What is stormwater and why is it important?
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- Last Updated: February 28, 2017 February 28, 2017
Albany receives an average of about 42 inches of rain per year. During rain events, significant volumes of water runs off of the developed land from our homes, businesses, and roads. It is important to have infrastructure in place to manage this stormwater runoff. Infrastructure for stormwater includes pipes, ditches, and other facilities to manage stormwater safely and efficiently to protect against flooding and minimize impact to the environment. Albany has approximately 128 miles of stormwater pipes, 70 miles of ditches, 2,300 manholes, and 4,200 catch basins along with a small but growing number of stormwater quality facilities.
Without these facilities, streets would be dangerous and potentially impassable during rain events, runoff and flooding could cause widespread property damage, and Albany’s waterways and riparian areas would be at risk. Albany’s stormwater system must be able to address stormwater quantity and quality.
The Albany City Council received a series of stormwater-specific presentations throughout 2015 and 2016. One focused on why it is important to manage both stormwater quantity and quality. Visit Past Presentations and Public Meetings to see the Council memo, presentation, and meeting minutes. Excessive stormwater runoff or improperly managed stormwater can cause property damage in many ways, including the erosive and destructive forces that are created by large volumes of runoff. An extreme example of these destructive forces can be seen below. This video is not from the City of Albany.
Stormwater quality is also important. It is a common misconception that Albany’s stormwater drains and pipes connect to the City’s sewage treatment plant. For most of Albany, stormwater flows to inlets, pipes, and ditches that carry it directly to local waterways without any treatment at all. Consequently, trash, debris, and harmful contaminants are also carried to the waterways.
Here is a list of typical contaminants found in urban stormwater runoff:
|Urban stormwater pollutants||Common sources|
|Sediments and particulates||Atmosphere, erosion, vehicle wear, industrial activities|
|Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous)||Atmosphere, fertilizers, detergents|
|Heavy metals (zinc, lead, iron, mercury, copper, cadmium, chromium, nickel, manganese, cyanide)||Fungicides, insecticides, galvanized building materials, tire wear, motor oil, engine parts, rust, machinery, erosion, industrial activities|
|Hydrocarbons (petroleum products)||Spills, leaks, antifreeze, hydraulic fluids, asphalt surface leachate|
|Organic compounds (phthalate esters, phenolic compounds, and volatile organics)||Pesticides, plastics, cleaners|
|Microorganisms (bacteria and viruses)||Combined sewer overflows, illicit connections, pet waste|
|Salts (sodium, magnesium and chlorides)||Road de-icing salts|
Source: OEC Stormwater Solutions: Turning Oregon Rain Back Into a Resource
In response to regulatory requirements, the City of Albany has begun installing stormwater quality facilities with road projects and requiring stormwater quality improvements with new development. These facilities provide localized natural treatment of stormwater and allow for some filtration prior to discharging to the standard stormwater systems that connect to waterways. Here are some examples of such facilities:
Broadalbin Street, Albany
Main Street Roundabout, Albany
Dirty Albany catch basin: