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Toxic chemicals transferred to the water table
The main danger of stormwater pollution is that any toxic chemicals you are using on your site and operations are released into the local water table. You are already working hard to contain chemical waste and store, transport and use chemicals in a responsible and efficient manner. Stormwater adds another element to this task and can make all your hard work come to nothing if you do not have stormwater protection measures in place.
While toxic chemicals are often the first things that come to mind when we consider stormwater pollution, fertilizing agents are another key concern. If you are using fertilizer chemicals — such as potassium nitrate, among others — the sudden release of these chemicals into the local environment can cause overfertilization. This disrupts the delicate balance of the local ecosystem and can lead to the uncontrolled growth of certain plants and pest populations.
Damage to protected areas
Many areas of the United States are designated as environmental control and protection areas. While all locations across the country deserve to be protected from stormwater runoff, damage to these protected sites can be particularly severe. Uncontrolled release of stormwater can cause significant harm to the environment — harm that may even be irreparable in some cases.
Reduced company reputation
Major stormwater pollution is likely to make the local news, or even the national news. Even a minor incident could be picked up on social media, where your customers and clients can find it. As society becomes more environmentally conscious, customers are becoming increasingly engaged with this kind of issue. Clients may not want to work with companies that cannot responsibly control stormwater run-off, and this will impact your reputation.
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, is in charge of overseeing the environmental practices of businesses and other entities across the USA. If your business fails to adhere to the requirements of the EPA — for example, if you do not provide adequate stormwater drains to deal with run-off — you may find yourself in trouble. The EPA has the capability to impose penalties on those who fail to comply with their requirements, including heavy fines.
Danger to personnel
You have a responsibility to provide your team members with a safe and secure environment in which to work. Just as you expect them to do their best for you and for the company, they have a right to expect that you will do the same for them. Stormwater pollution can cause a severe health hazard, particularly among those individuals who have to work around affected areas. Allowing stormwater to carry pollutants into working areas puts the health and safety of your teams at risk.
Risks to the public
Of course, it’s not just your personnel that are put at risk by stormwater pollution. The general public in your local area are also exposed to the hazards of chemicals, microbes and other toxic elements that are carried by this water. If it is deemed that your facility has caused a public health issue in your local area, civil action or even criminal action could be brought against you. In all states barring Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Idaho, citizen lawsuits are permitted by the Clean Water Act in the event that stormwater run-off from a facility has negatively impacted the property of another.
Poor relationships with neighbors
Even if a civil or legal action is not brought against your facility, it’s important to remember that your business is part of a wider local community. This means fostering good relationships with your neighbors and becoming an active participant in local issues. If stormwater run-off is causing a problem for your neighbors, this is going to have a severely detrimental effect on your relationship. If you do not have a positive standing in the local community, it may be difficult to do business or to expand in the future.
Expensive clean-up operations
While stormwater may be absorbed into the nearby water table, it is still likely to leave damage and residual waste behind. This will need to be dealt with, and if the stormwater has come from your facility, the responsibility falls to you to handle this. Clean-up operations can quickly become highly expensive and will also divert resources away from other, more productive aspects of running your business.
Stormwater pollution causes serious problems in terms of contamination, but there are other dangers to be considered. The mechanical movement of the water can cause severe soil erosion and structural damage. If this situation is allowed to occur repeatedly in the long term, or if damage is not properly assessed and dealt with, you are sowing the seeds for serious problems in the future. Should this erosion and structural damage become serious enough, it could make parts of your premises unfit for use.
Stormwater protection should be high on your priority list
It’s tempting to put stormwater and similar issues to the back of your mind. After all, your stormwater drains are designed with this in mind and should provide adequate protection in the event of heavy weather. However, it is still important to monitor and assess your drainage system to make sure it is still fit for its purpose. Preventative, forward-thinking action is likely to be much more effective — and much cheaper — than having to deal with pollution and other problems retroactively.