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What YOU Can Do to Prevent Street Flooding

Posted on September 11, 2014 by | Comments Off

We saw lots of flooding this week after the ten inches of rain that soaked the region. But do you know what you can do to help prevent street flooding? There are three basic types of floods: storm surge from tropical storms and hurricanes; tidal flooding from natural influences; and heavy rains that overwhelm the municipal stormwater system. Since there’s not much we can do to prevent tidal or storm flooding,  it’s crucial to prevent the stormwater system from becoming overwhelmed. To do so, our neighborhoods must be committed to: (1) reducing the amount of rain that goes down the storm drain and (2) giving stormwater runoff a clear path to flow through on its way through the system.

Stormwater-Runoff-GraphicJust think of it like the drain in your kitchen sink: If you poured a cup of water into the sink it would drain in seconds, right? But what about a 5 gallon bucket of water? The sink isn’t able to process 5 gallons of water as quickly as a cup of water. This, in a nutshell, is what happens when too much rain falls on hard surfaces (i.e. roofs, sidewalks, roadways, parking lots, etc.) and runs off into the stormwater system.  Finding other ways to manage stormwater runoff is so important to flood prevention.

Now, imagine you’re back at your sink only this time the drain is clogged. When you pour the cup of water into the sink it will not drain as quickly as before. And it would empty even slower with 5 gallons of water!  Yard waste like grass clippings and fallen leaves as well as everyday litter are frequent offenders for clogs in the stormwater system that contribute to flooding.

Here’s what you can do to take action against street flooding in your community:

  • Install a rain barrel to capture rainwater that can be used for outdoor watering.
  • Divert gutters towards rain gardens, flower beds and grassy areas so water has a chance to soak up.
  • Plant more flowers and trees – they soak up water better than turf grass, bare spots and concrete!
  • Support green infrastructure projects in your community that will reduce both flooding and water pollution.
  • Keep your gutters and downspouts clean and free flowing.
  • Don’t litter and pickup trash around your community – even if it isn’t yours.
  • Keep your roadside curb and ditch clear of litter and overgrown vegetation.
  • Only put rain down the drain. Grass clippings and fallen leaves cause troublesome clogs in storm drains, pipes and ditches.

Posted in: Don't litter!, Waterways

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Help Us Fight Ocean Trash – It Might Save a Whale!

Posted on September 2, 2014 by | Comments Off

We all followed the story of the Elizabeth River whale last month. We wondered why it had travelled into our local waterways and tracked its movements wondering where it would be spotted next. Many of us also worried about the health of the whale. Sei whales are not a native of our local waterways or even the Chesapeake Bay and prefer the deep waters of the world’s oceans.

So why was this sei whale, an internationally protected endangered species, swimming around the Elizabeth River? The likely answer is plastic. Upon inspection, experts from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center found a sharp 3×5 piece of plastic lodged into the whale’s stomach which was empty of food. That small piece of plastic, likely smaller than your hand, may have prevented the whale from eating. If this is the case, the whale probably wandered into the Elizabeth River via the Chesapeake Bay while suffering from malnutrition and confusion.

top-10-itemsWhile this may seem to be a freak accident to some, those of us working in environmental fields know all too well the seriousness of marine debris (aka ocean trash). Litter from land is the primary source of marine debris in the world’s oceans. Rain and wind carry litter into city storm drains or local waterways and the trash accumulates in higher volumes as it collects farther and farther downstream. Marine animals like sea turtles, whales, ospreys and albatrosses (to name a few) may mistake our litter as food or become entangled in it. Plastics are particularly harmful because they are often not digestible and prevent the animal from eating …just like the Elizabeth River sei whale.

So we are asking all of Hampton Roads to help us in the fight against ocean trash – because it’s the right thing to do and it just might save a whale too! Here’s how you can help:

  • Participate in the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup from September to October. Clear litter and debris out of roadways, parks and waterways right here in Hampton Roads. For events in Virginia, visit the Virginia Clean Waterways program for details.
  • Don’t litter. And yes, cigarette butts are litter too.
  • Secure your trash. Keep your trash can lid sealed tight and be mindful of trash that can blow out of your car or truck.
  • Cut back on plastics. Ditch disposable plastic items and packaging especially when it is not recyclable.
  • Refuse plastics more often. Don’t take plastics just because they are offered for free. Think twice before grabbing plastic bags, disposable cups and disposable plastic straws!
  • Share the message with a friend. Help others understand that decisions they make on a daily basis can really make a difference.

Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Don't litter!, Reduce reuse and recycle

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What makes your community beautiful?

Posted on August 29, 2014 by | Comments Off

PUCU1In the spring of 2014, with support from my wife Sallie, I bicycled 3,269 miles from San Diego to Virginia Beach. Along the way, I experienced our country’s amazing natural beauty and history. I also learned what people personally believe make their community beautiful.  I made . . . connections.

It was great to be back in Hampton Roads on June 28th after 69 days of cycling about 55 miles per day, from San Diego to Virginia Beach through our very beautiful and often hilly country.  For more about the ride check out the blog I kept.

There was so much about this experience that was interesting to me- whether it was meeting the physical and mental challenges of the ride, exploring new places, talking with people from America’s heartland, taking in the natural beauty, or learning about the history of how simple places became the foundation of our country.PUCU2

We introduced ourselves by having our support vehicle, a Toyota Highlander, wrapped with our message of bike safety and cleaner communities. At some point in our conversations with those that we met, I asked the question, “What makes your community beautiful?” I heard many different responses from the 69 people I spoke with. One thing they all had in common: they cared about their communities and what they said gave me a clue as to why. Here are some of the responses I received:

“I can go into town and someone will always know me there” — Anthony, Mountain Grove, Missouri

“Our public library.”  – Hugh, Chanute, Kansas

 PUCU3Personal connections lead us to cleaner, greener, more vibrant communities.

How do YOU connect to your community in Hampton Roads?

Next time: What is a “Pedal Up to Cleanup” and how did it work in Hampton Roads and in selected locations along our route?

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Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!

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Be a Good Mate and Keep Our Waterways Ship Shape!

Posted on August 13, 2014 by | Comments Off

Smithfield Station in Isle of Wight - A Virginia Clean MarinaIf you’re a boater in Hampton Roads, you probably don’t need to be told that our waterways are a valuable resource. And you probably already know that it is important to have a thriving population of fish and crabs. And you definitely understand that the Chesapeake Bay is stunning and beautiful and worth protecting…

But what you might not realize is that by default boaters are the voice of clean water! Yep, the Salt Life sticker on the back of your truck or the Bass Pro Shop hat on your head tells the world “I support clean waterways!” Surprised? Don’t be! You know how important clean water is! It’s likely that you’ve seen the impacts of water pollution firsthand. So now that you know you have a hand to play in clean waterways, what are you and all your boat-loving friends going to do about it? We’ll make it easy for you. Just follow these good to do tips and share them with a friend!

  • Butts on Board – The most common type of litter found in waterways? Cigarettes butts! Don’t throw these little bits overboard – they add up to a big mess that takes years to decompose.
  • Secure Your Trash – Don’t let fishing line, drink bottles/cans, or wrappers from your snacks get lost in the ocean breeze. Bring along two containers with sealable lids for collecting trash and recyclables.
  • Keeping it Clean – When your boat is in dry-dock, give it a good scrub on a ‘natural’ surface like grass, gravel or dirt. The natural surface will soak up the dirty water instead of sending it into waterways through the storm drains. Opt for cleaning with plain water or, if needed, a phosphate-free, biodegradable and non-toxic cleaner when your boat is in the water.
  • Oil and Water Don’t Mix – Keep toxic chemicals out of the water. That means preventing oil, gas, and antifreeze from spilling into waterways. Preventative maintenance is key!
  • Respect No Discharge Zones No discharge zones are areas where boaters cannot empty their onboard toilet tanks (aka marine sanitation device) into waterways due to risks to human health, potential damage to aquatic habitats or existing water quality concerns. Locally the Lynnhaven River is a no discharge zone as is the Piankatank River slightly to our north in Middlesex County. The best disposal option is to use a marina pump station to empty waste.
  • Heed the No Wake Signs – That No Wake sign might indicate that you’re in an environmentally sensitive area. Wake can cause erosion along shorelines which reduces the natural barrier that filters polluted stormwater created by the landlubbers and their impervious structures.
  • Choose Clean Marinas – The Virginia Clean Marina Program promotes the voluntary use of pollution reduction strategies by marinas, boatyards and boaters. Find a Clean Marina near you and give them your business whenever you can. Better yet? Talk with your regular marina about becoming a member!

For more ways you can be a waterway-friendly boater, visit Virginia Clean Marina online. And don’t forget there’s also plenty of ways to keep waterways clean from the shore!

Posted in: Don't litter!, Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Bacteria at the Beach

Posted on June 30, 2014 by | Comments Off

at-the-beach-1445396-1-mThe results are in! Did your favorite beach come out on top? The National Resources Defense Council just released their 24th annual “Testing the Waters” report.  This report presents water quality at beaches along the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.  Thankfully, some of our Virginia and North Carolina beaches are shining stars for water quality.  But that’s not always the case. 

Have you ever heard about a section of beach being closed off due to high bacteria levels? It happens, even here in beautiful Hampton Roads. High bacteria in our waterways can be attributed to stormwater pollution (like dog poop left on the ground!) and untreated sewage spills and overflows. If you swim in water that has high bacteria levels you could get the stomach flu, pink eye, dysentery, hepatitis or other serious medical problems. Major gross out! 

So how can we make sure our local waterways stay healthy? askHRGreen is full of tips! Even if you don’t live on the water, your actions still directly affect the health of our waterways. So here are a few tips to keep you from being part of the problem:

  • Scoop the Poop: Never leave dog waste on the ground, even in your own back yard.  Scoop it, bag it, trash it!
  • Plant More Plants:  It’s better to have more plants than hard surfaces in your yard to allow stormwater to be absorbed and filtered into the ground.  Plants have a great way of removing pollutants from water before it reaches our waterways
  • Keep Fats, Oils, & Grease Out of the Drain: When poured down the drain, fats, oils and grease (FOG) build up on pipe walls, restricting the flow of wastewater exiting our home’s plumbing and, over time, causing sewer overflows into our homes or onto our streets, down storm drains, and into local waterways.  Instead, pour FOG into a container, cover, freeze, and trash it on garbage day.

 

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Fats, oils and grease disposal, Uncategorized

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