Polluted Urban Runoff

Polluted Urban Runoff - Everybody's Problem441_Stormwater_Infographic_2015_2.jpg

Concern over urban runoff in recent years has resulted in the City of West Allis increasing its efforts to minimize the problems associated with runoff. What is runoff? Quite simply, runoff is rain water or water from melting snow that flows off a surface rather than being absorbed.

Since urban areas are highly developed and therefore have a high amount of paved and other impervious surfaces, there is a disproportionately high amount of water runoff in urban areas when compared to rural areas. The problem with all of this runoff water is that it frequently contains a variety of pollutants that eventually end up in streams, rivers and lakes. Typical urban pollutants include sediment, nutrients, oxygen demanding materials, bacteria and toxic pollutants such as heavy metals.

Minimizing Pollutants

To minimize the amount of pollutants entering into the storm sewer system and eventually being transported to Lake Michigan, the City has implemented a rather intensive street sweeping program. Using both mechanical sweepers and vacuum sweepers, major thoroughfares are swept weekly and residential streets are swept biweekly.

In addition, the City has stepped up its efforts to remove debris that collects in the sumps at the bottom of street catch basins. Finally, a recently passed ordinance requires larger scale developments and/or redevelopments in the City to prepare and have approved a storm water management plan for the parcel.

Individual Steps

While these types of large-scale activities undertaken by the City will make some impact, every resident can also assist in dealing with this problem. Here are some ways an individual can help:

  • Recycle oil
  • Direct home downspouts onto lawns where the water can be absorbed
  • Rather than hosing down a driveway, sweep paved areas to keep waste and debris out of street catch basins
  • Keep your car tuned and repair leaks
  • Limit fertilizer and pesticide use
  • Leave grass clippings on your lawn
  • Clean up your pet waste
  • Dispose of toxic waste properly
  • Wash your car on the lawn or at a car wash to prevent the soapy water from entering street catch basins
  • Consider using rain barrels and constructing a rain garden

Urban runoff pollution is something that each and every one of us must make a conscious effort to control. Our efforts today will ensure clean water for years to come.