Spring into Storm Water BMPs

Storm water staff are jumping for joy because all 2014 annual reports have gone out to our partner communities and spring is the time for 2015 inspections of post-construction storm water Best Management Practices (PCBMPs) (water quality ponds, rain gardens, porous pavement etc.) to begin!

Most Cuyahoga County communities are considered Phase II (or small) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) communities. This means the area is urbanized and uses a conveyance system like storm drains, pipes, and ditches to discharge to waters of the US (our local streams, rivers, wetlands, and lakes). (Note that most of Cleveland is not a MS4 community because they use a combined sewer system (CSO) to discharge storm water from most of the city.)

MS4 communities are required to develop, implement, and enforce a program to reduce pollutants in post-construction runoff. As part of that program, regulatory mechanisms are required that ensure the long-term operation and maintenance (LTOM) of PCBMPs to protect water quality.

This is where Cuyahoga SWCDs natural resources program comes in. We provide LTOM support for communities. That support includes annual inspections of PCBMPs as well as technical assistance to property owners. We inspect PCBMPs on an annual basis for many Cuyahoga County communities and inform land owners and community staff if a PCBMP needs repair or maintenance.

Water is powerful and PCBMPs require frequent maintenance to function properly. If you are a property owner or an HOA president with a PCBMP on site you will want to make sure you have a rainy day fund for maintenance and repairs. Taking care of small maintenance issues now will help prevent major repairs in the future.

Many PCBMPs have similar issues. If you live in a community or own a property with a PCBMP on site, here are some typical issues to pay attention to and inform your maintenance staff about:

Trash and Debris – PCBMPs have a relatively small outlet designed to slow down flow and allow infiltration. Because of this, floating trash and debris can easily clog the BMP orifice (outlet hole). A clogged orifice can result in loss of storage and flooding of nearby areas.

Erosion – Runoff from parking lots and right-of-ways are often directed to a PCBMP directly or via curb cuts. These areas are prone to erosion and need regular maintenance to prevent sedimentation of the BMP. Too much sediment in a BMP will require removal to restore the infiltration properties of the practice.

Invasive Species – In Cuyahoga County, cattails and common reeds frequently crowd out other, more desirable plants in PCBMPs. Cattails and common reeds form protective thickets for mosquitoes and unaesthetic monocultures that can impair BMP function.

Safety – Many PCBMPs are an attractive nuisance. The addition of signage and fencing explaining the purpose of the BMP and the danger to residents may help to prevent improper use or vandalism. (It probably won’t surprise you that PCBMPs are not designed for the storage of trampolines. Trust us you don’t want your children jumping on trampolines in storm water detention basins. Just think about everything on the ground that water is picking up before it gets to your basin!) In general unless you are inspecting or maintaining a PCBMP you don't want to spend time in them. (They are certainly not the ideal location for a backyard fire pit! Who wants to roast marshmallows while sitting in mud that transports storm water?)

For more information about PCBMPs, their function, design, and needed maintenance, check out Ohio DNR’s Rainwater and Land Development Manual. If you have questions about a PCBMP in your community feel free to contact our storm water staff.

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