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Downside of heavy rain is stormwater runoff

Keep Liberty Beautiful

POSTED: August 1, 2017 4:00 p.m.
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Keep Liberty Beautiful is a county program to improve the area's environment.

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I have never seen this much rain in the summer. Brief summer thunderstorms are certainly common, but these recently are gullywashers and go on for hours sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, I like rain. But these types of rain can also be problematic, causing stormwater pollution.

Understanding stormwater pollution is simple. When it rains, it pours and when it pours, the stormwater process is set in motion. Rain water flows over the ground. Stormwater that does not soak into the ground becomes surface runoff. Impervious surfaces, like driveways, sidewalks and streets, prevent the rain water runoff from easily soaking into the ground. That is why stormwater pollution problems are significant in more populated areas.

This runoff becomes polluted as it runs along roads, parking lots, roofs, commercial areas, lawns and farms. As the water flows, it picks up lots of things in its path; pollutants such as automotive fluids, fertilizers and pesticides, bacteria, sediments, litter and pet waste.

So, this runoff leads to significant waterway issues. Surface runoff flows into creeks, streams, and waterways or into storm drains or sewers that eventually flow into waterways (rivers, streams, lakes, oceans).

Typically, there is no process to treat the water before it enters waterways. So, the waters that we love to play in, swim in, boat in — and let’s not forget — drink are contaminated by the debris picked up by the stormwater.

The noticeable thing about all of this debris is that we and our lifestyles cause these problems. Certainly, we have many issues with stormwater and waterway pollution, but our issues pale when you examine the significant problems in many countries around the world. Here are just a few examples:

• Polluted drinking waters are a problem for about half of the world’s population. Each year there are about 250 million cases of water-based diseases, resulting in 5 to 10 million deaths. (Source: Top Facts about Pollution)

• The effects of water pollution are varied and depend on what chemicals are dumped and in which locations. More than 27 percent of the urban population in the developing world does not have piped water in their homes. (UNESCO)

• A lack of safe water and sanitation in cities leads to cholera, malaria and diarrhea. (WHO)

• In developing countries, 70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply. Rio’s de Janeiro’s once-stunning Guanabara Bay was an incredible view years ago, but now, the area is heavily polluted and sailors constantly must maneuver around obstacles, everything from TVs, floating bed frames to dead animals. According to Rio’s Deputy State Secretary of Environment Gelson Serva, only 34 percent of Rio’s sewage is treated. The rest is spilled raw into the waters.

• Accidents involving oil tankers or offshore platforms or oil pipelines have at times caused very large oil spills. Such spills are the most obvious causes of acute oil pollution of the marine environment. However, the largest oil spill ever was caused by Iraq deliberately releasing about 240 million gallons (about 800,000 tons) of crude oil into the Persian Gulf during the 1991 Gulf War and burnt oil wells in Kuwait.

• However, marine oil pollution is more frequently caused by us, not large industries or war time activities. In the USA alone, an estimated 200 million gallons of used motor oil are improperly disposed by dumping it on the ground, tossing it in the trash (ending up in landfills) or pouring it down storm sewers and drains. (EPA)

Water pollution is very harmful to humans, animals and water life. The effects can be catastrophic, depending on the kind of chemicals, concentrations of the pollutants and where there are polluted. The main problem caused by water pollution is that it kills organisms that depend on these water bodies. Pollution disrupts the natural food chain as well. Pollutants such as lead and cadmium are eaten by tiny animals. Later, these animals are consumed by fish and shellfish, and the food chain continues to be disrupted at all higher levels, even up to us humans.

Ecosystems (the interaction of living things in a place, depending on each other for life) can be severely changed or destroyed by water pollution.

So what do we do about it? So much of water pollution is caused by our daily actions. To find out ways that you can make a difference, check out our website: www.keeplibertybeautiful.org. Then, contact us at Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880 4888 or klcb@coastalnow.net to get involved today.

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