News Feature | May 16, 2017

North Carolina's Wastewater Managers Deal With Stormwater Headaches

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

storm7 reg new

A small region of North Carolina suffered over fifty sewage spills last month, but that was just one aspect of the fallout from recent flooding events that demonstrated the complexity of stormwater management.

In April, the North Carolina Division of Water Resources (DWR) “urged people to be cautious while swimming, boating or fishing ... following the extensive rainstorms that created localized flooding,” the Mooresville Tribune reported.

Persistent rain resulted in over 50 sanitary sewer overflows, according to the report, which cited state officials.

“One of those spills occurred at Lake Norman, when a clogged manhole on a sewage collection line leading to a private sewage treatment station caused the spill of 8,000 gallons of raw sewage into a cove near the Diamond Head development on Williamson Road in Mooresville,” the report said.

North Carolina was inundated with rain in late April. Various counties faced flood warnings. The flooding closed roads and dumped dozens of inches of rain into some homes, CNN reported. And, of course, it created headaches for wastewater pros.

“These are costly events for wastewater utilities to cleanup, and can degrade the quality of public waters,” a DWR official said, per the report.

Some areas of North Carolina are prepared for intense flooding. The U.S. EPA recognized North Carolina's Charlotte and Morrisville with awards for stormwater management last month. The rain catcher award promotes "excellence in the implementation of stormwater green infrastructure practices," according to EPA.

Morrisville snagged the award by modernizing stormwater infrastructure in a park. The park now features a parking lot with subsurface drainage fields, a 3,000-gallon rainwater‐harvesting cistern to capture roof runoff for landscape irrigation, and a series of infiltration beds and vegetated swales to treat runoff from an impervious walking trail.

“Low impact green infrastructure stormwater features included in the park design reduce peak flow rates and the total amount of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus leaving the site,” according to the EPA.

Managing stormwater is a costly infrastructure challenge for municipal officials. “Cities and towns across the country report that complying with federal wastewater and stormwater regulations represents some of their costliest capital infrastructure projects,” according to the American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card for 2017.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Stormwater Management Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Lightning Storm," benjamen bensen © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/