Stormwater Management in Extreme Events

Dr. Bill Hunt’s talk at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh on August 9th focused on the historic flooding hurricanes NC has seen in recent years, and what that means for stormwater management. We all remember when 6 feet of water stood on I-40, making Wilmington was an island and closing 3200 roads statewide. Our highways were (in theory) designed for the 1/500 year storm event, but Florence was a 1/2000 year event in Wilmington.

An NCDOT staff member in the audience shared that they worked with NC Division of Emergency Management and the Navy (yes, the Navy) to ensure that Wilmington had adequate supplies. Looking forward, DOT is working with the National Weather Service and others to stress-test our highway system, as well as learning from Louisiana’s experience during Hurricane Katrina to study bridge span vulnerability (many bridges went out during Katrina due to wave action.)

So what does this mean for stormwater management using green infrastructure? Stormwater managers know that green infrastructure has been designed to effectively treat moderate-sized rain events. How can stormwater BMPs / SCMs safely convey or pass larger storms, while still meeting their treatment goals? Dr. Hunt said that we will probably need to design our SCMs to be a bit bigger and made out of more durable materials. Thinking more broadly about green infrastructure, he also emphasized the need for preserving lands that routinely floods as public amenities. Designing parks, ballfields, or urban agriculture areas that can survive being submerged and somewhat battered in storms will allow us to “live with water” better.

Dr. Hunt and others in the audience also emphasized the importance of breaking down our institutional and subject matter silos. Stormwater, transportation, and emergency managers–and developers–can learn from one another about how best to manage risk and maintain the resilience of the systems where we work, play and live.

How are you designing your SCMs and planning land use for extreme events? How are your partnerships with other managers evolving? Leave a comment below about what’s helping you solve these challenges we all face.

And That’s a Wrap! FY 2019 Highlights

Kids cleaning Enviroscape

We finished up our Outreach and Education for the Fiscal Year 2019- and what a year it has been!! We interacted with over 3,000 individuals in CWEP regions over the course of the previous ten months on all things stormwater. A total of 146 hours were spent administering, leading, or aiding in programs across the state! The age range of our audiences ranged from Pre-K-Adult for all events and programs. In addition, we reached our main goal of aiding in or leading a program for all 37 of our member communities throughout the year- meeting both Public Participation & Involvement and Public Outreach & Education NPDES MS4 Minimum Measures. While we reached all 37 communities, a total of 71 programs, events, and meetings took place with about 1-3 visits/member.

Focused educational themes included the water cycle, macroinvertebrates, litter/trash, pet waste, lawn waste, fertilizer/pesticides, household waste, and vehicle pollutants. Check out our program and service menu guide here to learn more about the services we can provide you!

Programs and events ranged from libraries, schools, farmer’s markets, festivals, fairs, workshops, summer camps, Boys and Girls Clubs, scout groups, Parks & Rec programs, YMCA’s, training high schools, and more! CWEP also had several meetings with our member representatives about future events and how CWEP can aid their communities going forward.

We can’t wait to see what 2019-2020 has in store for us! Check out some images from the fun we had this past year here! Also, keep checking back in for our Annual Report FY19 which will be published on our Public SharePoint archive site in the near future. Enjoy the rest of your summer and we will see you soon this fall!

New CWEP Members: Fayetteville and Nashville

Fayetteville and Nashville joined the Clean Water Education Partnership on July 1st, and we are excited to have them! Shauna Haslem is the contact for Fayetteville and Julie Spriggs is the contact for Nashville. Existing members, take a moment to welcome them and swap stormwater ideas!

Shauna Haslem is the Public Information Specialist/Stormwater Educator for the City of Fayetteville, NC. She coordinates media and public outreach for the Public Services department, focusing on the Stormwater program. This includes media inquiries, publication development, website development, and management of social media accounts. In addition, she is passionate about providing top-notch stormwater education to school-aged children in the Fayetteville area, and conducts education programs when the many other hats she wears allow. She looks forward to having the new CWEP AmeriCorps provide a pair of helping hands in stormwater education efforts!

Julie Spriggs is the Planning Director for the Town of Nashville, NC. In her role, she uses skills she has gained as a GIS professional and planner to guide Nashville’s growth and development while taking into account stormwater management impacts. She looks forward to having CWEP’s AmeriCorps come out and do stormwater education in Nashville, as well as being able to take advantage of all the mass media educational materials CWEP has developed.

CWEP looks forward to serving these two -villes’ stormwater education needs!

What Goes Up Must Come Down!

Spring is finally here! And with Spring comes lots of parties, celebrations, graduations, birthdays, weddings, fairs, and more! Balloons are commonly used around the world to celebrate many of the occasions listed, however, when your balloon disappears into the sky, where does it end up going?!

What goes up must come down! Balloons may look nice, but they have a number of environmental concerns associated with them. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment and our waterways.  All released balloons, whether they are released intentionally or not, return to Earth as litter. And when it rains, all litter and trash end up down the stormdrain- which in turn lead to our waterways.

Balloons kill countless animals, cause dangerous power outages, and affect our water quality. They can even travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.

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Balloons return to the land and water where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings can lead to entanglement, causing death. Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.

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The Problems

Inflated balloons that make their way back to earth or water, pose a risk for wildlife due to the high chance of becoming ingested due to attractive color or their ribbons and tassels forming the perfect trap for animals to become entangled. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for.

Balloons can travel far and often end up riding the world’s oceans or rivers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies balloons as a commonly reported source of marine debris. A report found on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled Ocean Conservancy Beach Debris Data shows 1000’s of balloons pulled from waterways and the coast each year. The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Cleanups alone can’t solve this pollution problem. Nevertheless, the Ocean Trash Index provides a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work to prevent specific items from reaching the water in the first place. It is for that reason that a handful of states including but not limited to California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Virginia have recently passed legislation restricting the release of balloons.

What Can I Do to Help?

There are many alternatives that will not pollute the Earth or harm animals. We can opt for reusable party & advertising décor – banners, flags, ribbon dancers, pinwheels. For memorials & fundraisers, we can plant trees, gardens or build birdhouses – actions that promote life. Perhaps organize a clean-up in a loved one’s honor or blow bubbles. Sky Lanterns are NOT a good alternative. Sky lanterns are an uncontrollable fire hazard and have sparked massive wildfires and structure fires. Falsely marketed as biodegradable, the chemically treated paper, bamboo ring, metal wires, and fuel cell can last over a year- polluting the planet & risking harm to other lives. Animals have become entangled in them or have ingested the metal parts.

Protesting or stopping a balloon release is another option. Below are some tips on how to go about stopping a balloon release:

  1. Do your homework! Check to see if balloon releases are illegal in the area. Mylar/foil balloons have a “warning” on them saying they should not be released outdoors because of their conductivity.
  2. Contact the organizer. Private message or email may be better. Offer alternatives. Click here for form letters and ideas.
  3. Contact the venue/location. 
  4. Contact city officials. City Manager, Mayor, Parks & Recreation/whoever has jurisdiction of the venue/location. If it’s a sky lantern release, also contact the fire department.
  5. Didn’t work?  You can Email Info@BalloonsBlow.org or Report a Release.

Please choose sustainable products when celebrating and be mindful of the simple choices we can make to protect the planet we all share!

Balloons Blow…Don’t Let Them Go!

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Calling all Watershed Educators!

It’s that time of year again! We’re starting the search of our new AmeriCorps Service Member for the 2019-2020 term. Gain experience planning and leading stormwater education programs and engaging 37 communities in environmental stewardship! This is also a great opportunity to see the inner workings of local government, meet people, and learn new skills related to all things stormwater! Click on the link below for more information and to apply.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY OR LEARN MORE

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Meet the bug that armors itself with shells, rocks and sticks!

Caddisflies are an ecologically diverse and important group of freshwater insects. Their larvae are sensitive to pollution and for this reason are used  as indicators of water quality. Oxygen concentration and water velocity are important to larvae, as is the chemical content of the water. Caddisflies live most of their lives in the larval state, depending on aquatic habitats to mature to adulthood.

Caddisflies gets creative in the ways they shield themselves from predators. Larvae construct cases, or homes, out of silk woven with sand grains, fragments of wood or twigs, stones, and other materials from their surroundings.

Check out some images below from freshwater insect photographer, Jan Hamrsky:

Caddisfly larvae spend up to two years in their cases before becoming adults. The cases are so pretty that some artists encourage caddisflies to spin their silk around semiprecious stones so their cases can be used as jewelry.

CWEP loves to use activities about macroinvertebrates to teach about clean water! We sometimes find caddisflies in streams, and at tabling events we let participants craft their own caddisflies.

Check out some images from CWEP @ Carrboro Day: “Make your own Caddisfly” craft!

How is CWEP celebrating Earth Day this Year?

With Earth day around this corner, CWEP is ramping up direct education efforts this week and we have a lot in store for our members!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads on this day. Corporations and governments also use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Earth Days theme for 2019 is Protect Our Species.

CWEP is celebrating the week of Earth Day with MANY plans! First we headed to Middlesex Elementary on April 16th for a Water focused Earth Day of fun with the K-5th grades! We saw a total of 313 kids in one day!

We are now heading out to visit our coastal members, Havelock, New Bern, and Kinston, for the week to do programs with their schools, libraries, Parks and Rec, and after schools groups all focused on stormwater education and why we need to keep our waterways clean!

Finally, on Earth Day this coming Monday April 22nd, we will be back in Durham aiding in an EPA Science Day at Bethesda Elementary School! Then later in the week, we will be traveling to Hillsborough to table at a “Last Fridays” Earth Evening themed event on April 26th!

CWEP has a lot in store for our member communities this week and beyond! We are excited to be coming out soon.

Happy Earth Day from CWEP!

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CWEP’s Stormwater Education Campaign Giveaway!

Earlier this month, CWEP kicked off the Spring one click give-away digital campaign. Through partnership with Spectrum, our aired 30 second PSA video will re direct traffic to our website. This is a great incentive for environmentally-minded viewers to learn more about how to keep our waters clean and safe by heading to our website to learn more! The campaign will run until July, which is when winners will be announced. You can view this 30 second video here.

We would like to thank our local and green minded sponsors which include Spiffy, Green To Go, Fillaree and The Produce Box. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible! We are confident we will reach a large number of participants and encourage the public to view and interact with our stormwater education message as well as learn more about our valuable sponsors!

You can read more about the campaign and learn how to get involved here!

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7 Tips to Reduce Stormwater Pollution This Spring!

With over 10 million people living in the state of North Carolina, state residents’ day to day activities have an impact on water quality. Stormwater is surface runoff that does not soak into the ground during precipitation events (drizzle, rain, snow, and hail). As stormwater flows over neighborhoods, businesses, and streets, it picks up the trash, cigarette butts, pesticides, motor oils and other contaminants accumulated on hard surfaces and deposits them into our local creeks, rivers, and the ocean UNTREATED! Stormwater runoff is the #1 source of water pollution and the biggest threat to water quality in the state.

So what can you do? Here are some easy ways you can improve water quality this spring!

1. Don’t Over-Apply Fertilizer! Why?

Premature Plant Death

Over-application of synthetic or chemicals fertilizers can increase soil salinity and root burn in the long run, which may result in your plants not being able to properly absorb water and nutrients in the soil, leading to their untimely demise. Overuse of synthetic fertilizer can also disrupt soil chemistry and actually do damage to soils.

Harmful to Aquatic Life and Humans

When excess fertilizer gets into our storm drain system and travels into our waterways and oceans, algae blooms can form resulting in a loss of oxygen in the water. Algae blooms pose a direct threat to aquatic animals, which need to breathe just like we do!

A well-maintained, natural lawn care system requires little to no fertilizer. Talk to your local garden center about how to care for your landscape and if you must fertilize, what products you can purchase that are organic and environmentally friendly.

2. Sweep, Don’t Hose!

Sweep around your house and driveway vs. hosing to clean away the accumulated dirt and debris. When you sweep, pick up the debris and place it into the appropriate trash receptacle. Potentially impactful items and debris picked up and placed in the trash are less likely to get into the storm drain system and degrade water quality.

3. Take Your Car to A Car Wash

Spring is a great time for cleaning up inside and outside the home. However, when you spruce up your car, think of going to a local car wash vs. hosing it down at home. This actually saves water and reduces runoff to our waterways that contains soap and debris.

A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute. If you wash your car for 10 minutes, you might consume 100 gallons of water. While hosing with an automatic shut-off valve may save more water, it’s still recommended to take your car to a commercial car wash that can properly dispose of harmful runoff (debris, oil, harmful soaps, etc.). Commercial car washes also have sophisticated reclamation systems that enable them to re-use water, so they only expend approximately 9-15 gallons of water during any given wash cycle.

4. Plant Native Plants

Native plants are the foundation of a natural ecosystem. They provide biodiversity and give critters ample food and habitat, creating a sustainable ecosystem in your yard. Native plants also thrive in their “home” environment, requiring less water to thrive. Check out this list of North Carolina’s recommended native species here!

5. Make Your Landscape Water-Friendly

Consider installing green infrastructure practices like permeable pavers, rain barrels, French drains, bioswales, or reducing lawn areas altogether. When you use these practices to control the flow and sinking of water in your landscape, you’re helping to keep toxins and debris out of the storm drain system as well as capture water naturally — a WIN-WIN for you and the environment. Check out these Green Infrastructure Ideas, click here.

6. Scoop Your Pet’s Poop!

With warmer weather comes more walks with your fuzzy friend in the outdoors. Always remember to clean up after your pet’s waste and place it in the trash. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that will wash into our waterways after a rainfall- which there is plenty of in the spring!

7. Drain Swimming Pool Safely

If you have a pool, drain it only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels. Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system, where it will be treated. Also, store pool and spa chemicals in a covered area to prevent leaks and spills to the stormwater system.

Eventful Months for CWEP!

January and February have been very eventful months for CWEP! From Steering Committee meetings to Creek Week meetings to library, school, scout, STEM, and festival programs, CWEP has done it all- and we are on track to meet our goal of reaching all members before the end of June!

First, we had our quarterly Steering Committee Meeting on January 22, 2019, where we discussed program updates, direct education recaps, and reviewed our 5 year plan. In addition, CWEP recently added a new page to the website called “Steering Committee” where you can find all updated Agenda’s and Meeting Summaries! We want our partners and communities to be in the know at all times.

Secondly, our CWEP family has grown with the addition of a new Water Resource Planner who will be working closely with CWEP this year! Welcome to the team, Maya!

In addition to our successful committee meeting, CWEP also continues to participate in the monthly planning meetings pertaining to a week-long event in Durham called Creek Week. Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up local streams. It has been celebrated by Durham since 2009. It is a successful event in helping to rid trash from local creeks, as well as getting the community involved in their surrounding environment. This year, Creek Week is from March 16-23rd. Individuals can sign up for multiple events that occur during this week through this page: https://keepdurhambeautiful.org/creek-week/ CWEP has also added a new Creek Week page to the site which outlines all the creek weeks in North Carolina! CWEP will be hosting a “Canines for Clean Water” Dog Pledge event during Durham Creek Week 2019 on March 18th from 4-6 PM at Piney Wood Dog Park in Durham. Stop by with your four legged friend, sign a pledge promising to pick up dog waste, and get some treats- We hope to see you there!

CWEP has been doing a lot these past couple months- but we have even more eventful months coming up! Check out our new Calendar of Events page to see what we’re up to next! We also have a ton of new pictures out in the field that you can check out here!