Memorial Day weekend marks the official kick-off of the summer season for many people. Nevermind the fact that summer doesn’t really start for three more weeks! One of the perks of living in a southern, coastal region is that summer can start as soon as the temperatures creep up to 80 degrees – whether that happens in April or June. So if you’re planning to kick-off your summer this weekend, keep in mind these eco-friendly ways to enjoy Memorial Day with a nod to the natural resources that define Hampton Roads.
• Plant a Memorial Tree (or plant) – Let’s not forget the true meaning of Memorial Day. Honor those who gave their all for this country by planting a special tree or plant. Once in the ground, make sure your new tree or plant is watered daily until roots are established.
• Donate an Old Cellphone - Take some time from your long weekend to dig out your old cellphones for a good cause. Cellphones for Soldiers gives your old, unwanted cellphone a second life while helping a soldier keep in touch with his or her family. There are over 30 drop off locations in the Hampton Roads area, find one near you now!
• Stay Local – There’s no need to travel out-of-town for a great vacation when you live in Hampton Roads. Visit one of our local beaches or parks to save the gas and frustration of an out-of-town trip. If rain showers cloud your plans, take the fun inside with a trip to a nature-themed attraction like the Virginia Living Museum or the Virginia Aquarium!
• Host a Green BBQ – If the party is at your place, make sure your festivities are easy on the environment. Choose beverages in recyclable containers such as metal cans or glass bottles and place a recycling container predominately so that your guests can find it easily. It’s always best to use reusable plates and silverware, but if you’re going with disposable picnic wares, choose products that are compostable or made of recycled content. Last, don’t let your trash get caught up in the wind! Secure loose napkins and food wrappers so they don’t end up in your neighbor’s yard or a nearby storm drain.
Protecting our natural resources, waterways and beaches starts with the small choices we make each day. Be an environmental steward all year long by making small changes to your everyday routine and protect our natural resources for many summers to come.
Storm drainage systems are very helpful in the way that they prevent roads and highways from flooding when there is heavy rainfall. They allow the rain water to drain from urban areas safely back into the environment and into natural bodies of water. Unfortunately, materials other than rain water make their way into the drainage systems. They are called illicit discharges. An illicit discharge can be any material that enters a storm drainage system other than natural precipitation. This includes dirty water from laundry or a carwash; hazardous waste like lawn care chemicals, oil, paint; sewer overflows and yard debris such as leaves, grass clippings and animal waste. These pollutants can enter the stormwater drainage system directly by entering through connective drains and pipes or indirectly by seeping through the joints of the pipes or street openings of storm drains. Illicit discharges make their way into the storm drainage systems and out to nearby bodies of water like streams, rivers, bays and the ocean. Contaminated discharges can be harmful to the health of the plants and animals living in the water, the wildlife that may drink or eat from the water, and humans that may swim in the water. Illness, defects, and death can result from this serious pollution. Companies and businesses can monitor and fix faulty connections and cracks in the piping to prevent contamination of stormwater. As a community we can also take action to prevent illicit discharges from entering the storm drainage system.
Avoid blowing, raking, sweeping, or hosing yard debris like leaves and grass clippings into storm drains.
Don’t apply lawn chemicals near curbs, streets and driveways.
Use fertilizers and chemical pesticides sparingly and only when and where they are necessary.
Spread awareness and educate others of the effects of illicit discharge and how to prevent it.
Not only do these suggested actions protect against water pollution, they also keep our local land environment clean. Recognition, elimination and prevention are key to resolving this illicit discharge problem. If we join together and each do our part this will soon be an issue of the past.
Guest blog submitted by Natalie Prevette, Environmental Intern with James City County Stormwater Division.
“Rain, rain, go away, come back another day” is a familiar nursery rhyme we all know. Our stormwater infrastructures help make rain “go away”.
But do we really understand how our city stormwater management system works? Engineers have designed a system for removing excess RAIN WATER! It is called “stormwater infrastructure”
The system does NOT TREAT the rain water; instead, it directs the rain water to a nearby creek, river or the Chesapeake Bay. It does not take out oil, paint, soaps, fertilizers, grass clippings, leaves, yard debris, and litter including cigarette butts and tips. Those items POLLUTE and PLUG UP our drainage system, causing harm to our property, wildlife, marine life, and environment.
FLOODING occurs when:
The rainfall is greater than what the stormwater infrastructure was designed for.
Storm Surge (the abnormal rise of the sea caused by a storm’s atmospheric pressure & wind) flows up into our stormwater drainage system and onto the streets and land. (Nor’easters, hurricanes etc.) Storm Tide is the combination of Storm Surge & astronomical tide.
The stormwater system is blocked by debris, grass clippings, leaves, yard wasteinside drainage pipes or at the entrance of the stormwater drainage system.
Soil sediment reduces the flow of water at entrance or inside drainage culverts.
Who is responsible?
Citizens are responsible to make sure that debris, grass clippings, leaves, and yard waste do not enter the street or drainage system on their property including the easement. Also, they are to make sure on trash pickup day, the debris is not blocking the drainage system.
The municipality is responsible for keeping a routine maintenance cleanout schedule so rainwater flows properly, along with replacing broken or upgrading inadequate stormwater infrastructure of city owned structures.
Stormwater infrastructure looks a little different than your average street, bridge or communications tower. But it’s still up to us to work together to keep it flowing! Check out these common stormwater practices:
Curb Drop Inlet (aka your storm drain)
Stormwater Outfall (where your curb storm drain sends rain water)
This is not a ditch. It’s a Grass Swale and it needs to be kept clear of litter and debris!
Stormwater ponds – they spruce up the neighborhood but are meant to manage rainfall from our homes!
Green infrastructure is made up of the interconnected network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas; greenways, parks, and other conservation lands; working farms, ranches and forests; and wilderness and other open spaces that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute to health and quality of life (McDonald, Benedict, and O’Conner, 2005).
Challenges will always persist when it comes to localities maintaining infrastructure. And we often only plan for “grey infrastructure” like bridges or streets. Green Infrastructure (GI), however, now has a growing importance in helping communities improve and sometimes reduce the need for additional grey infrastructure. It serves to work with natural ecosystems to preserve green space, clean air and manage stormwater. The City of Norfolk has been doing ground work, pun intended, as it relates to Green Infrastructure. Working with the Green Infrastructure Center has the Watershed Taskforce Team inventorying natural assets and identifying opportunities for their protection or restoration. This GI planning provides a chance for communities to approach land use in new ways that keep natural processes in mind.
Unlike most grey infrastructure, GI provides multiple community benefits. For example a protected wetland provides critical marine habitat while also managing flood waters and clearing up water pollution. Likewise a grove of urban fruit trees could help improve air quality while feeding those in need. With this mindset, it makes sense to maintain and integrate GI into the existing built environment and urban landscapes as a common sense approach for managing important environmental issues such as flooding, water quality and more.
Norfolk’s work with the Rockefeller Center has produced an upcoming Retain Your Rain workshop that will demonstrate parcel level stormwater interventions. To you and me, that means things we can do at home like rain barrels, blue/green roofs, planters, permeable pavement and cisterns that contribute to the overall GI of the community. The purpose of the workshop is to demonstrate how residential or private property owners can reduce stormwater runoff and flooding from rain events.
Retain Your Rain will be held Saturday, June 4th 3:00 – 5:00pm with a Resilience Party, Beer Garden & Flood Mitigation Project Expo at 142 W. Olney Road.
Infrastructure matters at HRSD’s Virginia Initiative Plant in Norfolk.
Infrastructure matters. It matters, in big ways and in small ways, to our country, our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and our communities. Roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, pipes, the power grid, broadband… infrastructure matters to companies that manufacture and ship goods. It matters to our daily commutes and our summer vacations. Infrastructure determines if we can drink water straight from our taps and flush our toilets or do our laundry. It brings electricity in to our homes.
Every dollar we invest in infrastructure is an investment in our neighborhoods, and our future. In fact, for every $1 invested in infrastructure nearly $2 in output is created. Infrastructure puts our friends and neighbors to work.
Ultimately, infrastructure matters to every aspect of our daily lives. That is why askHRgreen has teamed up with hundreds of other groups around the country to participate in Infrastructure Week 2016. We’re raising awareness about the need to invest in infrastructure, which is the backbone of our economy, locally and nationally.
In Hampton Roads we expect safe, clean, and reliable water and wastewater service, but do you know what goes into maintaining our water and wastewater infrastructure? There are more than 6,500 miles pipes that carry clean water to our homes and businesses, 5,800 miles of pipelines that take the dirty water away, and 9 wastewater treatment plants that clean the dirty water we create throughout Hampton Roads!
Maintaining our sewer system protects our waterways from sewage pollution, something that was all too common in our region before HRSD was created. We’ve made a lot of progress but our work is nowhere near complete. Upgrades are essential and since so much of this work goes unseen, HRSD wants to take you on a virtual tour of a wastewater treatment plant upgrade that is happening NOW!
HRSD’s Virginia Initiative Plant (VIP) in Norfolk is undergoing a $156 million project that will enhance its ability to remove nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from wastewater, increase the hydraulic capacity so the plant can treat additional flows during storms, and replace aging equipment to improve operations. The VIP project is doing more than protecting public health, improving water quality and enhancing reliable wastewater treatment – it is also providing jobs in our region for contractors and their suppliers.