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Stormwater—we can dig it

Most of the rainwater or melting snow that runs off UMass Chan Medical School’s Worcester campus ends up in Lake Quinsigamond. But first, it passes through catch basins in the campus drainage system designed to trap material carried by the water flow and thus protect the lake.

“It’s mostly sediment. Dirt and mud,” said Brian Crowley, a maintenance manager in the UMass Chan facilities department. “You get some litter too.”

As part of the Medical School’s stormwater management plan, all 177 catch basins on campus are inspected on a regular basis and those found to be more than half full are cleaned out. 

This year, 28 catch basins needed cleaning. The work was done in June by Triumvirate Environmental, a company that provides a range of environmental services for the Medical School.

“I think there is a clear connection between litter and the lake, but cleaning catch basins and maintaining a proper drainage system has a lot of other positive impacts for the environment,” said Kortni Wroten, sustainability and energy manager at UMass Chan.

A properly designed and maintained stormwater drainage system helps to prevent flooding, soil erosion, sedimentation of wetlands, and it protects plant cover near the lake and wetlands that get runoff, Wroten said. “This is especially important in urban areas, where the runoff can pick up a lot of debris.”

On a related note, Wroten said that UMass Chan’s certification as a “Bee Campus” was obtained, in part, because the Medical School limits the use of pesticides in its grounds keeping, which could run off with stormwater and harm wildlife in the adjoining environment.

“Understanding and mitigating the impact of stormwater runoff is an important part of our sustainability program for the campus,” she said.

Learn more about our stormwater management plan.