By Lauren Mims—Lead Compliance Manager // 2022-10-10
If construction stormwater runoff did not have any controls to lessen the amount of pollutants, the adverse health effects on humans could be severe. Uncontained stormwater without the use of MS4’s could potentially contaminate drinking or recreational-use water. Various chemicals are used throughout different types of construction sites and can end up being picked up by rainfall and stormwater. The impacts of the polluted stormwater can include large-scale disease outbreaks. In fact, since 1948, more than 50% of documented waterborne disease outbreaks have occurred after extreme rainfalls (Curriero FC, Patz JA, Rose JB, Lele SD). Not only disease, but the concentrations of copper, zinc, and lead commonly found in urban and suburban stormwater runoff can have toxic effects in humans and wildlife ranging from carcinogenic to disruption of hormonal systems (National Research Council).
Earthworks allows our clients to abide by national and local regulations regarding stormwater pollution. Prior to the 1960s, stormwater pollution had very limited recognition, and practices commonly associated with construction stormwater in place today did not exist. With the reorganization and expansion of the Clean Water Act in 1972 after various disastrous events, water quality standards and pollutant regulations drastically improved.
In 1983, after years of examining water quality of urban runoff at an extremely large scale, the Nationwide Urban Runoff Program (NURP) concluded that water quality was exceptionally poor. This study directly led to the Clean Water Act amendment that requires construction sites to obtain discharge permits and the use of best management practices to address poor water quality. Today, stormwater leaving construction sites is significantly cleaner due to inspections and more strict regulations that are constantly evolving. The use of MS4s, BMPs that remove or significantly reduce pollutants, and retention or detention facilities are excellent procedures that help protect public safety.