Global climate change has resulted in weather extremes, including flooding, more severe storms, and a wide range of other challenges that have had an impact on pollution. The state of New Jersey is no exception, since the air and water quality of that state has been compromised by industrial pollution and a wide range of other environmental threats. One of the most pressing problems involving the environment in New Jersey involves storm-water runoff, which results in widespread flooding that causes tremendous disruption to people living in communities all over the state. This paper will explore the effect of storm-water runoff on human health and environment, as well as providing solutions to address this problem.
Storm-water runoff is rainfall or snowmelt that runs off the ground or impervious surfaces including buildings, parking lots, roads, and drains into natural or man-made drainage ways (Carson, 2014.) Typically, it runs directly into the ocean, lakes, streams, and rivers. It can end up in streets and human-made drainage systems that are made up of underground pumps and storm drains better known as “storm sewers.” These sewers are different from sanitary sewers that are used to transport wastewater from homes and industries to a treatment plant prior to discharging into the river. Storm-water that enters storm sewers usually does not receive any type of treatment before it enters these aquifers.
Storm-water is a major cause of water pollution, because when it runs off solid surfaces it accumulates pollutants such as bacteria, pesticides, oil, sediments, and a range of chemicals that are then deposited into waterways. The runoff kills aquatic life, making waterways extremely threatening to the health of plants, people, and wildlife. Storm-water that is left untreated and enters local streams may cause contamination of the water supply or waters used for fishing as well as bans on swimming, boating, or fishing, harm to aquatic plants and animals, risks to public health, and increased flooding. Flooding increases when solid surfaces take the place of natural vegetation, since water cannot filter slowly into the terrain. Storm-water then deposits sediment that decreases the depth of waterways, and further increases flooding (Carson, 2014.)
There are a wide range of solutions to storm-water pollution in New Jersey and other states as well. They include the proper use and disposal of hazardous products, which include cleaning products, products that provide maintenance for lawns and gardens, motor oil, paints, and antifreeze. These products should not be poured down storm drains because they are usually linked to local water bodies with untreated water. The use of fertilizers and pesticides should be minimized, and should not be used at all if heavy rains are protected. Motor oil should be recycled, and concerned citizens should be aware of the locations of disposal facilities for hazardous waste products (Solutions to Storm-water Pollution, 2016.)
Other solutions to problems caused by storm-water are preventing pollution from entering storm drains, refraining from littering, recycling, and participating in cleanups sponsored by communities. Yard waste such as leaves and grass should be disposed of properly, such as using clippings for compost, preventing weeds and grass from entering storm drains, and using a mower that mulches to recycle grass clippings into the lawn (Solutions to Storm-water Pollution, 2016.) People should also be responsible for cleaning up after their pets, as many towns and public agencies have passed and are enforcing rules regarding pet waste. For example, pet owners or dog walkers should be required to pick up and properly dispose of pet waste that is deposited on public spaces or other people’s property. Newspaper, banks, or scoopers should be used to pick up animal waste, and disposed of in the trash or in a toilet. Finally, another way to reinforce responsible behavior regarding pollution is not to feed wildlife such as geese or ducks who are located in public areas. Municipalities and other public agencies should be passing and enforcing rules that prevent the feeding of wildlife in these public spaces.
New Jersey, like most other states, is threatened by climate change in many ways, and storm water pollution presents a significant threat to the health of plant, animal, and human life and the environment. As such, it is crucial to provide education and information to the general public to inform them about how to avoid contributing to this problem.
- Carson, H., Eaker, B., Gibson, P., & Randall, M. (2014, January). Storm-water problems and impacts: why all the fuss? Retrieved from Riverlink.org: http://riverlink.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/storm-waterseriesfinal1.pdf
- Solutions to storm-water pollution. (2016). Retrieved from Millville NJ.gov: http://www.millvillenj.gov/161/Solutions-to-Storm-water-Pollution