Chesapeake Bay takes brunt of harmful storm drain runoff
A post employee empties mop water into a storm drain, not knowing or failing to comply with environmental regulations that prohibit “illicit discharges.” The installation has added markers to storm water inlets across post to remind community members that “only rain goes down the drain.” (Photo Credit: USAG Fort Lee Environmental Management Division) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – Sprawled across six states and covering more than 64,000 square miles, the Chesapeake Bay watershed is the largest estuary in America.

Its network of more than 150 streams and rivers includes a Fort Lee neighbor, the Appomattox River, which flows through Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell before dumping its contents into the James River, a direct tributary to the Bay.

Because of the proximity of the Appomattox and Chesapeake Bay itself, residents of the Tri-Cities and Fort Lee need to remain educated on actions they should take to keep the waterways clean and safe for inhabitants above and below the water, as well as the greenery along its shores.

Environmentalists are particularly concerned about issues like over-fertilization of green spaces; animal waste pollution; wetland destruction for agriculture; and deforestation and erosion from new construction. These activities have resulted in declines and diseases among the marine population and sediment buildup that kills needed grasslands, which keep the Bay clean and provide habitat for wildlife.

Fortunately, efforts to protect the Bay are paying off, but the work is still not finished. A good way for Team Lee members to help is maintaining awareness of illicit discharges into the storm-water sewer system. Home car washing, illegal dumping of trash and improper disposal of harsh/toxic chemical substances all contribute to this problem. Failing septic systems and improper disposal of waste are among the more disturbing factors as well.

As good stewards of the environment, Fort Lee maintains a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that enforces illicit discharge detection and elimination programs to prevent contamination of ground and surface water supplies through monitoring, inspection and removal. In other words, the best way to fix this problem is to report it so that corrective action can be taken.

Ways to identify a possible illicit discharge include the following:

·      Water flowing from a storm-water outfall pipe even though it has not rained for more than three days.

·      Smelling strange odors (i.e. sewage or gasoline) or seeing unusual colors in runoff water.

·      Spotting leaking chemical/paint/cleanser containers in dumpster or storage areas.

Tips for reducing illicit storm-water discharges include the following:

·      Dispose of household chemicals/paints at approved collection sites.

·      Follow label directions when using lawn fertilizers and pesticides.

·      Limit car washing to facilities that recycle waste water.

·      Use recycling programs to divert trash from landfills.

For more tips or report suspected illicit discharge, contact the Fort Lee Environmental Division 804-734-3760, 804-734-3772 or 804-734-5061.