects could be:
• Do you know that excess sediments and pollutants from human activities that flow into the waterways can actually reduce the amount of oxygen in the water, which makes it difficult for fish and other organisms to breathe and survive?
• If chemicals are not disposed of properly (i.e paints, antifreeze, motor oil, or other household chemicals) and they find their way to a stream, this will not only affect us here in Butler, but may have an effect on the habitats and wildlife the entire length of the stream and river.
• If you throw litter onto the street, it may flow into a storm sewer, which could eventually clog the pipes resulting in localized flooding.
What can we do to help?
Most of us can have a big impact on our community and environment by making small changes in the things we do. Here are just some ideas on how you can help!
• Put litter in its place. Keeping trash off our roads keeps it from entering our waterways.
• Don’t put anything into the storm sewer. Remember, everything that gets put into a storm sewer goes directly into our community’s streams!
• Tell your friends! The more people who know about keeping our waterways clean, the greater impact we can have.
As you can see, storm water runoff can have a serious impact on our community’s quality of life. Without proper management, storm water can cause damage to personal property from flooding, can limit our opportunities for safe swimming, fishing, and boating, and harm wildlife and their fragile habitats. Our community is taking steps to better manage storm water runoff, and to protect public health and the safety of residents in our community. The residents have a right and responsibility to get involved in the community’s efforts to ensure a more healthy future for the local waterways, habitats, and you!
For more information, games and activities see the following Links:
1. Carson P. Falcon welcomes all kids to his great web-site for environmental information, games, and activities at: Just For Kids.
2. Citizens guide to Stormwater
3. When It Rains It Drains Brochure
4. Managing Construction Site Stormwater Runoff