NMR Stormwater Management: Facing our Runoff Problem
What is Stormwater Runoff?
Stormwater runoff is the water that flows over hard surfaces, such as roads and roofs, during a rain event. In urban areas like Pittsburgh, these surfaces are often made up of impervious materials, like pavement and asphalt, and don’t allow water to soak into the ground.
As the water falls from the sky and makes its way to the storm sewer system, it collects a great deal of pollutants and litter. Unfortunately, this polluted runoff does not get treated after it flows into storm drains; it simply winds up in streams, rivers, and lakes.
Stormwater Runoff and Nine Mile Run
Every time it rains in the Nine Mile Run Watershed, thousands of gallons of stormwater run into storm pipes and flow directly into Nine Mile Run. This untreated, fast moving water causes erosion, habitat pollution, and other negative effects in the Nine Mile Run stream.
In 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers completed an aquatic ecosystem improvement project in Nine Mile Run to help mitigate the impacts of stormwater damage. While this restoration brought great improvements to the structure and habitat of Nine Mile Run, the continued barrage of stormwater events continues to degrade water quality, and has damaged parts of the restoration work, despite remediation efforts by NMRWA, volunteers, and watershed municipalities.
In order to more effectively combat these issues going forward, we have joined with local municipalities and partner organizations to form the Nine Mile Run Stormwater Partnership.
One of the local FIRST® Lego League Robotics teams, Master Minds #23836, which is made up of kids ages 9-13, created this original video as a part of a water research project. They identified storm water run-off as a big problem in areas where natural landscapes have been replaced with impenetrable, gray surfaces. They also discovered that people are not very aware of stormwater management solutions that already exist. This kid-friendly video was designed to inform and educate the public in a fun and engaging way.
What is the NMR Stormwater Partnership?
Nine Mile Run Watershed Association has partnered with the Boroughs of Edgewood, Swissvale, and Wilkinsburg along with Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD), Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA), and Three Rivers Wet Weather (3RWW) to form the Nine Mile Run Stormwater Partnership. Our partnership is charged with helping to implement a stormwater management program called MS4. MS4, or the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, is a program administered by the PA Department of Environmental Protection that provides guidelines for municipalities to reduce pollutants and stormwater volume in the storm sewer system. In addition to municipal and commercial efforts, a successful MS4 program calls for significant action by community residents.
The NMR Stormwater Partnership developed an MS4 Plan in August 2017 to outline what we will be working on over the next 5 years. The plan aims to increase the involvement of the watershed communities and residents in the protection and restoration of the NMR watershed through engagement, education, and empowerment.
To achieve clean water, we need everyone, from businesses to residents, to pitch in and do their part! Below we provide suggestions for how you can get started.
How you can help reduce Nine Mile Run’s stormwater problems
Because clean water is everybody’s business!
– Reduce or eliminate use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn to avoid water contamination by nitrates, phosphates, and harmful chemicals. Try using organic fertilizers instead! Apply them sparingly, and only when there is no rain in the forecast for at least 24 hours.
– Recycle your yard waste in a compost pile! Waste that would have otherwise been disposed of can now be used to nourish your garden.
– If you own a home and are redesigning your outdoor space, consider using permeable materials, which allow rain to soak in and do not generate runoff.
– Plant rain gardens with native plants. Native vegetation and mulch can replace high maintenance grass lawns. Most laws are only slightly more permeable than pavement, and still produce a lot of runoff. Rain gardens protect water quality and reduce stormwater runoff by slowing down and absorbing runoff flow, so that pollutants may be removed before reaching a storm drain. Contact our Stormworks team if you are interested in a consultation to see how you could make your property more watershed friendly!
– Use a rain barrel. Rain barrels allow homeowners to get the most out of their rainwater! These containers reduce the amount of stormwater runoff during rain events and allow homeowners to slowly release water when it is done raining. This rainwater can then also be used to tend to gardens, water the lawn, etc. If you are interested in finding a rain barrel that’s right for your home or business, give our StormWorks team a shout!
– Plant trees! Trees help keep water out of sewer systems in several ways. They collect and clean rainwater, catching it before it hits hard surfaces and runs off, remove pollutants, provide wildlife habitat for various species, and reduce flooding.
– Always pick up after your pet! Make sure your family, friends, and neighbors understand the importance of picking up after their pets and properly disposing of waste. When pet waste isn’t picked up and properly disposed of, it runs off into stream, which increases the level of E. coli and other bacteria. This can be very dangerous for delicate watershed ecosystems, such as Nine Mile Run, and for the people and pets who visit them.
– Always wash your cars at car wash facilities. If you wash your car at home, untreated chemicals will flow into storm drains and eventually end up in our waterways. Commercial car wash facilities are required to treat the used water as wastewater and send it to ALCOSAN to be treated. Some car washes even treat and reuse the water onsite to reduce overall water usage. For more information, see this brochure by the U.S. EPA.
– Report illicit discharge and illegal dumping to DEP! All incidents should be reported to the Department of Environmental Protection. In addition, you can contact your Borough Manager (contact info below) and/or use the Water Reporter app if you see any type of discharge from the storm sewer system that is not stormwater or groundwater. If you see contaminated water or other chemicals, please report it.
– Never litter and also encourage those around you not to litter! Much of this litter ends up getting washed down sewer drains. By using trash and recycling bins we can reduce the amount of garbage that washes into our waterways each year. This is especially important, because as litter starts to break down, it increases the amount of particulates in the water.
– Volunteer with us! We offer opportunities to clean up Nine Mile Run, plant trees, and more to keep our community and Frick Park vibrant and healthy.
If you are interested in learning more about the requirements of MS4, check out these resources: