Thursday, February 18, 2010

Too much concrete, too little oversight

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 11:03 AM

We know what that's like, right Charlotte? I'm sure I don't need to remind you that it floods nearly every time it storms.

Nationwide, stormwater is a leading source of water pollution. About 13 percent of U.S. rivers, 18 percent of  lakes and 32 percent of estuaries are classified as impaired by stormwater, which means they are rendered unsafe for swimming or fishing. It also contributes to the degradation of many more waterways.

“You have marine impacts, ecosystem impacts, and public health impacts,” said David Beckman, co-director of the National Resource Defense Council’s national water program. “It’s really a multiplicity of problems. Pollutants in urban settings are many and of a wide variety, and all of them - if you don’t treat and successfully reduce the pollution - are getting into the receiving water, be it a river or lake or the ocean.”

In a natural system, rainwater doesn’t travel very far. It soaks into the soil and is taken up by plants. The quick infiltration prevents the water from transporting contaminants and keeps waterways from eroding.

But the concrete and asphalt of the urban jungle is anything but natural. Instead of soaking into the ground, rain runs across impervious surfaces, picking up contaminants along the way. By the time it reaches a stream or lake, the runoff can be full of metals, oil, grease, bacteria and other contaminants.

Stormwater also picks up speed. When it hits a stream it scours sediment, dislodges benthic invertebrates and erodes banks, effectively demolishing the natural habitat.

“When you put an impervious surface down it becomes a really good delivery system.” said Roger Bannerman, an environmental specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “We see that in the bottom sediments, we see it in the water quality itself, we see it in the kinds of chemicals we find in the fish.”

Read the rest of this Environmental Health News article, by Sarah Coefield, here.

In related news, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is accepting public comments on this issue until Feb. 26. I have confirmed anyone can comment, not just government officials or developers. So, speak up. Let the E.P.A. know how Charlotte's urban flooding affects your life.

All you have to do is e-mail your comments to OW–Docket@epa.gov. Be sure to put “Attention Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OW–2009–0817? in the subject line.

From last month in east Charlotte:

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