Stormwater, Maintenance, and Homeowner Responsibilities
By: Raymond Shumaker, Inspections Superintendent
Codes, Permits, and Inspections Services
What is stormwater management? Stormwater management protects, maintains, and enhances the public's health, safety, and general welfare by providing for the control of adverse impacts associated with increased stormwater runoff. Stormwater is the water that comes from the atmospheric process of precipitation "Hydrologic Cycle", (eg: rain, snow, sleet). When the precipitation is not absorbed into the ground, the portion not used by plants becomes stormwater (surface) runoff. The stormwater runoff will eventually find its way into storm sewers and surface waterways and eventually empties out into our streams, rivers and lakes.
When new construction occurs, we create additional impervious surfaces (such as residential/commercial buildings, driveways, parking lots, roadways, sidewalks) on our existing landscape. These impervious surfaces prevent the stormwater from naturally soaking into the ground. Increased 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. Without management of the surface runoff, polluted stormwater can be discharged into the water bodies we use for swimming, fishing and providing drinking water.
Polluted stormwater 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 (fertilizers) 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, such as 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 from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.
Stormwater Management facilities provide quantitative control, measures that control the increased volume and rate of surface runoff caused by man-made changes of the land, qualitative control measures that reduce or eliminate pollutants that might otherwise be carried by surface runoff, and groundwater re-charge. Proper management of stormwater runoff will minimize damage to public and private property, reduce the effects of development on land and stream channel erosion, reduce local flooding, assist in the attainment and maintenance of water quality standards and maintain after development, as nearly as possible, the pre-development runoff characteristics.
The owner/agent (including homeowners associations) of any property containing a stormwater management system shall perform maintenance, including preventative maintenance, to ensure the proper functioning of the facility. Maintenance and inspections go hand in hand. Routine inspection is the best form of maintenance. Identifying issues early and performing corrective action insures the facility will function as intended and reduces future cost. Inspection of stormwater management facilities should occur on a quarterly basis and after each major storm event (eg: hurricane, tornado, flooding, etc.). Records should be kept regarding to each inspection performed by the owners to document the facilities condition and denote any repairs which are required.
There are a variety of stormwater management facilities, which range from ponds, infiltration, filtration, wetlands, and open channels. Here are some items to look for during inspections:
- Access to facility in good conditionVegetation well established and mowed to height of 4" to 8"
- No woody vegetation on manmade embankments (15' from toe of slope)
- No woody vegetation around inlet/outlet pipes and structures (25' from structures)
- Rip rap (stone) in good repair
- Structures in good condition (no cracking, seepage around pipe, obstructions, trash rack in place)
- No visible signs of erosion
- No visible trash or debris
- Fencing in good repair
- Accumulated sediment removed
- Mulch maintained
Tips for Reducing Pollution and Stormwater Runoff