VINTON–Stormwater is the hot topic of discussion in municipalities across the country. Vinton Director of Planning and Zoning Anita McMillan has briefed town council on numerous occasions in recent months on issues and costs related to stormwater and the town’s obligations to the Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP).
The first VSMP requirement is to inform and educate the public on storm water issues. Roanoke County has been mailing residents, including those in Vinton, pamphlets this summer entitled “A Stormwater Guide for Homeowners.”
Stormwater is the excess runoff water that comes primarily from rain or snow running off impervious surfaces like streets, driveways, parking lots, and roofs. Impervious surfaces do not allow water to soak in or pass through.
The problem with impervious surfaces and stormwater is that the run-off water picks up pollutants like trash, fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, leaves, dirt, and so on, and washes it into storm drains and ditches which lead to creeks, rivers, and other streams.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) says that in Vinton the resulting runoff has led to polluting sediment, bacteria, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the local waterways including our creeks and the Roanoke River.
There is often some confusion between the stormwater systems and the sanitary sewer systems which are not the same and not connected.
Household wastewater that goes down the sink or other inside drains is collected in the underground sanitary sewer system and travels to our wastewater treatment plant to be treated.
Stormwater runoff merely goes into the underground storm drainage system and doesn’t get treated. It flows directly into nearby waterways, into fish and wildlife habitats, into downstream recreational areas, and into drinking water supplies. Stormwater systems are designed to handle precipitation flowing into the waterways—not chemicals and trash.
Localities are now required to monitor and control stormwater runoff in what will be a costly process. Some nearby localities have begun charging homeowners and businesses stormwater fees to pay for the process based on how much of their property is impervious and how much is pervious.
Roanoke County and Vinton are hoping to take a different approach to funding stormwater management. There is still uncertainty about just what that will be.
Roanoke County has identified three categories of contaminants—natural, chemical, and litter. Natural pollutants include leaves, sediment, pet waste, and clippings, which can be controlled to some extent by residents.
Chemical contaminants include detergents, motor oil, antifreeze, grease, salts, gasoline, pesticides, and fertilizers—controllable to an even greater extent by citizens.
Litter includes cigarette butts, plastic bags, drink containers, food wrappers, and other debris almost totally controllable by people.
Some pollutants are harmful because they use up oxygen in the water, smothering fish eggs, clouding water denying plants the light they need for energy, and releasing toxic substances into the water that negatively impact all living things.
Roanoke County and Vinton are urging residents to take some simple steps to reduce their personal impact on stormwater systems. Some of their recommendations involve vehicles, including:
- Maintain your vehicles so there are no leaks which allow pollutants to seep into the ground.
- If you change vehicle fluids yourself, return the used fluids to the auto parts store for proper disposal.
- Wash your vehicle on the grass or gravel where the liquids will seep into the ground instead of into the stormwater system, and choose non-phosphate detergents to wash the vehicle.
- Better yet, wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash where the water is recycled.
- The Roanoke Valley Resource Authority now has a permanent household hazardous waste (HHW) facility at the Tinker Creek Transfer Station on Hollins Road. This service is provided to residents of Roanoke County, the City of Roanoke, and the Town of Vinton only. During operating hours they accept lead acid automobile batteries, used antifreeze (maximum quantity of 5 gallons per visit), and used motor oil (maximum of 5 gallons per visit).
The regular hours of operation for the RVRA transfer station are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Other automotive products are accepted at free monthly collection HHW events on the third Saturday of each month, beginning at noon for the residents of Roanoke County, Roanoke City, and Vinton.
Preregistration is required to bring items to these events so that there will be adequate staff on hand to assist with the unloading of materials. Automotive materials accepted during the monthly collection events include air-conditioning refrigerants, carburetor and fuel injector cleaners, fuel additives, gasoline and diesel fuels, starting fluids, and transmission and brake fluids.
Residents must register for a 30-minute slot no later than 24 hours prior to the event online at www.rvra.net or by calling 540-857-5071. Because of upcoming construction at the Tinker Creek Transfer Station, residents should check online for upcoming HHW events. Events also may be cancelled because of inclement weather.