Water, Water, Everywhere
Where surfaces are concrete or ordinary grass, rain water will move quickly, eroding soil and hardscaping and pooling at the lowest points where it may sit on the surface for a long time before absorbing into the ground. For many homeowners, this creates a multitude of problems; for the homeowner with the low spot in his or her yard it can mean that ponds appear during heavy rainfall periods that take days or weeks to subside and may even be wet for most of the year.
Many neighbor disputes arise when storm water from gutters, sump pumps, and lawn runoff infiltrates basements and washes out landscaping. As a result, residents often contact the Borough to ask us what we can do about their neighbor’s water coming on to their property. The answer is the Borough can do very little unless there is a current construction project going on at the site. However, there are many things that the homeowners can do to mitigate the problem and the Borough is happy to assist property owners and neighbors who want to work together to resolve the issue.
As a general guide, in Pennsylvania you can not do anything to cause more water to run onto your neighbors yard than would naturally do so. Water should flow over your property in a natural fashion you cannot increase the rate of runoff. You also cannot collect up your water and pump it or divert it through a pipe to the edge of your property line so that the pipe flows out on to your neighbor’s yard.
Dumping the water from your property on to the street and in to the storm drains is a last resort because that does not solve the problem but instead shifts the problem from your property to your downhill neighbors, particularly those that live stream side and in the process it adds to environmental and water quality degradation.
The best possible answer so many stormwater issues is to utilize a combination of methods to slow the flow of the water and increase infiltration. Methods that can easily be worked into most Doylestown yards include:
Rain Gardens – If you have a low spot in your property that often has standing water a rain garden may be the perfect solution. A rain garden is a special flower and plant garden that is designed to catch rain water. Rain gardens can be simple to create and maintain and can absorb many times the amount of water that spot will when it is just lawn.
Seepage pits - A seepage pit, sometimes called a dry well, is a subsurface pit or container that temporarily stores storm water, often from roofs and down spouts and then allows that water to infiltrate in to the soil. Perforated drain pipe and seepage trenches can be used together to manage down spout outflow.
Vegetated swales and infiltration trenches – Swales are broad shallow areas that are planted with vegetation to slow and hold storm water so it can soak back into the ground. They can be combined with infiltration trenches for more significant water problems. A combination swale and trench can often resolve larger areas of swampy ground that receive sump water from more than one home.
Rain Barrels– Rain barrels are used to harvest and store water that runs off a roof to use later to water plants. In addition to helping with runoff they reduce water bills by providing free water for lawn and garden use.
Grassy lawns are not much better than concrete in terms of ability to slow flow of water and absorb water during a storm. Even simple well placed garden beds that are kept well mulched can help slow the flow of storm water and dry things out more quickly. Trees also help to absorb water after a storm, so planting additional trees on a property is worthy of consideration. If you are planning a patio, driveway or other larger scale construction project, be sure to investigate options for managing water on your property.
STORM WATER MARKERS
Storm water runoff pollution is one of the greatest threats to our region's waterways. This occurs when rain or melted snow flows over impervious (“watertight”) surfaces, such as driveways, sidewalks, and streets. In a built-up town like ours, this runoff picks up oils, litter, chemicals, and other pollutants on its way into storm drains. It is then discharged into the waterways we use for swimming, fishing, drinking water and more.
Storm Drain Markers are adhered to pavements and curbs adjacent to storm drains (sewer inlets) and serve as a visual reminder that only rain should go down the storm drain and discourages dumping. The metal markers shown are being purchased by Doylestown’s EAC
and we are seeking donations to implement the program through-out the Borough. They will be installed by the Borough Public Works Department.
Please consider making a simple $5.00 tax-deductable donation (or more) per marker to purchase storm water markers by clicking here for the form. Your name and names of other people who donated will be listed on an EAC Honor Role published in a future addition of the Borough Bulletin.
Please call the Borough if you would like more information on stormwater management. You can also checkout these useful links:
STORM WATER LINKS
Construction and Building Stormwater Management Requirements
EPA Water Homepage: https://www.epa.gov/learn-issues/learn-about-water
EPA Water Pollution Prevention and Control: https://www.epa.gov/polluted-runoff-nonpoint-source-pollution
EPA Stormwater Homepage: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/npdes-stormwater-program
EPA MS4 Main Page: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater-discharges-municipal-sources#overview
National Menu of Stormwater Best Management Practices: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/national-menu-best-management-practices-bmps-stormwater#edu
Stormwater Outreach Materials and Reference Documents: https://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/
MS4 Fact Sheets: https://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/docs.cfm?document_type_id=3&view=Fact%20Sheets%20and%20Outreach%20Materials&program_id=6&sort=name
Polluted Runoff: Nonpoint Source Pollution: https://www.epa.gov/polluted-runoff-nonpoint-source-pollution/what-nonpoint-source At this site, there are several sub-topics under the “Quick Finder” section that may be useful for MS4s.
EPA Watersheds: https://www.epa.gov/learn-issues/water-resources#our-waters
The Borough’s storm water collection and conveyance system is known as a Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (Small MS4). This system includes all borough-owned storm water facilities such as storm sewer pipes, inlets, basins, gutters, ditches and even roadways. As part of the Clean Water Act the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection requires the Borough to have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. This permit gives the Borough permission to discharge storm water flows into nearby streams, which connect to larger streams, rivers and eventually the ocean. The Borough is responsible for maintaining its system so that it functions properly and reduces stormwater pollutants to the maximum extent practicable. Although the Borough maintains the system, our results are dependent on what flows into it. One of the key components to improving water quality is to prevent pollutants from getting into the water to begin with. Our goal is to raise awareness of the importance of water quality and how everyone can “do their part.”
Below is a link to a video co-produced by the EPA and The Weather Channel. The video uses examples of the Santa Monica Bay, New York City and the Gulf of Mexico but its message is relevant everywhere, even here in Doylestown.
About Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permits
The Borough of Doylestown has a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This permit regulates the Borough's storm sewer system and requires Doylestown to implement a storm water management program. This includes six program elements called "Minimum Control Measures" which, when implemented together, are designed to result in significant reductions of pollutants discharged from its storm sewer system and into receiving water bodies. The Minimum Control Measures are listed below with links to the EPA's fact sheets, which outline the requirements.
How can you help with stormwater?
Contact Borough Hall to report any erosion and sediment, storm water runoff or other pollution issues, whether from construction sites, businesses, or other locations throughout the Borough.
Organize a neighborhood pollution watch.
Stencil storm drains with warnings about dumping.
Participate in a stream or creek cleanup within the Borough.
Plant trees along a stream or creek.
Practice these healthy household habits:
- Use fertilizers sparingly
- Use pesticides only when necessary
- Do not blow grass clippings or leaves into the street or inlets
- Sweep up yard debris rather than hosing down paved areas
- Compost or recycle yard waste
- Pick up pet waste and dispose of properly
- Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on an unpaved area
- Service your car regularly to prevent leaks onto paved areas
- Dispose of household hazardous waste at designated collection locations
- Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled or recyclable products when ever possible
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