My Contribution To Stormwater Issues

Green roof at the Civic Gardens in Cincinnati, OH

Green roof at the Civic Gardens in Cincinnati, OH | Katie Rousseau

This morning I woke up to the sound of a rather heavy, but steady rain outside my window. This sound made me feel calm and peaceful. This lasted for only a minute before I thought about taking a shower and how the water I will use will contribute to an ongoing problem here in my community.

The problem, which many older industrial cities in the Great Lakes are dealing with on a daily basis, is combined sewer overflows

My city, like many others, is slowly separating the sewer system into pipes for stormwater and pipes for wastewater. The wastewater my neighbors and I generate will go to the wastewater treatment plant to be treated and distributed back into Lake Erie, where we get our drinking water.

Stormwater, however, does not get treated and gets discharged back into our creeks, rivers, and streams.  This wouldn’t be a bad thing if stormwater was considered clean. It’s not, unfortunately.  It picks up pollutants like oil, grease, fertilizer, and garbage from roadways, farm fields, rooftops, and any other hard surface. 

At American Rivers, we’ve been working to remove pollutants from stormwater by helping communities install green infrastructure practices in urban environments to alleviate the strain on our antiquated sewer systems.  Sean Foltz, in our Milwaukee office, has had tremendous success. Learn more about our projects in Milwaukee.