Why Inspections Are Important

Some ask us why it is important to inspect stormwater infrastructure on an annual basis. For owners, inspections are the best way to ensure their facilities are functioning correctly. Inspections can also reduce the cost of maintenance by catching small problems before they grow into more expensive issues.

We recently encountered a situation that illustrated a more urgent reason to inspect — to make sure the operators (or tenants) are not discharging illicit materials (i.e. pollutants that should not end up in the natural environment) into the stormwater system. We are not naming any names in order to protect identities. Our client, the local municipality, will be taking care of enforcement.

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A dark stain on the concrete at the mouth of the inlet.

Behind a restaurant in a shopping center our inspectors spotted two signs that illegal dumping was taking place. There was a dark residue at the opening of the water quality structure they were inspecting, and there were noodles and grease inside the structure. Apparently, the restaurant operator was not aware of the environmental damage that grease can do because they were not using the proper procedure for disposal, which is to send it to a rendering facility. Our inspectors immediately contacted the client to make them aware of the situation.

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Noodles found inside an underground facility.

At that point our job was done and we suspect the restaurant operators will have a visit from the authorities and will be responsible for cleanup, a change in operations, and quite possibly a fine.

While it saddens us to know that many (maybe even most?) people do not understand the ramifications of actions like these, these situations certainly make us feel proud that our work contributes to improving the environment – one stormwater facility at a time.

We encounter many circumstances of illicit discharges in the normal course of our work. Here are some photos of other examples:

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Oil in a flowing stream in the Washington D.C. area

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Raw sewage leaking from a broken sewer main in Baltimore County. Sewage is usually indicated by cloudy or milky-looking water.

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A toxic soup – plus trash – discharging from a storm drain pipe in the Baltimore area.

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