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Taking stormwater serioulsy

UMass Chan Medical School is now entering the fifth and final year of its new stormwater management plan development, to comply with federal regulations issued in July of 2018.

“We have always tried to implement best practices for stormwater, but this process has prompted us to formalize many of our practices into a comprehensive and measurable plan,” said JoAnn Ranslow, safety officer in the Department of Environmental Health & Safety, who is coordinating the stormwater management program.

A major element of the planning process was using geographic information system (GIS) and video technology to map every drainpipe, valve, catch basin and associated drainage structure to document where all the stormwater flows. The plan covers the UMass Chan facilities in Worcester, Shrewsbury and Boston (MassBiologics).

“Mapping the system was a huge effort, but it’s done. Now, in the coming year we’ll be conducting monitoring and sampling of flow at the interconnects and outfalls,” Ranslow said.

Stormwater management is important to reduce runoff of rainwater or melted snow into streets, lawns and other structures that ultimately end up in waterbodies. Without proper stormwater management, this runoff can carry pollutants directly to waterways. Common pollutants found in stormwater include trash, fertilizer and pesticides, bacteria from pet waste, chemicals, sewage overflow, and construction debris.

The school’s Stormwater Management Program has six principal control measures, including public education and involvement, detection and elimination of non-stormwater discharges, construction and post-construction stormwater controls, and pollution prevention through good housekeeping.

In addition to the system mapping, Ranslow said over the past four years progress on stormwater management planning for UMass Chan has included:

  • Inspecting and cleaning storm drains.
  • Adopting new requirements for construction projects to decrease pollutants in stormwater runoff
  • Developing an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Program to prevent, find, and eliminate non stormwater discharges to the drainage system.
  • Developing an operations and maintenance plan for landscaping, vehicle maintenance, and winter road operations to protect water resources.
  • Reviewing phosphorus levels to identify controls that reduce phosphorus loading and minimize water quality impairments, such as toxic algal blooms.

“So far, we haven’t found any serious issues, and that’s good news,” Ranslow said. “Overall, this program has been going really well. We’ve had a lot of support from many people in the facilities management group.”