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Solutions for Industrial Stormwater Issues

Solutions for Industrial Stormwater Issues
Cynthia Cline
Cynthia Cline
May 17, 2024

Industrial complexes are one of many contributors to waterway pollution, known to contribute oily waste, heavy metals, and other substances that exacerbate the pollution dilemma. In addition, they often generate more pollution from manufacturing, shipping, and storage than other non-industrial areas. Often, industrial stormwater pollution can be prevented by finding ways to reduce pollutants at the source.

Industrial properties face challenges similar to those of non-industrial properties in managing stormwater, with the added complexity of implementing measures to keep oil, grease, and other pollutants from entering stormwater runoff. Fortunately, many strategies exist to effectively handle stormwater pollution and safeguard valuable water resources for future generations.

Employees and Their Role in Preventing Pollution

Manager training their employees

When resolving stormwater drainage problems for industrial properties, understand that employees play a large part in managing potential pollutants and keeping them out of the stormwater system. Training all employees on stormwater management best practices is essential because it only takes one employee's misunderstanding or mistake to trigger a costly pollution incident.

As part of employee training, emphasize that storm drains transport water directly to rivers and streams without any treatment. For sites with several drains or drains for varying purposes, consider labeling storm drains and catch basins with a message such as "No dumping flows to rivers" or similar. Aside from stormwater runoff, polluted non-storm water must not be disposed of in the stormwater management system.

Spills and Improper Discharges to Storm Drains

Implement regular inspections of storm drain systems to identify and address any issues, such as blockages or damage, that could contribute to clogs or debris buildup. Consider fitting storm drains with catch basin inserts or filters to handle the specific types of pollutants in the industrial buildings nearest to the drainage system. In some cases, employees may need help understanding the risks of waste disposal in storm drains. Storm drains should be labeled aside from educating personnel on proper waste management to prevent this. Hence, it is clear what cannot go in them.

Develop and train employees on a comprehensive spill response plan with clear procedures for containing and cleaning up spills and reporting requirements to regulatory agencies. Provide access to spill response kits and have employees undergo training on their proper use to ensure prompt and effective action in the event of a spill. Regularly review and update the spill response plan based on lessons learned from drills or actual incidents to improve effectiveness and compliance.

Landscape Issues

Poor planning in planted areas around a building complex, such as low spots, coupled with stormwater drainage problems for industrial properties, can lead to plant beds that take a very long time to dry out. This issue can lead to root rot and dying landscape plants. 

To solve this issue, the spots may need to be regraded and prepared with infrastructure that supports faster-draining soil, erosion protection, and improved stormwater drainage. For small areas such as parking lot medians, consider installing a French drain as a solution. For larger areas, creating a bioswale as part of the regrading process can help redirect stormwater to another part of the property, such as a rain garden.

Migrating Topsoil

Topsoil can erode and migrate onto walkways, parking lots, and stormwater drainage systems. Steeply sloped areas can be particularly susceptible to erosion and environmental harm. Bare soil can increase runoff that carries sediment into streets, storm drains, and local waterways. Retaining walls can hold up sloped areas, slow down runoff, and add aesthetic beauty. 

They can also double as planter boxes or benches. Carefully considered vegetation can slow runoff and help disperse the water over a larger area so it can soak in. The vegetation also prevents erosion. Mulch, such as wood chips, is another way to protect soil from the direct impact of rainfall and slow down runoff from bare soil.

Mold or Mildew Smells

Mold on a concrete wall

Stormwater drainage problems for industrial properties can produce noticeable smells such as mold, mildew, or rotting organic matter. This typically indicates stagnant water on a property, such as clogged storm drains with water pooling inside or around them. Pollutant-filled water that cannot soak into the ground or be handled by the stormwater system can create health and pollution hazards. Conduct a thorough stormwater system inspection and have regular storm drain maintenance performed. 

Ensure that storm drains have the right filter installed to handle oil, grease, or other substances that may find their way into stormwater runoff. The appropriate filter and regular cleaning can prevent clogged drains and pooling or standing water, creating a safer and healthier environment and ecosystem. Ensure that main stormwater inlets are inspected and cleaned regularly to prevent accumulated pollutants from washing downstream.

The Importance of Stormwater System Management

Inadequate or ineffective stormwater management can lead to property damage and other issues. It is well worth investing in a professional inspection of the stormwater system to identify weaknesses, necessary repairs, and potential upgrades. Set up routine system maintenance to prevent issues caused by clogged drains, overgrown vegetation, or debris.

Pollutants can be kept out of the system by training employees to establish routines for inspecting industrial processes and equipment that may be exposed to stormwater. For example, industrial properties may store bulk chemicals outside. If stormwater comes into contact with the containers, it should not enter the stormwater system. Sheds with an angled roof, called "doghouse" sheds, are one way to keep stormwater away from barrels and provide spill protection. 

Store Chemicals Safely

Proper chemical storage is crucial to keeping pollutants from entering the stormwater system. Implement and train employees on guidelines for chemical storage, including containment measures and potential risks. Regular inspections should ensure compliance and verify the proper segregation of incompatible chemicals. This step is vital to preventing accidental reactions, and chemicals must be labeled clearly with their contents, hazards, and instructions for proper handling. This strategy can minimize the risk of spills and resulting stormwater pollution.

Conduct regular review training sessions for employees on the proper spill response, including containing the spill, cleanup, and reporting. Designate certain personnel and provide them with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to address incidents swiftly and effectively with spill response kits and other appropriate measures.

Reduce the Burden on the Stormwater System

Green plants at the rooftop

Manage stormwater onsite by adding infrastructure elements such as rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable pavement. These natural solutions increase the property's aesthetics while reducing runoff and providing natural filtration of pollutants. Permeable pavement may require regular maintenance, such as pressure washing or vacuuming, to help the materials retain their permeability. Engage tenants and the community by spearheading volunteer programs to plant and maintain tree trenches, rain gardens, and other green spaces. These strategies promote environmental stewardship and increase awareness.

Take Proactive Measures to Minimize Pollutants

To effectively manage and reduce the impact of industrial pollution on stormwater, it is essential to take proactive measures on industrial properties. Many types of pollution may be prevented from entering storm drains and local waterways through employee education programs, labeling drains, and improving storm drain filters. Keeping the stormwater management system in good repair through regular inspections and storm drain cleaning in Seattle and maintaining the system's integrity and effectiveness at filtering out pollutants that make it through the first line of defense. Investing in the management and maintenance of stormwater systems is essential for environmental protection and long-term sustainability. Contact CatchAll Environmental and use our comprehensive expertise and stormwater system management programs.