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Stormwater Run-off: What's in your water?



Every time it rains, the rainwater that is not absorbed into the ground or evaporated carries contaminants from lawns, streets, buildings, and parking lots and deposits them directly into our streams, ponds, and Narragansett Bay. These contaminants may include oil, grease, fertilizer, and pesticides from gardens and homes, soap from car washing, among many others. Bristol’s Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP) is working towards a solution with Professor Suzanne O’Brien’s class here at RWU.


The goal of the SWMP is to reduce detrimental impacts on water quality, marine life, and human health by establishing control over the unregulated sources of stormwater discharges that have the greatest likelihood of causing continued environmental degradation. Ed Tanner, Principle Planner for the Town of Bristol, and O’Brien’s class are currently working on establishing a sign that would work best for the stormwater catch basins. Most of the storm drains serve to collect and channel rainwater in an effort to reduce or prevent flooding. This stormwater can carry pollution from land surfaces or illegal dumping to our local water resources.


The objective of the project is to provide an opportunity for students to contemplate the movement of water between the atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere. Students will study land use and water quality relationships through the performance of a visual inspection of selected stormwater outfalls in Bristol, RI, as well as through the collection of selected water samples for dissolved oxygen analysis and interpretation of the data. The findings of these activities will contribute to the Town of Bristol's stormwater management database. Students will then aid in fostering community awareness through marking stormwater catch basins with signs informing the public that catch basins drain to the bay or wetlands. The hope is that such signage can help reduce illicit dumping into stormwater catch basins and help protect water quality, aquatic habitat, and the overall health of Bristol as a whole.



Written by: Deanna Tabarus

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