Local communities join forces to tackle stormwater pollution
FOREST ACRES – Richland County and two of its municipalities have collaborated with Clemson University’s Carolina Clear program to tackle stormwater issues on a regional basis.
Representatives from Richland, the city of Forest Acres and town of Arcadia Lakes signed a proclamation Oct. 6 to officially adopt a regional stormwater education strategy through the Richland Countywide Stormwater Consortium.
The consortium, a partnership among communities and educators from universities, state agencies and nonprofits, is the fifth regional collaboration involving the Carolina Clear program. It follows similar efforts in Lexington and Pickens counties, the Grand Strand and in the Lowcountry.
The Environmental Protection Agency emphasizes public education as a fundamental component in reducing stormwater runoff pollution. The EPA and the state of South Carolina require that certain municipalities and counties educate and involve the public as part of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System stormwater permit program.
By combining resources to implement this requirement, the consortium can save money and still provide a strong educational message across the region.
Carolina Clear’s goal is to minimize polluted stormwater runoff by educating the general public, youth, builders, developers, homeowners and government officials about how to keep water in the state’s streams, rivers and basins as clean as possible.
Mary Nevins, Carolina Clear regional coordinator and natural resources agent, said that as the Midlands adds people, businesses and industry, more impermeable surfaces are added in the form of rooftops, parking lots, driveways and roads. Whenever we build on our landscape, there can be corresponding affects to water quality, she said.
“It’s a public health issue, an environmental issue and a financial issue,” Nevins said. “Damaged resources could lead to a damaged economy. We can’t afford to take these critical natural resources for granted.”
Clemson University has been involved with water quality issues for more than 50 years through teaching, research and extension, said Cal Sawyer, associate director of the Clemson University Center for Watershed Excellence.
“This experience working with a broad cross-section of groups, from engineers and developers to local governments and the general public, provides Clemson with sound foundations to work with folks in Richland County,” Sawyer said.
Richland County Administrator J. Milton Pope said that Richland County is a beautiful region with an abundance of streams, rivers and basins. Keeping those valuable natural resources pristine should be a priority for all residents.
“Through this consortium we can help preserve these areas so they may be enjoyed for generations to come,” Pope said.
Rick Thomas, mayor of The Town of Arcadia Lakes, said that stormwater runoff into lakes, rivers and streams is an issue where individual actions make a difference. Everyone has a role to play in cleaning up this form of pollution.
“We share a responsibility to protect our waterways,” Thomas said. “By working together in this effort we will send a consistent message to all our residents.”
Mark Williams, city administrator of Forest Acres, noted that today’s stormwater drainage channels were yesterday’s sources of potable water and water-based recreation.
“It will take a considerable effort to undo the contamination that has been allowed over the decades, but the water quality can be improved with reasonable measures,” Williams said. “Improvement begins with education and awareness of what’s been lost and what can be regained. Our citizens can become committed to protecting natural resources and supporting stormwater management programs.”
Carolina Clear is a stormwater education and awareness program of the Clemson University Restoration Institute and the Center for Watershed Excellence. The program’s goal is to minimize polluted stormwater runoff by educating the general public, youth, builders, developers, homeowners and government officials about how they can keep water in the state’s streams, rivers and basins as clean as possible.