WaterWorld
Southwest Oklahoma's unpredictable weather can lead to flooding like this in a post neighborhood in 2006. This serves as a reminder to dispose of or automotive fluids, cleaning agents, and other environmentally hazardous liquids. (Photo Credit: File photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Oklahoma (May 13, 2021) -- It’s been a weird spring weatherwise at Fort Sill and Southwest Oklahoma. May is typically our wet month, with that, there are some things we need to keep in mind regarding storm water.

Fort Sill has two storm water permits that we maintain and there are some parameters that we legally have to comply with. There are good things that we’ve done in the past to try and minimize storm water pollution and infiltration to the sanitary sewer system.

There are two sewer systems on Fort Sill. The sanitary sewer system takes the used potable water away from buildings. The storm sewer system takes rain water away from the streets, buildings, and other areas so they don’t flood.

AWE, our water contractor, has been active in identifying areas that storm water can enter our sanitary sewer lines and have been replacing/rebuilding old storm water infrastructures.

AWE and the Fort Sill Directorate of Public Works staff also identified older storm water sewer inlets that have either collapsed or are in need of repair. They then program money for those projects so those issues can be resolved.

Since Fort Sill has been around a long time, there are a lot of older infrastructure issues that need to be repaired or replaced. It’s not done overnight, but eventually, things will get completed.

In both urbanized and industrial areas throughout Fort Sill, much of the land surface in the cantonment area is covered by buildings and pavement, which do not allow rain and snowmelt to soak into the ground.

Instead, most developed areas rely on storm drains to carry large amounts of runoff from roofs and paved areas to nearby waterways. Storm sewer systems concentrate runoff into smooth, straight conduits. This runoff gathers speed and erosional power as it travels either above or below ground.

When this runoff leaves the storm drains and empties into a stream, its excessive volume and power blast out streambanks, damaging streamside vegetation and wiping out aquatic habitat. Increased storm flows can carry sediment loads from construction sites and other denuded surfaces and eroded streambanks.

There are a few projects going on now to fix some of these damaged areas. Fort Sill requires that every construction project be reviewed by the DPW’s Environmental Quality Division so that we may address storm water issues and requirements.

Any construction projects over one acre in total size, is required to obtain a storm water construction permit through the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), and cannot terminate that permit until it has met certain requirements, and is inspected by a ODEQ regulator who visits the site.

Storm water will often carry higher water temperatures from streets, roof tops, and parking lots, which are harmful to the health and reproduction of aquatic life. As storm water flows over these areas, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants. Anything that enters the storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the water bodies that are used for swimming, fishing and sometimes, drinking water. Polluted runoff is the nation’s greatest threat to clean water quality.

By practicing healthy habits, common pollutants like pesticides, pet waste, grass clippings, and automotive fluids can be kept off the ground and out of storm water.

Below is a list of healthy habits that can help lower the amount of pollutants entering the storm sewer system.

Vehicles and garages

Use the AAFES car wash instead of washing your car in the housing area. The AAFES car wash facilities drain its water directly into the sanitary sewer system and not into the storm water system.

Check your car and other machinery for leaks and spills. Make repairs as soon as possible and clean up spilled fluids with an absorbent material, like kitty litter or sand. Do not rinse the spills into the storm drain. Even rinsing off the side walk or driveway will result in the water eventually finding its way into the storm water system. One drop of oil can pollute 1,000 gallons of water. Vehicle fluids are the number one surface water quality problems nationwide.

Lawn and garden

Sweep up yard debris rather than rinsing it off the sidewalk or driveway. Too many leaves and yard clippings can take oxygen out of water and suffocate the plants and fish that need oxygen to breath.

Don’t overwater the lawn. Water during cool times of the day, and don’t let water run off into the storm drain.

Use mulch for landscaping projects to prevent pollutants from blowing or washing off the yard and into the storm drain system.

Vegetate bare spots to prevent soil erosion.

General

Purchase nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled and recyclable products whenever possible.

Use hazardous substances like paints, solvents, and cleaners in the smallest amounts possible. Clean up spills immediately. If you’re moving, you can drop off these products at Bldg. 2515, Environmental Quality Division, and it won’t cost you a dime.

Remember to pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly. Pet waste is not a fertilizer.

Pick up street litter and loose trash so it doesn’t blow into storm drain inlets. Keep trash bins covered at all times as the Oklahoma winds can easily blow the trash out of bins.

For more information, call the Environmental Quality Division office at 580-442-3266.