When rain hits the ground, water that does not infiltrate into the ground flows into storm drains and eventually ends up in the Merrimack River.
As properties in urban settings, like the University, are developed, more of the natural ground surface is changed to hard or paved surfaces, such as roads, parking lots and buildings. This reduces the amount of stormwater infiltrating into the ground and causes more stormwater to flow into the rivers. Unless properly managed, this increased stormwater runoff creates flooding, erosion and water quality problems.
Many people do not realize that the University’s storm drainage system discharges to the Merrimack River. Stormwater flowing through storm drains is not treated for pollutants before it reaches the Merrimack River. Additionally, portions of the University’s older storm drainage system are still tied to the sanitary sewer system (serving as a combined sewer system). These combined systems can cause problems to surface waters when combined sewer overflows (CSOs) occur.
The Merrimack River is included on the Massachusetts 303(d) list of impaired water bodies. The river segment from the state line at Hudson, N.H., to the Pawtucket Dam in Lowell, Mass., is listed for metals and pathogens; and the river segment from the Pawtucket Dam in Lowell to Duck Island in Lowell is listed for nutrients, metals, pathogens and flow alterations.
As stormwater flows through the University’s storm drainage pipes, the water can pick up various pollutants, such as:
Through the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) regulates stormwater runoff. USEPA stormwater regulations require UMass Lowell to apply for and acquire a permit to manage stormwater runoff.
University staff prepared a Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) plan to address the stormwater regulations. Once the new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Phase II General Permit is finalized, the University will be required to apply for the permit. UMass Lowell has already implemented various best management practices (BMPs) to reduce the potential for stormwater pollution and to the quality of stormwater runoff from UMass Lowell campuses. For example, UMass Lowell conducts annual parking lot sweeping and catch basin cleaning, has initiated several stormwater improvement projects and is also initiating several public involvement and outreach projects, such as the catch basin stenciling/marking project for University students and faculty volunteers.
Everyone contributes to the problem. And everyone can help to reduce pollutants washed into University storm drains by stormwater runoff. Here are some simple steps that you can take to reduce stormwater pollution:
You can also help UMass Lowell maintain the storm drainage system by volunteering to participate in the University’s Catch Basin Stenciling/Marking Program by calling 978-934-3131 or emailing Hector_Valdes@uml.edu You can also help by calling this number to report drainage problems or potential stormwater pollution issues, such as: