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Industrial Property Stormwater Management

Industrial Property Stormwater Management
Cynthia Cline
Cynthia Cline
April 19, 2024

Effective stormwater management is a necessary and critical task that helps industrial properties manage and reduce risks associated with pollution, drainage, and regulatory issues, among others. Unlike residential or commercial developments, industrial properties have additional challenges and risks due to the nature of their business operations.

This is especially true for firms that generate high volumes of pollutants and frequently handle hazardous chemicals, which increases their risks. Storm system management for industrial property sites must include robust strategies tailored to each site’s unique needs and regulatory compliance requirements. The following five areas give an overview and ways to address some unique challenges industrial properties face.

Making Sure that Drainage Measures Up

Drainage with water flowing

Industrial properties often have large real estate footprints and complex layouts, creating unique challenges when considering stormwater management. These characteristics make it crucial for industrial properties to have more tailored solutions to accommodate their varied structures and surfaces.

An industrial property such as a manufacturing plant in a low-lying area, with large amounts of impermeable surfaces and other factors, could encounter severe flooding during heavy rainfall without a drainage system equipped to handle the large volumes of runoff generated. Without tailored planning and design, poorly managed stormwater runoff can cause significant damage to the property, disrupt its operations, and create safety hazards for its employees.

Creating a stormwater management system that meets or exceeds the property’s requirements requires investment in a comprehensive drainage system. The solution may involve installing retention ponds, detention basins, permeable pavement, and other features that allow rainwater to soak where it falls. Additionally, the property should have proper grading and channeling to create effective stormwater pathways that increase drainage efficiency and minimize flooding risk.

Regular inspection and maintenance of the drainage infrastructure is an essential part of a plan to ensure the system can accommodate current needs and provide resilience in the face of changing environmental conditions. Addressing these issues proactively can ensure industrial properties can continue operating even during extreme weather.

Specialized Maintenance is Key

Industrial sites often have an extensive, specialized stormwater infrastructure that needs a maintenance protocol to manage its unique challenges. Storm system management for industrial property types consists of maintenance activities similar to residential areas, but industrial systems can contain significantly more components. Routine maintenance is vital to keep the complex network of drains, retention structures, and culverts clear of debris so they can handle large volumes of runoff.

Ignoring early warning signs of a poorly performing system or failing to resolve issues promptly can create a significant stormwater drainage problem, which increases risks and costs over time. Aside from localized flooding, clogged or slow-running storm system components can contribute to structural damage and environmental contamination.

Leaves accumulated in gutter

For example, accumulated leaves and other roof debris can clog rain gutters and obstruct runoff. The resulting pools of water can accumulate on rooftops, seeping underneath roofing materials and into interior ceilings and walls. The resulting structural damage can become costly very quickly. Without adequate maintenance, other issues, such as unchecked erosion along drainage channels, can increase the amount of sedimentation in downstream water bodies. The sediment can degrade downstream water quality and aquatic habitats.

To mitigate this challenge, industrial properties can establish a proactive maintenance program that involves regular inspections, periodic cleaning schedules, and prompt repairs for any issues identified in the system. Remote monitoring and other technologies can aid in detecting issues before they become larger problems.

Managing a Range of Pollutants

A wide variety of businesses occupy industrial properties, and some may, depending on their operations, introduce pollutants into runoff different from residential areas or commercial sites such as shopping centers or non-industrial office complexes. While residential areas have mainly surface-area debris such as leaves, garbage, and motor oil, industrial properties may introduce chemicals, heavy metals, and other byproducts of their manufacturing or other operations.

Industrial properties must ensure their stormwater management system includes adequate pollution control and prevention measures geared toward the risks particular to their business. Without these measures, pollutants can contaminate groundwater, enter local water bodies, and affect area ecosystems and, potentially, human health. For example, runoff from a plant that processes chemicals can contain toxic substances that, if allowed to enter water bodies, can cause harm or kill fish.  Algae blooms can also make the water unsafe for human recreational activities.

To address this issue and the risks, industrial properties must consider the best management practices to manage the potential pollutant sources involved in their specific operations. Strategies include implementing spill response plans, installing containment systems, and conducting regular inspections to identify and handle pollution risks. Additionally, certain companies may invest in technologies to treat wastewater and provide in-depth monitoring. This approach can ensure that runoff and discharged wastewater meet regulatory standards and do not pose any threat to downstream water quality or public health.

Keeping in Compliance with Regulations

Industrial properties are subject to stormwater regulations like other commercial and residential properties. However, due to the additional, significant risks posed by industrial firms that may handle hazardous materials, such as heavy metals, they face increased regulatory scrutiny. Local, state, and federal entities impose strict requirements to prevent dangerous pollutants from contaminating the environment through stormwater runoff.

Industrial companies are often required to implement strong stormwater management programs and practices and obtain certain permits for wastewater discharge activities. A manufacturing plant, for example, may find itself hit with fines, legal consequences, and damage to its reputation if it violates stormwater regulations or fails to gain necessary permits. To address inadequate stormwater and pollution control measures and to mitigate the risk of falling out of compliance, industrial firms must stay on top of the ever-evolving regulatory landscape and changes. They must also conduct regular stormwater management practices audits and invest in training their employees on best practices and regulatory requirements.

Integrating Sufficient Erosion Control

Erosion Control

Unlike residential or commercial developments that, when completed, have stabilized landscapes, industrial property sites often undergo extensive land grading and other earthworks to accommodate their infrastructure and industrial activities. Adequate erosion control measures must be used to prevent excessive sediment runoff during storms. Storm system management for industrial property sites must include erosion control as an integral component of site design, development, and management strategies.

For example, improper land grading during construction can leave the property with unstable soil conditions and steep slopes vulnerable to erosion. In some areas with heavy rainfall or on properties with a high runoff volume, inadequate erosion control measures such as erosion control blankets, silt fences, or sediment basins can worsen the problem and lead to increased risk for surrounding water quality and ecosystems.

Instead, it is crucial to implement erosion control measures during the construction phase when possible, such as stabilizing slopes with vegetation, installing sediment barriers, and establishing buffer zones along nearby waterways. Industrial sites can add erosion control to their regular monitoring and maintenance program to ensure the control measures remain effective and the property stays compliant. These actions can minimize the environmental impacts of their operations and protect the surrounding ecosystems for long-term sustainability.

Sustainability Matters in Stormwater Management

As industrial operations evolve, companies must prioritize strategies that optimize stormwater management as part of their integral and ongoing environmental stewardship. By investing in sustainable stormwater management practices, these properties can contribute to a healthier environment and stronger communities. These firms can mitigate pollution risks and promote sustainable business operations by addressing challenges such as inadequate drainage or erosion control.

For additional guidance and support on creating and managing a customized maintenance program addressing regulatory issues and other stormwater system needs, contact the professionals at CatchAll Environmental. We have the experienced staff you need and can help put your stormwater system maintenance on autopilot. Contact us today.