No Brown in the Blue

What: The Beach Recovery Foundation’s No Brown in the Blue campaign is about halting the estimated 100 million gallons of storm water runoff that can overload sewage treatment plants, thereby dumping often toxic waste into the surrounding waters. It is also about halting all forms of dumping of waste into the waters, whether at the shore or by boats at sea.

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Why: Sewage and storm water are treated at the same treatment plants in a combined sewer system. When there is too great a storm surge, a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) occurs, causing untreated raw sewage to overflow directly into local bodies of water such as the Hudson River and Long Island Sound[1]. Billions of dollars have been spent upgrading the capacity of treatment plants, but with rising population and unusual precipitation[2], we need to take further action.

garden1The Downspout Disconnection Program in Portland safely disconnected over 56,000 downspouts between 1993 and 2011[3]. Disconnections removed over 1.2-billion gallons of storm water from the combined sewer system each year. We can achieve this even in big cities like New York, though the urban environment will provide engineering challenges not faced by Portland.

One solution for big cities is the use rain barrels connected to downspouts. A rain barrel typically can collect up to 60 gallons of rainwater at a time, weighs 20 lbs empty, and up to 500 lbs full. The captured water reduces storm water runoff, can be used to water lawns or gardens and wash cars, and the water will help to lower water bills[4].rain-barrel

Another solution is rooftop gardens, aka green roofs[5]. For example, New York City provides a Green Roof tax abatement from city property taxes of $4.50 per square foot of green roof, up to $100,000[6].

How you can help: Contact your local Department of Environmental Protection to see if they sponsor a rain barrel or green roof program. If not, offer to help start one!

Sources:

  1. New York Plans Faster Sewage Alerts
  2. National Climate Data Center Statewide Ranks
  3. Portland Downspout Disconnection Program
  4. NYC Rain Barrel Giveaway Program
  5. NYC Green Infrastructure Plan
  6. Using Green Infrastructure to Manage Stormwater
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