Solutions to Stormwater Mayhem

Despite rising community engagement in conservation in Baltimore, algae blooms, dead zones, and the number of fish going belly-up remain a serious problem for our urban watershed. According to the most recent Healthy Harbor Report Card water quality in Baltimore Harbor has gotten worse over the past year.

A huge contributor to our low-grade comes from stormwater runoff, which occurs every time precipitation from rain or snowmelt hits the ground. The trouble is that the ground isn’t always a clean place.

In urban areas like Baltimore a built environment laden with impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets, prevents stormwater runoff from nautrally soaking into the ground. As a result, 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. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the water-bodies we use for swimming, fishing, and siphoning our drinking water.

Just how much toxic muck can be swept up by runoff? Scuba diver Laura James time-lapse, underwater footage of a stormwater outfall in West Seattle off Alki Beach reveals a plume of blackened, toxic runoff gushing out of a pipe that lasts for hours.

Nasty. Every time we drive our cars, fertilize our lawns, leave pet excrement on the ground, or forget to fix car leaks, we contribute to pollution in our local rivers, streams, and the bay.

Luckily there are many actions you can take to improve the health and sustainability of our community:

  • In 2011, Blue Water Baltimore removed a total of 34,675 square feet of impervious surface from three City school grounds. Have an empty lot in your community? Collaborate with your neighbors and transform that space into an urban garden
  • Plant over bare spots in your yard
  • Since 2010, youth from 901 Arts and Blue Water Baltimore have designed and painted sidewalk murals around storm drains throughout Baltimore City to remind people not to dump anything down storm drains. Find your inner artist, grab some paint and brushes and create your own storm drain art. (NEVER dump anything into the drains)
  • Use fertilizers sparingly and sweep up sidewalks, driveways and roads after use
  • Compost your yard waste
  • Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces
  • Check your car for leaks and recycle motor oil
  • Pick up after your pet
  • Install rain gardens and rain harvesting systems.
  • Read the Healthy Harbor Plan and learn how you can get involved
  • Read more practical and eco-friendly ways you can take action to protect your community and the environment from the effects of stormwater runoffEnhanced by Zemanta
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Shannon McGarry

Shannon McGarry, a Project Specialist at Campaign Consultation, Inc., was an environmental activist from age 7 when she organized neighborhood children to protest a housing development.  Her dedication to sustainable water & sanitation systems grew from her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Read More