VINTON–Vinton and Roanoke County need the help of citizens to reduce pollution in our waterways and to comply with mandated Virginia Stormwater Management Programs (VSMP).
One of their first goals through VSMP is to educate and inform the public on storm water issues. Area residents should have received in the mail a pamphlet called “A Stormwater Guide for Homeowners” which answers many questions about the topic.
Stormwater run-off is a growing concern and expense for local governments. Roanoke County identifies three main types of contaminants which are polluting our waterways—natural, chemical, and litter.
Natural pollutants include sediment, leaves, grass clippings, and tree debris draining into the stormwater system.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sediment, originating as topsoil, sand, and clay, is the most common pollutant in stormwater run-off by volume and weight.
“Sediments readily wash off paved surfaces and exposed earth during storms. Sediment may seem harmless enough, but it poses serious problems in the water. Excess sediment turns stream and lake water cloudy, making it less suitable for recreation, fish life, and plant growth. Sediment is of particular concern in fish bearing streams where it can smother trout eggs, destroy habitat for insects (a food source for fish), and cover prime spawning areas.”
The EPA goes on to say that ,”Uncontrolled sediment can also clog storm drains, leading to increased private and public maintenance costs and flooding problems. Sediment is of concern because many other pollutants including oils, metals, bacteria, and nutrients tend to attach to soil particles. When sediments enter water they usually carry other pollutants with them.”
Construction sites and exposed earth are usually the greatest contributors of soil particles in surface waters, along with erosion from farmland, sand and salts applied to icy roads, and dirt from equipment and vehicles, parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks.
There are steps citizens can take to reduce the impact of natural contaminants and make sure there is “only rain in the drain”:
- Don’t wash leaves, dirt, and debris from driveways into streets. Sweep it up.
- Rake up leaves and grass and use them as garden mulch or create a compost pile.
- Seed or replant bare or eroded areas to reduce or absorb run-off. One of the best things residents can do to improve stormwater quality is to plant trees. Tree leaves help slow rain as it falls to the ground which increases water absorption. Leaf litter on the ground slows runoff. Tree roots also hold soil, preventing sedimentation from washing away with storm.
- Aerate your lawn to help stormwater soak in.
- Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces and onto your lawn or rain gardens.
- Do not dispose of yard waste, motor oil, soap suds, dirt, or pet waste down the storm drain.
- Bag yard waste for collection or start a compost pile and turn vegetative waste into a boon for your garden.
- Choose pervious surfaces like grass rather than impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete when making landscaping improvements.
Currently businesses are bearing the brunt of responsibility and cost for preventing run-off into storm drains and roadways. Strict requirements are in place mandated by the Department of Environmental Quality.
Chris McCarty owner of Grand Storage and Henry Brabham who owns the Lancerlot and the OTB properties (formerly Colonial Downs) recently made dramatic improvements to the stormwater retention pond which runs along Niagara Road, reducing water and natural debris in the roadway. The actual Stormwater Management (SWM) drainage/detention area is part of Brabham’s properties.
According to Anita McMillan, Director of Planning and Zoning for the Town of Vinton, “This SWM facility was designed and approved for stormwater runoff for the mini-warehouses, OTB, the Lancerlot Sports Complex and all associated improvements (paved parking areas, driveways, etc.). This SWM facility is designed to treat about 34.37 acres of land area.”
McCarty and Brabham incurred expenses of approximately $19,000 through the excavation of a trench, installation of large rock rip rap, and planting of vegetation. Trees and debris were removed; the drainage ditch was cleaned out and enlarged. The banks were stabilized using a backhoe.
Matt Combs completed the work on the storm retention pond, both quickly and economically according to McCarty.
The design allows for water to flow down over the rip rap contained in the drainage ditch to the pipe at the bottom of the incline, being filtered along the way. McCarty said a build-up of silt at the bottom of the trench was the major issue contributing to run-off.
In past efforts, McCarty had built a retaining wall on his property to slow the run-off. He and Brabham hope to enlist other nearby property owners in developing and funding a maintenance plan for the retention area.
“Everybody needs to chip in and do their part,” said McCarty.
Mayor Brad Grose and members of Vinton Town Council commended McCarty and Brabham at the recent council meeting on their contribution to the community through their efforts on the project.
McMillan said that the Town of Vinton will repair the drainage issues adjacent to Niagara Road as funds become available.
According to McMillan, under the MS4s (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) and VSMP requirements, business property owners are responsible for inspecting and maintaining the SWM facility. They are required to submit to the locality on a five year basis that the SWM has been inspected to ensure that the SWM is in proper working condition. The locality is required to inspect private SWM facilities on a five-year cycle.
Vinton has a contract with the Roanoke County for their inspector to perform inspections of the public and private SWM facilities within the town limits. After the inspection, the property owners are notified of the inspection with the documentation attached and given about 30 days to correct any deficiencies.
The local governments work with the SWM facility owners on the 30-day timeline. The ultimate goal is to correct any problems of the SWM facility.
“If the SWM facility owner fails to comply, the locality will do the work and the cost to do the work will be paid by the property owner,” said McMillan. “If not paid, a lien will be placed on the property or the locality can impose a civil penalty not to exceed $32,500 for each violation and each day of violation shall constitute a separate offense.”