Managing Stormwater in Our Community

by Joe’s Stream Team and the Mount Rainier Green Team 

When it rains, it pours! The management of stormwater is crucial. Millions of gallons of water fall upon Maryland each year, and that water must be rerouted away from everyone.  Unchecked stormwater runoff has many collective impacts on humans and the ecosystem including damage to public and private property and local wildlife. 

What is stormwater? Stormwater is what it sounds like: water from a storm. Any precipitation that falls from the sky, including rain, hail, and snow, is considered stormwater. The falling water is swept across various surfaces as runoff: stormwater that travels once hitting the ground. Runoff flows over concrete and more natural areas like forests and wetlands and can soak into the ground or flow into local streams and other bodies of water. 

Uncontrolled stormwater runoff can do damage not only to human goods and possessions, but can also push fertilizers, pet waste, chemicals, and other harmful waste into our rivers and streams. Rainwater itself is usually rich in minerals and can cause sediment build-up. This build-up can cause damage to stormwater drain infrastructure leading to flooding or costly repairs. This is one of many reasons stormwater management is an important topic for our neighbors to understand.

How can neighbors help prevent stormwater damage? Litter is a huge issue when it comes to stormwater management. Any trash or other debris that is not cleaned up will eventually get washed into a nearby storm drain when it rains. This is a primary means for ground litter to end up in a waterway. Too much litter in a storm drain will create a blockage that can lead to flooding. A big solution to this is holding regular-clean ups in your neighborhood to clear the land areas of litter. The Mount Rainier Green Team and Joe’s Stream Team want to organize regular block clean ups, but we will need the participation of the community. Be on the lookout for announcements about these clean-ups! If you have never participated in a community clean-up you should look for an annual Earth Day clean-up around April 22nd, such as the one hosted by the Anacostia Watershed Society at our very own Nature Center.

Litter is not the only material on land that poses a major threat when caught in the path of stormwater. Cleaning up after your pets is being a good neighbor and helps save the environment. Leaving waste behind is not only harmful to other animals, and generally unpleasant, but it does pose a threat to human life. Pet waste may contain e. coli, campylobacteriosis, and salmonellosis with an increased risk of infection from bacteria and parasites. This affects children who play in parks and can pollute natural and man-made water sources. Waste can also attract pesky flies to an unwanted location. These flies can spread the infection even more from landing on waste to landing on human food. Just picking up after your pet can greatly increase the well-being of our community and decrease the pollution in our waterways.

We use products at home every day that are harmful and contribute to pollution of the environment without us even knowing. If you can, research and utilize products that are environmentally friendly. Environmentally friendly products can include the food we eat, the soap we clean our dishes with, what soaps we wash our cars with and the sprays we might use in our home gardens. Plant-based soaps and sprays are starting to become mainstream and can be a healthy alternative. For washing dishes, a lemongrass-based liquid is perfect for your daily needs and the world. There are various eco friendly options to replace the more harmful ones. There may not always be a perfect product but it is great to be aware and take steps that are available to reduce harm to the outdoor world when it comes to stormwater issues. 

What is Mt. Rainier doing about stormwater? The City of Mount Rainier received grant funding to commission a Stormwater City Master Plan. The Master Plan includes a review of the existing stormwater management system in the city and looks at how climate change could stress that system in the future. Did you know that our City’s storm drain system was largely built between the 1910s and 1920s? Experts expect changes in our rainfall including more rain and more often, straining our stormwater management system further. The City Master Plan contains potential green infrastructure solutions as part of adapting to this new pressure on our stormwater systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, green infrastructure is a cost-effective approach to managing rainfall that provides community benefits as well as ways to manage stormwater and reduce pollution. The City will use the Master Plan to develop stormwater management solutions for our community.

Please follow @JoesStreamTeam on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for more information about this and related matters.The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Currently, our meetings are held virtually via Zoom. All interested citizens are invited to attend and can email us for the meeting connection information. For more information, meeting agendas and minutes, and an up-to-date calendar please visit https://mountrainiergreenteam.org or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com