Waterwise Wednesday: Controlling Cross Connection Contamination

Cross-connections are actual or potential connections between safe drinking water (potable) supply and a source of contamination or pollution. The submerged hoses in the photos  illustrate a direct cross connection between non-potable water and your drinking water.

A loss of pressure like a water main break or system repair in the public water  system or running too many in-house water sources at once (think shower, washer, dishwasher, and sprinkler system all at the same time) can cause backsiphongage. This loss of pressure creates a siphon effect in the plumbing system which can draw water out of a sink, bucket, or pool and back into your water or public water system.

Cross-connections must be properly protected or eliminated to protect the city’s drinking water supply from backsiphonage or backflow. In this case, either remove the hoses from the pool or barrel or install a hose connection vacuum breaker on the faucet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Construction Bulletin April 2016

Comments Wanted on New Construction Storm Water Permit 

On Friday, March 25  the draft for the new Construction Storm Water (CSW) Permit was sent to EPA to start the 90 day review period, following which will be the formal public notice period.  Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality is requesting initial comments and feedback before the permit goes out for public notice. Any responses are appreciated before Monday, May 16th.  download

A summary of changes is inlcuded here:  NDEQ CSW General Permit_Fact Sheet

The permit draft may be reviewed here:  NDEQ CSW_General Permit

  Policy changes to the permit include:

  1. All forms must be submitted electronically on the NDEQ website. Paper forms for NOIs, CSW-Transfers, and NOTs  are no longer accepted.
  2. Oil and gas field activities or operations will now require a permit.
  3. Coverage of existing permits has been extended from 90 to 180 days before reapplication is needed under the proposed general permit.
  4.  Permit numbers have been changed to correspond with anticipated issue year.

Responses can be sent to either  Emma Trewhitt, NPDES Permits and Compliance Unit or the permit writer, Patrick Ducey.   Emma can be contacted at Emma.Trewhitt@nebraska.gov or 402-471-8330. Patrick can be reached at patrick.ducey@nebraska.gov or 402-471-2188.

The Garden Coffeebreak 2016

· Mapping Out the Garden with Anita Gall , Anita’s Greenscaping*

             Date: March 18, 2016                                                        Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

            Location: Café de Paris, 15 West 16th Street               Phone:  308-633-2529

Menu – Cafe de Paris 2016

                    Garden:   Lots 1  & 10,  Avenue A between 16th and 17th Streets

 

· Arbor Day with Amy Seiler, Nebraska Forest Service*

               Date:  April 15,  2016                                                               Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

Location: Cappuccino & Company, 1703 Broadway           Phone:  308-635-9997

Menu – Cappuccino & Company 2016

Garden: Lots 8 & 16, Avenue A and 17th Street

 

·  Phytoremediation with Leann Sato, Scottsbluff Stormwater Program Specialist* 

               Date:  May 20,  2016                                                                  Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

Location: The Emporium                                                            Phone: 632-6222

Menu – The Emporium

Garden: Lot 3, 18th Street & 1st Avenue and Lot 4, 17th Street & 1st Avenue

 

· Great Plants Showcase with Bob Henrickson, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

               Date:  June 3,  2016                                                                        Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

Location: Godfather’s Pizza, 2207 Broadway,                          Phone: 308-632-3644

Garden: Wellhouse #3,  Broadway and 23rd Street

 

· Beneficial Insect Environments with Jeff Bradshaw, UNL Extension*

Date:  July 29 , 2016                                                                      Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

Location: Cappuccino & Company, 1703 Broadway              Phone:  308-635-9997

Garden: Midwest, PSB,  East Overland Entryway (Diverse flowers – new and established)

 

· Watering a Low-Water Use  Landscape  with Jim Schild, Associate Director, UNL Extension 

Date: August 19, 2016                                                                    Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

Location: The Shed, 18 East 16th Street                                    Phone:  635-6555

Garden: Library Bioswale, 1908 3rd Avenue

 

· Landscaping LID Style with Al Herbel, LEED AP and Lois Herbel,  Nebraska Department of Education

               Date: September 16, 2016                                                               Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

Location:  Runza, 1823 Broadway                                                Phone: 631-0397

Garden: Library Bioswale, 1809 3rd Avenue

  · Gardens Through the Lens with Gary Stone, UNL Extension*

               Date: October 21, 2016                                                                   Time:  11:00 AM—Noon

               Location:  Sam & Louie’s, 1522 Broadway                                Phone: 308-633-2345

Garden:  Library Bioswale,  via  West Nebraska Art Center , Lot 12

Continue reading The Garden Coffeebreak 2016

Where the Water Flows by Leann Sato

Ahh, the smell of Spring after an April rain shower.  Clean and fresh.    The rain washes away the dry and dirty leaving the beauty of a refreshed landscape. 

 

And then I wonder. Where did the rain go that carried away the dry and dirty? And what was so dirty that needed to be cleaned?

 

The rain runs down the gutter to the storm drain, the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) to be exact.   The storm sewer takes rain, snowmelt, and anything that floats down the gutter to the North Platte River. This is often confused with the Sanitary Sewer which takes our home’s wastewater from the shower, laundry, dishwasher, and toilets to the wastewater treatment plant.

The two sewer systems are separate and function differently. The Sanitary Sewer takes water to be cleaned and treated at the wastewater treatment plant.  A constant flow and steady volume of wastewater runs through the plant.  First, trash and non-organic materials are screened out and taken to the landfill. In the next step, the raw sewage flows to an aeration basin where organisms are introduced to help decompose the organic material.  Then the wastewater flows into a clarifier, where those organisms are settled out of the water, producing a sludge which can be composted and reused.  The water is then disinfected using ultraviolet radiation and returned in clean condition to the North Platte River.

The storm drainage system in Scottsbluff and Gering runs straight to the North Platte River; it is not cleaned or treated.  Unlike wastewater, stormwater runoff is unpredictable and varies in volume, making it infeasible to treat with the same process as waste water.  When rain, snowmelt, or the occasional sprinkler causes water to run down the gutter, it can pick up pollutants such as bacteria from pet waste, leaking oil and other fluids from our vehicles, heavy metals from brake pads, and phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizers. The stormwater and its pollutants deposits directly into our waterways.  This type of pollution is called non-point source (NPS) pollution, since there’s no specific source, and it is the largest cause of impaired waterways in the United States.

As an example of this, the nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer are good for plants, in proper amounts. But consider what happens when the “little bit” that runs off the lawn to join the other “little bits” already in the storm sewer, North Platte River, Missouri River, and Mississippi River.  The excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other fertilizer nutrients in the water lead to large blooms of algae. When the algae die and decompose, this dramatically reduces the amount of oxygen in the water creating hypoxic zones, more commonly called “dead zones,” in which organisms cannot survive.[1] The Gulf of Mexico dead zone, where “little bits” of fertilizer run-off from across the country end up, was estimated to be 5,840 square miles in 2013[2], roughly the land size of Nebraska’s largest county, Cherry County. [3]

Stormwater pollution is difficult to treat, but there are many easy to help prevent it.  The main goal is to let only rain go down the drain. Pick up pet waste, throw litter in the trash can, keep the car in good condition by checking for leaks and regular maintenance, fertilize according to the directions and sweep any extra back onto the yard. The list of suggestions is long the list of benefits even longer.

It all begins by being aware of stormwater – where it goes, what it picks up, and the simple ways to help keep it clean.   So savor the scent of Spring after an April shower and the knowledge of how to help keep our waterways just as clean and fresh.

 

 

Sidebar: 

Only Rain Down the Drain:  Simple Ways to Help Prevent Stormwater Pollution

Trash:

Put litter in the garbage

Pick up pet waste and put it in the trash or flush it.

Recycle

 

Vehicles:

Wash your car on the lawn or in a commercial car wash

Monitor, fix Leaks, and clean spills properly

Maintain vehicle regularly

Recycle used motor oil

 

Home:

Properly dispose of hazardous household chemicals

Use non-toxic household products

Sweep the driveway or sidewalk instead of hosing it down

Redirect downspouts to run onto the yard instead of a sidewalk or driveway

Harvest rain water

 

Yards:

Fertilizer and pesticides

Apply according to directions

Store indoors

Sweep any extra back onto the lawn

Use natural fertilizers and pesticides

Keep your grass clippings on the lawn

Compost yard waste

Sweep up leaves and dispose in yard waste containers

Don’t overwater

Water the lawn, not the sidewalk

Vegetate Bare Spots

Use de-icers sparingly

 

Landscape:

Plant “the right plant in the right place”

Plant a rain garden

Use native or well-adapted plants



[1] http://www.epa.gov/msbasin/ hypoxia101.htm

[2] http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/Research/Shelfwide%20Cruises/2013/PressRelease2013.pdf

[3] http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/united-states/quick-facts/nebraska/land-area#table

More Than Just Another Pretty Landscape by Dick Meyer

A Prairie Garden Journal                              

When I was learning how to design landscapes half a lifetime ago, the most important aspects of the design process were function and aesthetics.   “Function” was the first phase of the design process—identifying the landscape rooms and connecting paths which best served the activities and lifestyle of the family or persons living in the home or on the property, and then arranging those rooms and paths on the site in much the same way that one would plan the floorplan of a new home.   “Aesthetics” was the second phase of the landscape design process—creating the walls, floors, and ceilings of the landscape rooms and making those walls, floors, and ceilings look pretty—especially the walls.   This is where having a long list of colorful trees, shrubs, flowers, and ornamental grasses came in handy.

But over the past two decades, another important aspect of landscape design has slowly been emerging and it almost certainly will become as important as function and aesthetics in the design process.   This new and important aspect of the landscape design process doesn’t even have an agreed upon name yet–some are calling it ecological functionality or ecological sustainability, others call it ecological coherence or  restorative landscape design.    The lack of a clear name for this new aspect of landscape design reflects the underlying complexity of what it attempts to do—nothing less than to make your home landscape as ecologically functional as a natural landscape.  That may sound like an easy thing to do, but it turns out that God was a little smarter than most of us humans.

Landscape phenomena or trends such as xeriscaping, use of native plants, raingardens and bioswales, are, without a doubt, all a part of the growing awareness of both the importance of landscape to the health of human beings and the complexity of recreating man-made landscapes that are functionally as healthy as natural landscapes.

At this point it might be worthwhile to review just exactly what it is that the earth’s natural landscape does for us human beings (and all other living things).   Let’s see.  Well it creates the air that we breathe—that’s pretty important.   And it creates the pure, clean water that we drink.  I like water, how about you?  And it grows the food that we eat.  Anyone else get hungry?   And on top of that, many of the earth’s natural landscapes are just downright beautiful to look at.

With only a billion or two human beings on the planet, the capacity of the earth’s natural landscape to provide plenty of clean air, pure water, and healthy food was not a problem.  But with the earth’s human population predicted to reach 9 billion within a few decades, most of those who study the subject say that we humans are going to have to make dramatic changes to how we live in order to allow the earth to continue to create enough clean air, pure water, and healthy food for that many people (and all of the other living things, too.)

Just to be clear, I am not one of those wild-eyed environmentalists running around with my hair on fire and a “THE END IS NEAR” sign.   OK, I may be a wild eyed environmentalist, but my hair’s not on fire and I don’t think that the end is near.    There are two reasons why my hair’s not on fire and I’m not carrying a sign.   First, I have great optimism about the capacity of we humans to learn and eventually do the right things, and, second, I have an even greater optimism about the capacity of Nature to heal itself and endure.

Which brings me back to what’s going on in western Nebraska.   The downtown Scottsbluff parking lot raingardens/bioswales, the bioswale at the Scottsbluff Public Library, the proposed landscape development for the downtown business district in Scottsbluff are all part of larger process to make the landscapes in which we humans live to be more than just pretty landscapes.   These are a part of the early attempts of we humans to create landscapes which are not only pretty, but which also do a better job of producing clean air to breathe, pure water to drink, and healthy food to eat.

So make no mistake about it.  These are cutting edge landscape concepts being implemented in a small community in western Nebraska.   That said, no one who has worked on designing or building these projects would claim that they already know how to create man-made landscapes that function as well as natural landscapes—but we will learn more from these projects than we knew before, and in the not too distant future I think we will be able to create highly ecologically functional landscapes for homes, businesses and public spaces which also just happen to be pretty.