County engineering raises awareness of water runoff
by Matt Shinall
Nov 17, 2011 | 1393 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For many business owners, it may come as no surprise to find that how they handle potential pollutants can have a direct impact on the quality of local creeks, streams and rivers.

Others, however, remain unaware of the consequences associated with water runoff, a mindset Bartow County Engineer Lamont Kiser hopes to change.

"When folks see catch basins, storm drains, junction boxes, drop inlets and those kind of things, there's still some folks that thinks that goes to a treatment plant somewhere and don't realize that goes straight to a tributary, a small stream or ultimately winds up in a big stream -- the Etowah River -- 70 [percent] to 80 percent of this county drains to that river," Kiser said.

To identify and eliminate pollution sources, the county is conducting business inspections to raise awareness of existing problems and how they can be mitigated.

"It's really just a chance for us to go and introduce ourselves and tell them a little about our program, so upfront it's really an education program," Kiser said. "It's an opportunity for us to evaluate their stormwater plans and their stormwater management on site. It's an opportunity for us to see if there are problems on their site ... or if there are opportunities where we can assist them to clean up their site a little bit and better their stormwater management."

Currently, the county engineering department is concentrating on auto salvage yards. Owners of these companies should already have received notice in the mail. Information is sent out prior to business inspections letting operators know what will be evaluated and what measures can be taken before the inspection, such as picking up trash on the grounds, properly storing chemicals and cleaning automotive leaks from parking areas.

Many businesses can have an effect on stormwater through the storage and use of chemicals or oils, including fast food restaurants, mechanic shops and car washes. Also, any business with a large commercial parking lot is responsible for the runoff created.

"Obviously, as a commercial property owner, you don't have control over the vehicles that visit your place but you do kind of have the responsibility of the leaking antifreeze and the oil and the brake dust and that kind of thing. Those are the components that ultimately end up washing into the storm drains, washing through any detention ponds they have, and if they aren't caught and cleaned up there, they can end up in our creeks and in our streams," Kiser said.

With regulation changes occurring every five years, the next cycle begins in 2012 and Kiser expects restrictions to only get tougher. Existing infrastructure, however, was designed without these requirements in mind making preventative and cleanup efforts essential.

"A lot of the requirements that we're under now for stormwater control weren't in place 15 or 20 years ago when a lot of this infrastructure was built," Kiser said. "Every bit of the drainage from that area drains to the lake ultimately. So, this is an effort for us and our business community to work together to help keep all that clean."

Although some warnings have been issued for excessive violations, the county has yet to levy fines for stormwater noncompliance looking to work in cooperation with businesses rather than against them.

"Our goal is not to see how many folks we can fine and give citations to and drag through court. Our focus is to get folks to be aware of the environmental damage that can happen," Kiser said.

For more information on the topic of urban area runoff, or nonpoint source pollution, visit www.tiny.cc/epa-stormwater. To contact Bartow County Engineering, call 770-387-5067.