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Does Stormwater Jargon Make Sense To You?

By Ron Etter, Envirnomental Group Manager, Koontz-Bryant, P.C.

It can be hard to make sense of technical regulatory language, and it is easy to lose sight of the practical aspects of stormwater management. Meeting the paperwork requirements can become the objective, instead of protecting our waterways from pollution. Paperwork aside, here is a basic primer on the what, why, and how of stormwater management.

What is stormwater?

Rain is great. It’s part of the hydrologic cycle: water goes up, falls down, and goes back up again. While important for maintaining life on the planet, there are some challenges in dealing with this water once it hits the Earth’s surface, when it becomes stormwater. Precipitation is typically absorbed by the ground. It slowly percolates down into the groundwater and finds its way to a stream. Thanks to modern urban development, the ground is increasingly covered with buildings, roads, and other impervious surfaces, resulting in erosion, pollutants, and site flooding from stormwater runoff. To prevent flooding, stormwater is collected by curbs and gutters, drop inlets, pipes, ditches, creeks, etc. and conveyed to the nearest surface water body. Since the stormwater does not typically enter the sanitary sewer system, pollutants are flushed directly into waterways through these conduits. The nature of the pollutants depends on land use, but typical stormwater pollutants include:

  • Fertilizers
  • Oil and Grease
  • Sediment
  • Trash
  • Pesticides/Herbicides
  • Heavy Metals
  • Bacteria/viruses
  • Construction waste

Why should we care?

These pollutants contaminate our waterways, negatively impacting fishing, swimming, boating, and general enjoyment of the water, as well as potential contaminating drinking water sources. There are federal, state, and local laws and regulations that have to be met by facility owners and operators and anyone conducting land disturbing activities. Federal, state, and local regulators have increased inspections and enforcement of the stormwater management regulations in order to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the waterways of the Commonwealth.

How is stormwater managed?

Stormwater can be tough to manage. One inch of rain on a 1-acre paved parking lot yields about 27,000 gallons of water. Until fairly recently, stormwater management consisted primarily of preventing flooding on site. Today, in addition to managing the quantity, the quality of the stormwater must be managed. Low impact development promotes maintaining existing hydrology using strategies that incorporate infiltration, filtering and storage at the source. Wet ponds, engineered wetlands, extended detention ponds, raingardens, and a host of other structural Best Management Practices are used to reduce the pollutant load from developed sites and construction activities.
Knowing how to manage stormwater at a project site can be confusing, frustrating, and costly. However, Koontz-Bryant understands the engineering needs and the regulatory requirements for stormwater management, and our experienced team routinely tackles the most complex situations and provides practical, cost effective solutions to our clients. Recently Koontz-Bryant completely re-designed an existing sediment basin to meet the stormwater quantity and quality criteria required by the Virginia Stormwater Management Program regulations. The re-designed stormwater management unit allowed the site’s developer to meet current local and state stormwater management requirements and significantly contributed to a reduction of contaminated stormwater leaving the project site.

If you have any questions, comments or are in need of stormwater advice, call or email Ron Etter at 804-200-1920 .