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Clemson partnership is slowing down the unhealthy effects of stormwater pollution

Oct 31, 2016

Jim Melvin and Katie Buckley

EASLEY — In their ongoing effort to encourage the implementation of more green infrastructure into Upstate stormwater programs, Clemson University and its collaborators hosted a recent seminar that focused on the most effective ways for local communities to finance these environmentally beneficial projects.

Anderson and Pickens Counties Stormwater Partners, coordinated by Carolina Clear, hosted the event at Tri-County Technical College’s Easley campus. Nearly 50 attendees, including selected and appointed officials and community engineering staff from across the two counties, came to learn more about dedicated funding strategies for stormwater management.

{Stormwater carries oil, dirt and debris into our rivers, lakes and seas. Image Credit: Clemson University}

“In terms of stormwater projects, like any other project, you have to ask the question, ‘How do you pay for it?’ ” said Stacey Isaac Berahzer, senior project director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina. “We’ve seen that the most successful communities have generated funds by creating stormwater utilities that charge a fee to residential, industrial and commercial water customers. These fees are predictable and reliable sources of income that provide communities with a dedicated funding stream to address water quality and quantity projects.”

Stormwater utilities are separate enterprise funds in a local government that are created to generate revenue for watershed and stormwater improvement projects and activities. Stormwater is the runoff that occurs when rain or melting snow flows across impervious surfaces and picks up pollutants, such as oil, dirt and debris, that eventually find their way into lakes, rivers and seas. Green infrastructure is a term used to define a variety of practices that slow stormwater runoff allowing the water to infiltrate rather than immediately discharge into local waterways. As a result, the pollutants can settle and be removed by plants, soils and microbes. This natural yet engineered suite of best practices outperforms traditional stormwater treatment methods, which in turn improves the quality of drinking and recreational waters.

“We’ve been seeing more and more interest in stormwater revenue funds being used for green infrastructure practices instead of, for instance, more traditional structures, such as detention ponds,” said Berahzer, who holds training events and workshops throughout the Southeast. “A lot of the science shows that the most effective way to treat stormwater is to do it as close as possible to where it’s initially generated. This can create financial challenges for local government entities, which have the main regulatory burden of addressing stormwater issues. Management challenges arise from the fact that many of the most ideal sites for green infrastructure are on private property, where local governments have traditionally not been very involved.”

Carolina Clear, a program of Clemson Cooperative Extension , coordinates Anderson and Pickens Counties Stormwater Partners and has established a strategic outreach plan in collaboration with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to work with communities to solve water quality issues through the use of stormwater practices that increase infiltration and decrease polluted runoff.

“Government-funded projects are setting an example for landowners and developers,” said Katie Buckley, director of Clemson University’s Center for Watershed Excellence. “The creation of green spaces that also manage stormwater runoff and reduce the likelihood of flooding become valuable and aesthetically pleasing amenities. But best of all, they protect our water resources for future generations. Acting now to protect waterways is more cost-effective than problem-solving water issues later and it is well worth the money in both the short and long terms. More than 100 South Carolina communities are regulated for their stormwater discharges, and it is not uncommon for utilities to be developed to finance efforts toward compliance and protect water resources as our communities grow and become more impervious.”

Jon Batson, stormwater manager for Anderson County, said that his department makes decisions every day about the best and most effective ways to regulate private land development related to stormwater pollution and also to search for unnoticed pollution sources and work with the public to eliminate them.

“Our challenges are to reduce the impacts on our bodies of water caused by construction, development and our road systems,” Batson said. “Implementing green infrastructure into our operations and our facilities helps minimize these impacts by benefitting the environment and enhancing water quality. We always want to be evolving.”

{Stacey Isaac Berahzer is senior project director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina. Image Credit: Jim Melvin / Clemson University}

Carolina Clear is a comprehensive approach developed by Clemson University to inform and educate communities about water quality, water quantity and the cumulative effects of stormwater. Carolina Clear addresses the special significance of South Carolina’s water resources and the role they play in the state’s economy, environmental health and overall quality of life. This past April, the program and its collaborators turned an unsightly and inefficient stormwater detention pond at Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson into a state-of-the-art infiltration system. This week, Carolina Clear is working with the City of Clemson to construct a bioswale and rain garden at Nettles Park that are designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water.

“Our goal is to reduce pollution to the rivers and lakes we enjoy in the Upstate,” said Rachel Davis, water and natural resources agent for Carolina Clear. “For a homeowner, installing a rain garden can be an attractive and functional option to prevent erosion caused by runoff and gutter discharges. For a community, these projects can be of a larger scale, such as the bioretention basins seen at Green Pond Landing and Nettles Park. The more of these practices we see in our area, the more we can create a community change toward more high-performing stormwater management that mimics pre-development conditions.”

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Contacts:

Katie Buckley

[email protected]

864-646-2158

Jim Melvin

[email protected]

864-656-2268, 864-784-1707

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Course was excellent and educational.

"Recommend to all land disturbing contractors."


Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Robert J., Home Depot
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