Tackling Stormwater Runoff in Loudoun

Stormwater runoff. Photo credit: bibiphoto / Shutterstock

One of the most widespread and rampant sources of pollution in NoVA tributaries and the Chesapeake Bay is urban and suburban stormwater runoff from hard and impervious surfaces like streets, roofs and parking lots. Stormwater pollution carries a range of contaminants from sediment to bacteria to toxic chemicals that negatively impact local rivers, streams and reservoirs that are sources of drinking water.

Stormwater Runoff is the fastest growing source of pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. A half-inch of rain falling on an acre of road or parking lot sends about 12,000 gallons of polluted stormwater into our rivers, lakes, and streams.

Loudoun County has experienced rampant growth and development in watersheds that supply the region’s drinking water. Increased sedimentation and bacteria from stormwater runoff degrades sources of drinking water and adds to the contamination already generated by agricultural runoff and wastewater effluent. Resulting in waterways classified as impaired under the Clean Water Act; and water sources unsuitable for human consumption without increasingly elaborate and expensive treatment regimes. Downstream costs include increased financial costs for treatments, plus costs to human health from chemical treatment of raw water.

Accotink Creek in Fairfax County is impaired from fecal coliform and in which ten pesticides have been detected.

Unlike pollution that can be controlled at a single source, stormwater management requires a comprehensive solution. That means increasing low impact and transit oriented development, reducing impervious surfaces and ensuring developers and property owners capture and control stormwater pollution on site. Effective stormwater pollution cleanup policies will require homeowners and businesses to participate in municipal efforts to keep trash and pollution from washing off streets, parking lots and buildings into storm drains and streams.

New best management practices (BMPs) help remove or keep pollutants out of the water entering our storm drain systems and slows the water so it does less damage as it flows. These new water management practices, like investing in green infrastructure such as rain gardens, can reduce and even eliminate stormwater pollution.