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NEWS | Dec. 12, 2019

Preventing Water Pollution

By Joint Base Charleston Environmental Office 628th Civil Engineer Squadron

When the subject of water pollution comes up, most people think of oil, chemicals, hazardous waste, sewage, garbage and other contaminants being discharged into waterways. In reality, pollution from stormwater runoff is one of the leading sources of water pollution in the United States.

Stormwater runoff occurs when rain flows over the land or impervious surfaces (parking lots, roads, sidewalks, driveways, etc.) and doesn’t have time to seep into the ground. As water flows over these surfaces it picks up and accumulates debris, chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, dirt, yard waste and bacteria from animal waste. This water then finds the nearest stormwater conveyance structure and flows to our nearest picturesque river, pond, lake and/or harbor.

Construction sites provide one of the greatest opportunities for surface water pollution due to the fact that construction sites provide a large area of disturbed soils that are easily erodible. The disturbed soil particles become entrained in runoff and are carried a considerable distance before they “fall out.”  This process results as sediment in waterways.

Government regulations require measures at construction sites to prevent erosion and sedimentation. You’ve probably seen the short (approximately 3 foot tall), black plastic barriers around construction sites; these are called silt fences. Silt fences act as a temporary perimeter encompassing the area where land disturbance will take place. They also help contain the disturbed soil so that it remains on site and doesn’t end up filling or clogging waterways.

Prior to these regulations, thousands of tons of dirt were washed from construction sites and would silt up and clog streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. The harmful effects on these waterways are numerous and include damage to (or loss of) wetlands and other natural ecosystems; loss of plant life; reduced populations of fish, other animals and microscopic organisms; reduced quantities of clean drinking water; and loss of recreational areas. 

In addition to soil erosion, the previously mentioned pollutants end up being deposited in waterways as a result of stormwater runoff. The presence of these pollutants in the environment results in a very serious risk of potential groundwater contamination.

Here are a few things you can do to help prevent pollution to the groundwater and surface waterways of Joint Base Charleston and the surrounding communities:

·         Don’t sweep, blow or wash yard waste into storm drains

·         Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly and only in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions

·         Perform vehicle maintenance/repairs at the auto hobby shop, not in your carport or driveway

·         Report any spills of oil, gasoline or other chemicals immediately

·         Clean up your pets’ waste

The points of contact at Joint Base Charleston for water pollution issues are Earle Folger on the Air Base side 963-1439 and Kurtis Evans on the Weapons Station side 963-1483.