By: Joel Garbon
So you just plunked down tens of thousands of dollar for a brand new vehicle, and as you drive it home you’re feeling really good about the crisp acceleration, great handling, and sharp looks of your latest investment. A few thoughts run through your mind of the upkeep that will be required to keep this beauty running fine and looking great. Regular oil changes….coolant checks….proper tire inflation…..and of course, frequent car washes! You know there are likely other items that need to be on the list, so when you pull into your driveway, you take a few minutes to read through the vehicle maintenance guidelines, and make a mental note of the mileage that will trigger the first recommended servicing.
Pretty basic, right? It would be unthinkable to drive your new vehicle 20,000 or 30,000 kilometers without at least a couple of oil changes. Of course you will perform the needed routine maintenance! The same would apply to your other valuable personal and business assets, such as your home or boat or office building.
Yet in the world of stormwater treatment, the maintenance discipline that is so obvious for vehicles and buildings is too often compromised, or even completely ignored, for valuable treatment infrastructure. Somehow, the common sense thinking that keeps other investments functioning properly over the long term seems to disappear when it comes to the technologies and practices intended to protect our water resources, public health, and our environment. As with most asset subject to wear and tear and contamination, stormwater treatment systems are likely to perform poorly, or at worst, actually release pollutants into our environment when not properly maintained.
What can be expected in the absence of regular maintenance? Stormwater ponds fill in with sediment and get choked with vegetation, perhaps attracting unwelcome wildlife species. Bioretention cells get overwhelmed with sediment and debris, clogging the soil matrix, and resulting in poor performance and standing water that may drown vegetation and invite mosquito breeding. Oil/grit separators fill up with compacted sediment, which is much more difficult to remove. Media filters becomes heavily occluded, resulting in reduced hydraulic conductivity, and bypass. In each case, the poorly maintained treatment systems are likely to demonstrate greatly diminished treatment performance, reduced water volume treatment, vulnerability to scour and release of previously captured pollutants, and much costlier maintenance when eventually performed.
Stormwater treatment assets are valuable and are designed to perform critical functions in protecting water quality and other property assets. Increasingly, municipalities and regulators are recognizing the importance of establishing, and enforcing, inspection and maintenance requirements for both public and private stormwater quality infrastructure, often financed through stormwater utility fees. While enforcement may be challenging due to staff limitations and constrained budgets, creative information campaigns can educate and engage the public and businesses alike, so that the stewardship of our water resources becomes less an agency-specific task and more a cultural, shared responsibility of concerned and passionate citizens and businesses.
In short, when it comes to maintenance of stormwater infrastructure…YES, WE HAFTA!
Part 1: Doo-Doo No-No
Part 2: Loving Your Car and the River Too!
Part 3: Taking Out the Trash