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Managing Stormwater at Hospital Facilities

Hospital Stormwater Solutions Guide
Cynthia Cline
Cynthia Cline
June 21, 2024

Effectively managing stormwater is vital for hospital facilities to ensure the safety of patients and staff during rainstorms and other adverse weather conditions. Hospitals face unique challenges, requiring meticulous design in their stormwater systems to protect critical infrastructure, maintain access to the facility, and prevent water contamination and pollution. Delving into the various aspects of hospital stormwater system management highlights essential strategies that ensure the proper safeguards for a safe, resilient facility.

Sanitation and Infection Control

Sanitation team

Hospitals face the challenge of contaminating water supplies through infectious waste, making it essential to use closed drainage systems to minimize contact with stormwater that may have potential contamination. Keeping the stormwater system free of contaminants and dangerous waste requires regular maintenance and cleaning for each part of the system’s infrastructure.

Maintenance staff may need to use chemical or ultraviolet (UV) treatment to ensure the killing of pathogens. Designing the stormwater system to move stormwater away from buildings and eliminate pooling or stagnating water areas to minimize mosquito breeding is also vital.

Clear Emergency Access and Egress

Access to a hospital facility is critical no matter what the weather decides to do, and it can depend on how well the stormwater management system is operating. Stormwater management challenges for hospitals include ensuring that all access roads to and from the facility have adequate drainage and that drains remain clear to prevent flooding and inaccessibility.

Installing permeable pavement allows stormwater to soak through and into the ground. This tactic manages demands on stormwater drains by reducing runoff and the possibility of flooding. Hospital facilities should have access routes with enhanced drainage or elevation designated for emergencies to protect them from excess runoff during storms. Additionally, real-time monitoring of the stormwater system and alerts can notify staff of any pending issues or flood risks.

Protection for Critical Infrastructure

Stormwater system designs should include elevated areas for essential utilities and backup generators. This approach ensures they remain above potential floodwaters and continue to function. One approach is constructing flood walls or barriers to protect critical components of the hospital facility’s infrastructure.

Another essential safeguard involves protecting electrical systems and critical mechanical equipment with waterproofing materials. Implementing redundant systems as a backup can ensure a facility’s operations do not experience disruption, even during flood events.

Hazardous and Pharmaceutical Waste Management

Hazardous Waste

Stormwater runoff can pick up anything that leaks or spills onto the ground and carries it untreated into local water bodies. There’s a saying, "If it hits the ground, it hits the sound.”  Prevent this by using secondary containment systems for storage containers and areas to capture leaks and spills before they do any damage. Implement strict guidelines and protocols for disposing of hazardous materials and pharmaceuticals. Additionally, requires staff training on proper procedures for handling spills and keeping the necessary equipment on site.

Hospitals can further safeguard runoff and the environment by installing secondary filtration systems that capture contaminants that escape other containment procedures and keep them out of the stormwater system.

Regularly monitoring and maintaining the various components of the stormwater collection system is an essential and ongoing task. The system must effectively capture and treat runoff without becoming overwhelmed or blocked, which is crucial in keeping hazardous substances from entering local water bodies.

Safety Measures for Staff and Patients

Managing stormwater is more than a system of pipes and drains. It also involves keeping walkways and parking lots clear and free of pooling or flowing water during and after rainstorms. To achieve this, design walkways and other outdoor areas around the hospital with water-resistant, non-slip surfaces. Orient walkways to ensure draining stormwater does not need to flow over high-traffic areas.

On the hospital’s grounds, adequate lighting and clear signage should be installed to make the building entrance and parking areas quickly and safely accessible during heavy rains. Among hospital staff, conduct regular safety drills and provide training on procedures to respond to flood-related emergencies.

Backup Power for Stormwater Pumps

A hospital power outage can quickly create critical situations, but generators with automatic transfer switches can ensure seamless power transitions. Hospitals face stormwater management challenges by taking all measures to prevent life-sustaining equipment from losing power during storms.

Backup power systems should undergo regular testing and inspection as part of routine maintenance. The fuel supplies that keep generators in operation should also be in a secure and readily accessible area. Installing redundant stormwater pump systems can provide the building with additional reliability in case of system failures.

Resilient Landscaping and Stormwater Retention

Hospital with a lot of greenery

Appropriate landscape architecture and design are vital to protecting hospital buildings and managing stormwater. A campus with native plants or those well-adjusted to local rainfall patterns and climate can accommodate storms with minimal damage. Appropriate use of mulch and ground cover plants reduces erosion, keeps soil and sediment out of storm drains, and promotes rainwater infiltration. Landscape architects should design a hospital's landscape to direct water flow away from buildings and high-traffic areas.

An essential technique for managing stormwater involves constructing areas that detain runoff and decrease the velocity of water leaving the property. Many commercial properties use bioswales, which collect runoff and allow it to sink into the ground. Bioswales are channels formed in the soil that use a specific type of construction with layers of rock, vegetation, and soil to filter out pollutants from stormwater.

Variations of this approach include rain gardens, detention basins, green roofs, and constructed wetlands. Each device temporarily retains stormwater, and the longer it stays in, the better the outcome for the water. On a hospital campus with large areas of impervious surfaces such as parking lots, walkways, roofs, bioswales, and other retention devices, treat stormwater by removing pathogens, pollutants, sediment, and other debris before the water enters local water bodies or underground water stores.

Bioswales and rain gardens may feature rock inlets, grassy filter strips, and low-maintenance plants. Larger areas like constructed wetlands may include a wider variety of vegetation and become new habitats for many birds and insects. Detention basins are another approach to managing runoff, letting it accumulate temporarily and then releasing it slowly to minimize the impacts of large-volume runoff.

Integration with Hospital HVAC Systems

A hospital must take all measures to keep patients and staff safe, regardless of weather conditions. HVAC systems play an essential part in maintaining the interior condition of the hospital, and HVAC units should be located on rooftops or elevated platforms to protect them from potential flooding.

Where possible, an HVAC design that uses moisture-resistant components adds extra safety and protection. Sump pumps and drainage systems should be located in mechanical rooms to remove infiltrating water during storms. Regularly inspecting and maintaining these devices can identify potential vulnerabilities in time to address them before the next rainstorm.

Maintaining Sterile Environments

Stormwater management challenges for hospitals include keeping interior areas sterile to protect patients, and this need should factor into stormwater system management plans. The stormwater system must be designed to convey water away from building sections that contain sterile areas.

Routine, diligent maintenance protocols are essential in preventing rainwater from pooling, flooding, or intruding into the buildings. Improve building protections in critical areas or zones using waterproofing and advanced sealing techniques. As part of the hospital's routine stormwater system maintenance schedule, check moisture barriers and make repairs or replacements to maintain their integrity.

Importance of Documentation, Service Records, and Compliance

Ensuring comprehensive documentation, detailed service records, and compliance with local regulations are critical aspects of effective stormwater management for hospital facilities. Hospitals can demonstrate to the community that they adhere to regulatory standards, showcasing their commitment to safety and environmental responsibility.

Hospitals should maintain thorough records of all stormwater management activities, including service records and maintenance certificates. These documents are essential for regulatory compliance and serve as proof of the hospital's proactive measures in safeguarding its infrastructure and the environment. Stormwater service providers play a crucial role in this process by offering maintenance certificates and detailed service logs, which hospitals can store and display as evidence of their compliance efforts.

By ensuring transparency and accountability through meticulous record-keeping, hospitals can build trust within the community and assure patients, staff, and regulatory bodies that they are committed to maintaining a safe and compliant facility.

Keep Stormwater Where It Belongs

Designing and implementing robust stormwater management systems is a precaution and a necessity for hospital facilities. From safeguarding runoff from medical waste spills to protecting critical infrastructure during storms, each element of the stormwater management system plays a vital role. Through diligent design, routine, rigorous maintenance, and innovative strategies, hospitals can maintain a safe, resilient operational environment for all who rely on them, even under adverse conditions.

Let CatchAll Environmental's expert staff assist with your stormwater management efforts by providing quality storm drain cleaning services, inspections, and other essential services to keep your stormwater system ready for any weather all year round. Contact us today!