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Stormwater knowledge key to clean water, Rotarians learn

Sep 12, 2018

By Ahmaree Williams - of the Commercial Staff

{A typical stormwater drain is shown in this photo along a street curb. Special to The Commercial}

Urban stormwater cooperative extension agents with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture John Pennington and Christine Cooley told members of the Downtown Pine Bluff Rotary Club on Tuesday about the importance of keeping the local water supply clean.

With Pine Bluff and the surrounding areas relying on an underground water purification system, it is imperative that residents actively work to keep litter off the streets that can be washed into the storm drains, the pair noted.

This can be done through community service projects, neighborhood clean-ups or by participating in programs under their Southeast Arkansas Stormwater Education Program, they said.

Pennington also recommended recycling as another way to combat the dumping or unnecessary trash entering the water system.

Pine Bluff, White Hall, Jefferson County and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff joined together in 2006 to provide public education and participation programs as part of fulfilling U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stormwater management requirements.

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Through this partnership, the Jefferson County Extension Office has managed to perform cleanups of the Bayou Bartholomew, rain barrel and upcycle workshops, school and library programs featuring a hands-on watershed model, storm drain markings and murals, along with master gardener stormwater education classes, according to Pennington.

Pennington mentioned that a big misconception when it comes to pollutants is that many people are unaware that they can be “strange things.”

Something as common as fertilizer, if used improperly or in excess, can run off into storm drains and into the local water supply and Lake Saracen, which negatively affects fish and oxygen levels in the water. This is something the extension service works to address by educating residents on proper fertilizer practices.

As of late, flooding in Pine Bluff has been on the extension service’s radar, and they are working to get insight into this issue. A major flash flooding event took place on Saturday, inundating the Civic Center with several feet of water.

One factor that contributes to excessive flooding in urban areas like Pine Bluff is that there is too much pavement, which reduces ground infiltration for water to 15 percent and blocks the water supply. Normal ground infiltration for water is 75 percent.

4-H Wildlife Education is a program through the extension service that allows youths to experience time in the wilderness and see firsthand how humans can negatively impact it as they help to beautify the area on their journey.

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In closing, Pennington said that some of the main ways to protect the water supply in the area at home are to test soil before fertilizing, report problems with any structures that are meant to keep pollutants out of water and spread the word about keeping the water supply clean through responsible actions.

According to Pennington, it is cheaper to simply pick up trash when you see it than it is to spend $5,000 to $20,000 to maintain and clean a stream bank.

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