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Storm Water and Oakland University

Storm and sanitary sewers are both designed to move wastewater and runoff away from living areas. However, there are important distinctions between the two.

A Storm Sewer is a system designed to carry rain, snowmelt and drainage. Storm water is carried in underground pipes or in open ditches and discharges directly into streams and lakes. This water is not treated before it reaches a natural body of water. Pollutants that get into storm drains can poison wildlife and eventually find their way into our drinking water. It is important that you never pour anything down a storm drain.

A Sanitary Sewer is a system designed to carry sewage and other wastewater from toilets, sinks and floor drains to a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). At the treatment plant, the wastewater undergoes a series of physical, chemical and biological processes to remove contaminants. Most of Oakland University's campus is served by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) system. This means our water comes from DWSD water treatment plants and our sewage flows into DWSD wastewater treatment plants.

Most people think that the pollution in our lakes and streams is a result of factories that dump chemicals into the water. The truth is that water pollution comes from a wide variety of sources and even from things we do every day, like drive a car. As rain water flows over our streets, parking lots or lawns, it has the potential to pick up large amounts of damaging pollution from things like fertilizer, road salt and oil. This water then enters our local lakes and streams carrying these or many other potential pollutants. There are many things we can do to minimize this risk.

Oakland University's Storm Water Management Program seeks to:

  • protect water resources;
  • comply with federal and state storm water regulations;
  • minimize the impact the OU community has on the Clinton River Watershed.

This website has been created to help members of the Oakland University community understand how the university's storm water system operates, why storm water management is important, and what we can all do at OU and at home to help ensure a cleaner future for our local watershed.

WHAT IS
A WATERSHED?
REGULATION
AND COMPLIANCE
WHAT CAN YOU
DO TO HELP?
WHAT IS
OU DOING?

A watershed is a large area of land, shaped somewhat like a bowl that channels rain and snowmelt toward its lower points and into a river, river system or other body of water. Whether you realize it or not, we all live in a watershed. Oakland University and the surrounding area are located within the Clinton River Watershed.

The Clinton River Watershed (CRW) covers 760 square miles of southeast Michigan. It includes more than 1,000 miles of streams and flows 80 miles from its headwaters to Lake St. Clair. The area covered includes most of Macomb County, a large part of Oakland County and smaller areas of Lapeer and St. Clair counties. Currently, the Clinton River is listed as an "Area of Concern" by the EPA.

Areas of Concern are defined as geographic areas that fail to meet the general or specific objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). This failure has caused or is likely to cause impairment of beneficial use of the area's ability to support aquatic life. In 1987, the United States and Canada renewed their commitment to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Amongst other objectives, the agreement identified 43 areas of Concern, one of which is the Clinton River Watershed. As it stands now, the CRW is experiencing impairment in 8 of 14 total beneficial use designations. This means that the CRW is experiencing:

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Undesirable algae growth
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Beach closings
  • Degradation of aesthetics
  • Degradation of benthos (bottom sediment)
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

After years of study, it has been determined that storm water is the single greatest source of contamination in the Clinton River.

Storm water pollution comes from many different sources including:

  • Fertilizer and pesticides
  • Oil and fluid from cars, trucks motercyles and ATVs
  • Pet waste
  • Illegal disposal chemicals and other substances down storm drains

Storm water touches everyone so it is important that we all work together to prevent contamination of storm water runoff.

How much do you know about watersheds? Take the Watershed Quiz.



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Storm water management is not just a practical concern at Oakland University but also a regulatory one as OU is subject to federal Phase II Storm Water Regulations. Storm water runoff from urban areas contributes more pollutants to our surface waters than any other source. Recognizing this fact, the EPA requires public facilities owning separate storm sewer systems in urban areas to manage their storm water discharges.

Under these rules, the EPA requires public facilities like OU to develop, implement and enforce storm water management programs designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants to the Maximum Extent Practical (MEP). To achieve these goals, the EPA is requiring each public entity to:

  • Insure that storm water only is being discharged to storm sewers (no sewage, chemicals, sediment, etc.). This is covered in an Illicit Discharge Elimination Plan (IDEP).
  • Educate residents and visitors about storm water concerns by utilizing a Public Education Plan (PEP).
  • Involve the residents and visitors in the development and implementation of the management program. Public Participation Program (PPP).
  • Control storm water runoff from construction sites with an emphasis on erosion and sediment control. Construction Runoff Control Plan (CRCP).
  • Utilize Best Management Practices to mitigate storm water flows from developed and developing areas. Post Construction Management Plan (PCMP).
  • Practice good housekeeping and pollution prevention. Pollution Prevention and Good Housekeeping Plan (PPGHP).

Why prevent storm water pollution?

  • To maintain and improve the health of our water supply - Once a chemical makes its way into the watershed, it may eventually become part of our water supply.
     
  • To practice and encourage environmental protection - Any water entering the storm drains on OU's campus goes untreated directly to the surface waters of Galloway Creek, Clinton River and then to Lake St. Clair. The ecosystem of these waters can easily be damaged from storm water runoff.
     
  • To Maintain Compliance - Oakland University is regulated under Phase II (40 CFR Parts 9,122,123 and 124) of the EPA's Storm Water Regulations.


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On Campus:

  • Parking - Make sure you car or truck is not leaking any fluid. Not only can this be damaging to your automobile, but it is a potential storm water pollutant.
     
  • Recycling - There are many opportunities on campus to recycle. The Oakland Center has bins for paper and bottles as well as a container at the information desk for old batteries. To find out more about local recycling efforts, visit SOCRRA, which covers the communities of Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Troy. If you do not live in one of these communities, you may want to visit the MDEQ recycling website or Our Earth to find more information on local and regional recycling efforts.
     
  • Campus Cleanup - Participate in organized efforts to clean up litter and debris that might otherwise enter or clog storm drains. Plastic, metal, glass and other litter can pose a physical hazard to wildlife. Always put litter in its place!

At Home:

  • Car care - If you wash your car at home, check out EPA car wash tips and make sure to do it on your lawn. If you wash your car in the driveway, the soap will run down the storm drain. If you perform maintenance on you car at home, make sure to catch all the fluid (oil, transmission and brake fluid) and recycle at a participating facility and check out EPA's car maintenance tips.
     
  • Boat Care - Keeping your engine well tuned will help prevent oil and gas leaks. Check out clean boating information for more tips.
     
  • Lawn Care - Sweeping grass clippings and fertilizer back onto your lawn will prevent them from entering storm drains and provide your lawn with nutrients. Installing a rain barrel will help divert water from storm drains, store high-quality water for your garden and reduce your water bill. Planting a rain garden with native plants can absorb storm water runoff.
     
  • Pet Care - Many of us enjoy the companionship that only a pet can offer. Taking the time to exercise proper pet care can minimize the impact our friends have on the environment. Make sure you always pick up your pet's waste and dispose of it properly.
     
  • Household Cleaning and Maintenance - Pesticide, fertilizer, paint, cleaning products and more are considered household hazardous waste. When using these products, only buy what you need and use it up so you don't have to dispose of it or store it for longer than necessary. Never pour these products down the drain! To search for recycling facilities and community hazardous waste drop-off locations, check out NO HAZ and Earth 911.


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The task of protecting our storm water on campus is a collaborative effort that encompasses the entire campus community. The following are a few examples of the actions that have been taken.

Plantings:

  • Trees and native vegetation control erosion help to absorb storm water runoff. From 2004 through 2007, 279 trees were planted on campus.
  • Native prairie also helps to control erosion while providing habitat for indigenous species of insects and animals. In 2002, OU applied compost soil amendments and planted native prairie on 2 acres of campus.

Soil Eosion/Runoff Control:

  • Aerating and slit-seeding equipment - When the ground becomes compacted it is difficult for plants to spread their roots, which helps prevent soil erosion. In addition, compaction makes it difficult for rain water to soak into the soil, thereby increasing the amount of runoff that makes it into the storm sewer system. In order to combat erosion and runoff, OU's Grounds Maintenance Plan now includes regular use of aerating and slit-seeding equipment. Aerating machines punch holes into lawn areas to allow more air, water and fertilizer to reach the roots. This allows rainwater to infiltrate the soil and prevent it from reaching the storm sewer. Slit-seeding is used to plant new grass where the soil is bare and susceptible to erosion.

Mowing Practices:

  • Increasing mower height improves root depth thereby preventing erosion and improving infiltration. Mowing height was raised from 2 inches to 3 inches.
  • Increasing mowing frequency prevents runoff of grass clippings, and several areas of the campus are no longer mowed at all.

Fertilizer Applications:

  • Use of low phosphorus fertilizers - Phosphorous is a nutrient in many fertilizers and is essential to plant growth. However, too much phosphorus in surface waters can cause algae blooms, lowered oxygen levels, decreased diversity and habitat destruction.
  • Limited application of fertilizers - Applications are limited based on the results of soil testing. Fertilizer applications are limited around Bear Lake and other areas near open water.

Waterfowl Control:

  • Control excess nutrients and bacteria from animal waste - Resident geese and other waterfowl can contribute excess nutrients and bacteria to our waterways. Border collies are utilized as a non-lethal means to control these populations on campus.


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