Task force addresses U water runoff pollution, use of harmful chemicals

Branden Peterson

Several University faculty members completed their first steps toward understanding and minimizing water pollution concerns on – and under – campus.

They will submit to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency today a municipal separate storm sewer system permit in order to meet new storm water regulations from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program.

“The meat is on the bones,” said Greg Archer, a public health specialist with the University’s Environmental Health and Safety department.

A 1987 amendment to the Clean Water Act developed a two-phase crackdown program to minimize or eliminate pollutants from entering water runoff.

Finalizing the pollution prevention program was only the first step in protecting storm water runoff on campus.

Over the next five years, the prevention plan shifts into an improvement plan that could change a few aspects of the University environment. The improvement plan will probably change how University workers keep grass green during the summer and de-ice sidewalks in winter.

“Things that we need to get done to meet what the (Enivronmental Protection Agency) has laid out … we’re putting those into place,” said Les Potts, University grounds superintendent and member of the storm water task force.

The amendment’s first phase deals with pollutants discharging from more than 10 categories of industrial complexes, large metropolitan communities and large construction sites.

And now, nearly a decade later, the second phase is beginning. That step widens the first phase’s scope, focusing on more construction sites, more industrial complexes and smaller communities. The size of the University campus means it must specifically abide by the second-phase requirements.

In response to the federal requirements, a University storm water task force of six faculty and staff brainstormed, studied data and discussed strategies for protecting the environment against further pollution.

After meeting biweekly for the past year and a half, the storm water task force believes they developed good methods to protect water in the future.

“I’m very satisfied with the plan,” said Craig Moody, a task force member and public health specialist for the University’s Environmental Health and Safety department.

The municipal permit required applicants to submit proposals in six areas to further minimize contaminates from entering storm water.

From extending public outreach and education to controlling illicit discharges and maintaining clean construction sites, the University task force followed permit guidelines and laid groundwork to save the environment from further degradation.

“In terms of maintenance, we’ll need a more systematic way in some cases. In day to day, I don’t think that individual staff or faculty have much to change except their awareness of our plan,” Moody said.

Archer worked closely with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, making sure the University makes environmental protection a high priority.

Archer said the task force will continue meeting to make sure the University meets the storm water pollution prevention plan.

Branden Peterson covers the St. Paul

campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]