The small metal placards with those words are on the more than 650 catch basins or storm drains that access the UNH storm water sewer system for the university campus. Yet despite that warning there were two recent incidents of illicit dumping on campus that have officials urging faculty, staff, students and visitors to think about where things that enter this network of storm drains ultimately end up.

Two illicit discharges into College and Pettee brooks were reported to UNH’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety last month. (See second photo, below.) If you observe improper dumping or non storm water discharges on university property, call OEHS at 2-4041 or Facilities at 2-1427. (Courtesy photos)

The university’s storm water sewer system is designed to take rain water and channel it – untreated – via College and Pettee brooks to the Oyster River and eventually into Great Bay. UNH’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety and the university’s Facilities Management Department have been working hard to keep everything but rain water out of the storm water system since UNH filed its first management plan with the EPA in 2003.

“What goes into the storm water system is not treated in any way,” said Brad Manning, director of the UNH’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. “It’s a common misperception that what goes down those outside drains is handled the same as what goes into the sewage system from our homes, and that just isn’t the case.”

Matt Polzin was one of several student interns hired by UNH’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety to label more than 650 storm drains on campus with heavy-duty metal placards. (Courtesy photos)

Now that the drains have all been identified and almost all of them clearly marked with the small round discs that say “No Dumping, Drains to Bay,” UNH officials have continued to take proactive steps. They contract with a local street sweeping company to remove as much of the sand put on roads and parking lots around campus before spring rains wash it away, and this year they worked with Facilities to reduce the amount of sand used without compromising safety to the community. They have also implemented an annual catch basin cleaning program to maximize the efficiency of the system.

“Since 2003, we’ve worked in partnership with Facilities to look at just how much sand is really needed to keep our roads, walkways and parking lots safe,” said David Gillum, assistant director of UNH’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. “In 2003 more than 800 tons of sand was used. In 2004 we reduced that amount to 200 tons, and this past year we were down to 50 tons.”

Non-point sources of pollution, like the sand, cigarette butts, pet waste and other litter that ends up in the drains, are now the number one pollution of our river, lakes and streams.

“It’s important that people remember that what goes down these drains is not treated in any way before it dumps into the waterways around us,” said Manning.

To learn more about what UNH is doing visit http://www.unh.edu/ehs/stormwater/.

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