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EHS targets pollutants in university storm water system

By John Reed, Media Relations

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) has begun a five-year process to stop pollutants from entering the university storm water drainage system.

The project is meant to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations requiring all metropolitan areas of 100,000 people or more to eliminate nonpoint surface pollution of their storm water drainage systems.

The town of Durham and UNH are part of the Portsmouth-Dover Metropolitan area.

In recent years, pollutants such as motor oils, detergents, road sand and salt and cigarette butts flowing into storm drains have become the leading polluter of surface water bodies in the United States. “These are known as nonpoint pollutants because they aren’t being directly discharged into surface waters by municipal and industrial facilities,” said Brad Manning, director of Environmental Health and Safety. UNH operates its own storm water system which is composed of more than 600 catch basins and outfalls that discharge to the College Brook, Pettee Brook, Oyster River and Town of Durham storm water system.

To control sources of nonpoint pollution, EHS has developed a six-point plan involving the entire UNH community.

First, EHS will focus on public education and awareness through brochures, a Web site and marking storm water drains to “educate people about everyday activities that can pollute surface bodies of water, like washing a car near storm drains,” Manning said.

Next, EHS will focus on detection and elimination of nonpoint surface pollution sites. “This is really the meat of the technical part of the plan,” Manning said.

EHS will use Geographic Information System (GIS) technology housed at the UNH Facilities Department and managed by Peter Tardie to map campus catch basins and outfalls. “We’re using Pete’s technology system because it is so accurate, we wanted to use the best available,” Manning said.

Once the campus storm water system is mapped and identified, EHS will work to identify any illicit building connections to the system and then eliminate this connection, thus removing a potential pollution source to the storm water system.

EHS detectives can use three methods to detect illicit connections to the system:

  • They can visually inspect the outfalls during the dry weather season and look for an illicit discharge from the outfall. Unfortunately, a higher than normal rainy season often rules out this option.
  • They can pour florescent dye down individual drains in campus buildings and look for the dye at the outfall. However, this technique is labor intensive.
  • They can conduct a smoke test — pump smoke up the outfall and see where it emerges — which is the most effective technique. “This technique hits the highest number of connections throughout a whole building,” Manning said.

Another step in the plan is to require that all new campus construction projects larger than one acre conduct pre and post construction work to prevent nonpoint surface pollution.

Other efforts include inspecting dumpsters, a large source of bacteria. Also, loading docks will be monitored for oil seepage, and vehicle washing will not be allowed near storm drains.

“ We want to exceed EPA regulations. We’re trying to make UNH a greener campus,” said David Gillum, lab safety officer for EHS.

To read more about the six-point plan, or for additional information about storm water management at UNH, please access the OEHS Web site at http://www.unh.edu/ehs/stormwater/.


 


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