Water pollution has numerous sources and requires a diversity of solutions. That is why the campaign to Create a Clean Water Future puts the job into the hands of many. Individuals, businesses, community groups, schools – we all have the power to stop water pollution. Established by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (NEP), the movement works to enlist the support to area organizations in a program to raise awareness about storm water runoff and the pollution it carries.
But turning the tide on water pollution is no small task. As a partner of Create a Clean Water Future, PEP is helping promote a comprehensive management plan that attacks pollution at its many sources. The campaign raises awareness and informs community members, municipalities and businesses of ways they can create a clean water future.
PEP member companies have also joined the initiative and are taking actions to reduce water pollutants. Many members have been active in managing water pollution through past projects, while others are developing new partnerships and programs.
Stormwater pollution falls into four main categories:
- erosion and sediment
- chemical and nutrient
Each type of pollution provides opportunity for collaborative efforts in developing innovative solutions.
Not merely a visual problem, litter poses risks to wildlife and contributes to chemical pollution as degrading plastics and other waste products leach harmful chemicals into the water. Communities, neighborhood organizations and school groups can follow the lead of the City of Mobile Mayor, Sandy Stimpson, who declared a War on Litter. The battle is two-fold: cleaning up trash that already pollutes waterways and taking steps to prevent and manage additional litter.
Mobile Bay NEP recently teamed up with Thompson Engineering, community members, students and businesses in cleaning the Maple Street tributary of the Three Mile Creek watershed. After the clean-up crew removed over 200 bags of trash, the team installed a small stream litter trap, developed by Don Bates, as a pilot project for managing litter in waterways. In the first two months, the “Litter Gitter” captured 73 pounds of trash from the creek. View the installation and design on Mobile Bay National Estuary Program’s Facebook page.
Primarily associated with fecal waste, sources of bacterial pollution include pet waste, sewer overflow, septic systems and livestock. While individuals can pick up after their pets and manage home septic systems, management of bacterial pollution largely falls on the shoulders of farmers and municipalities.
However, community members can support capital projects targeted at improving water and sewer infrastructure such as Mobile Area Water and Sewer System’s ongoing capital projects. In efforts to reduce stormwater contamination, MAWSS is installing new lift stations and effecting sewer updates. MAWWS has also implemented a Biosolids Program. Biosolids are nutrient-rich organic material resulting from the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment plant. When treated and processed, these residuals can be recycled and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and stimulate plant growth. Biosolids processed at MAWSS’ C.C. Williams Waste Water Treatment Plant are provided to local farmers who agree to follow EPA guidelines when distributing biosolids onto their land.
ProjectAnother improvement project partnered Volkert, Inc. with the City of Fairhope in the Fairhope Water Resource Recovery Facility improvement project. Volkert provided design and engineering services to upgrade the 4 million gallon-per-day wastewater treatment facility which discharges effluent into Mobile Bay. Improved nutrient removal and filtration produces effluent that exceeds regulatory requirements, protecting water quality through the bay. Volkert, Inc. received a PEP Environmental Stewardship Award for this project.
Chemical and Nutrient Pollution
Nutrients are washed into waterways from landscapes and farms, parking lots and industrial complexes. Each source must be managed in a different way, meaning business owners are critical partners in managing water pollution.
Engineers at McFadden Engineering have developed and are pioneering a water treatment system, OxyShark®, that gives small businesses the tools they need to manage nutrient waste. The all-in-one unit includes a biological filtration system and ozone aeration that allows businesses like Rich’s Car Wash to not only remove pollutants from wastewater but reuse up to 90% of the water.
Erosion and Sediment
Sediment pollution and erosion in waterways are complex issues requiring equally complex solutions. Because water is not static, managing watersheds involves a multitude of stakeholders across private and public sectors.
In addressing erosion and sediment pollution in the severely degraded D’Olive Creek Watershed, Thompson Engineering and its sub-consultant team, including Hand Arendall, Vittor & Associates, Alabama Coastal Foundation, and Tetra Tech, worked with federal, state and local agencies, property owners, and private interest groups. Their diligence paid off with an award-winning Comprehensive Management Plan for the watershed that addresses management strategies as well as factors impacting implementation.
Thompson Engineering also completed a first-of-its-kind project in Alabama designed to manage storm water, solve erosion problems and restore an ephemeral stream in Joe’s Branch, which flows into D’Olive Bay and eventually into Mobile Bay. Thompson Engineering led the design and construction of a Step Pool Storm Conveyance (SPSC) system, an environmental progressive approach to managing storm water runoff in urban areas. The SPSC system is an aesethically pleasing technique that retains and filters storm water during lower flow events and, via a network of riffles and pools, stabilizes the eroded channel and dissipates energy during higher flow events. Water quality monitoring has demonstrated a significantly lowered sediment load is being transported downstream.
With increased development, stormwater has become a major source of sediment pollution. Managing stormwater on site is critical to reducing the effects of sediment and erosion on water quality. In designing the Mobile County Recycling Center on a brownfield redevelopment site, Driven Engineering, Inc. utilized low impact development techniques to keep stormwater onsite rather than moving it downstream. This allows pollutants to be filtered through the soil rather than move into waterways. The project earned a 2015 Environmental Stewardship Award.
Contaminated fill-material discovered during a geotechnical survey of the 22 acre Brownfield Site, where the Maritime Training Center (MTC) is now located, put development of the project in jeopardy. Instead of the traditional and costly excavation and disposal of all material, Goodwin Mills Cawood developed a three-part green remediation plan, which included: phytoremediation (the utilization of plants to cleanup environmental contaminants) with a Bald Cypress forest and fern plots, the first approach of its kind in Alabama.The 150+ Bald Cypress trees contribute greatly to the site’s aestheic appeal, minimize sediment runoff during storms, reduce heat islands and sequester carbon, benefiting the air quality. Each tree functions as a mini well point, consuming and cleaning surrounding groundwater.
Innovation and Collaboration
As demonstrated through these projects, area organizations and corporations are endlessly innovative. These groups are addressing the challenge of water pollution head-on through design, invention, and collaboration.