Protecting our rainwater

By Monica WoodMarch 16, 2023

FORT SILL, Oklahoma (March 16, 2023) — Clean water quality is of paramount importance to the nation, and Fort Sill actively contributes to this goal by diligently maintaining three storm water permits.

These permits, issued by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), effectively help Fort Sill to prevent and minimize polluted runoff, thus ensuring the continued cleanliness of their water resources.

According to Scott Sherman, environmentalist in charge of Fort Sill's storm water programs, Directorate of Public Works, the first permit covers certain industrial activities that ODEQ viewed as significant for controlling storm water.

“This includes motor pools, landfills, the airfield and recycling centers. Within this permit, Fort Sill is required to conduct annual inspections, analyze water samples, create an individual storm water plan at each location and submit an annual report to ODEQ,” said Sherman.

The second permit is the multi sector separate storm sewer program. This program was designed to cover all other storm water discharges that weren’t considered industrial areas.

“This permit also covers all housing areas within Fort Sill. As part of this program, a storm water plan must be created annually, which addresses six minimum control measures set forth by ODEQ,” said Sherman.

An annual report is submitted to ODEQ for their review which addresses the control measures. Since privatizing the housing areas, Fort Sill requires Corvias Military Living to submit a storm water plan to address control measures within their control. The objective of this program is to minimize the impacts of water quality from both urban and suburban areas.

“In these specific areas, much of the land surface is covered by buildings and pavement, which do not allow rain/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,” Sherman said. “As storm water flows over these areas, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants, which then flow untreated into the waterbodies that are used for swimming, fishing and sometimes, drinking water.”

The porous and varied terrain of natural landscapes like forests, wetlands and grasslands trap rainwater and allow it to filter slowly into the ground and recycle naturally, he said.

Sherman said the loss of infiltration from urbanization may also cause profound groundwater changes. Although urbanization leads to great increases in flooding during and immediately after wet weather, it may also result in lower stream flows during dry weather. Many native fish and other aquatic life cannot survive when these conditions prevail. Urbanization increases the variety and amount of pollutants carried into streams, rivers, and lakes.

Finally, ODEQ also requires a storm water permit for any construction project larger than one acre. “This permit specifically requires that a plan be written that is tailored to the construction site and activity along with weekly inhouse inspections. Upon completion of the project, an ODEQ representative must inspect the site and ensure that all storm water practices have been carried out and other specific conditions listed in the permit have been followed,” he said.

These three different types of storm water permits are designed to protect against pollution. “After all, this is our base, and we want to take care of every aspect of it,” said Sherman.

For further information about compliance with environmental laws/regulations, please contact the Environmental Quality Division of DPW at 580-442-3266.