Project WET teaches water management

SALEM – City water customers can expect a message next month from Hagly the Hippo regarding storm water management and ways to protect local streams from contamination.

The brochure being inserted into May water and sewer bills is part of the public education and outreach portion of the city’s state-mandated storm water management program. The city has been implementing the program over a five-year permit term which ends in June.

On Wednesday, Jon Vollnogle, a professional engineer with Howells & Baird Inc. of Salem, explained the program to educators attending the Project WET workshop, aimed at teaching them how to teach students about keeping waterways clean through proper storm water management.

Howells & Baird works closely with the city in many areas and has been working on the storm water management program required by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The permit period is ending and the OEPA will review everything associated with the program to ensure the city has met all the requirements.

Vollnogle first gave workshop participants a quick lesson on the water systems in Salem and where all the storm water goes. The city operates three water systems which are separate from each other: drinking water, wastewater and storm water.

He said the rain water falls from roofs, hits the streets and goes into catch basins and gathers stuff along the way, such as oil drippings, salts, grit, leaves and trash. Storm water from the northeast part of the city ends up in a tributary of Little Beaver Creek. Most of the west side storm water ends up in Buttermilk Run along Pennsylvania Avenue and the southeast area storm water goes to Stone Mill Run.

“Eventually all the water that falls on Salem ends up in the Middle Fork of Little Beaver Creek and on to the Ohio River,” he said.

Vollnogle said the U.S. EPA expanded the Clean Water Act from 1972 with storm water discharge regulations, first for larger cities in the 80s, then for smaller cities like Salem in the late 90s. The OEPA issued findings and orders designating Salem as a Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System on Nov. 1, 2006, requiring the preparation of a program and then implementation over five years.

Part of the reasoning behind the orders was that storm water wasn’t as clean as everyone thought, due to fertilizers, leaves and other contaminants which end up in the storm water runoff. Vollnogle stressed the importance of keeping some of those types of matter out of storm sewer systems due to the effect on aquatic life. He also said that anything put in the storm water here could affect communities down the river who use it as a source of drinking water.

The program includes six control measures for the city to monitor and maintain the storm sewer system. Those measures include public education and outreach, public involvement/participation, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site storm water runoff control, post construction storm water management and pollution prevention and good housekeeping for municipal operations.

A large portion of the project has been the mapping of the city’s storm water system. Howells & Baird has created 26 maps showing the locations of catch basins, detention ponds, manholes, pipes and storm drains and their sizes throughout the city. He noted that the bulk of the water from the heart of the city travels through a more than 100-year-old all brick storm sewer known as the Gahanna.

City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst also attended the presentation. Both he and Vollnogle answered some questions. Kenst said the mapping will be helpful for both the street department and utilities department.

The Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) workshop took place over two nights at the Kent State University City Center, coordinated by Mickey Cope Weaver and taught by Cheryl Mattevi, a geologist at Kent State University who serves as a trained facilitator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Hagly the Hippo, the mascot for the public awareness campaign, was designed by Erica Davis while she was a student at Salem High School as part of a contest. The brochure will explain the effects of pollution and how residents can take steps to reduce the chances of pollutants getting into the storm water.