What is Stormwater and Why Does it Matter?
Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that doesn’t soak into the ground but instead flows over roofs, pavement, bare soil, and even over sloped lawns, into storm drains or directly into water bodies. As it flows, stormwater runoff collects and transports soil, animal waste, pesticides, fertilizers, oil and grease, trash, cigarette butts, and other pollutants. Underground pipes carry stormwater to the nearest waterway like the Aberjona River, Horn Pond, Walker Pond, or Shaker Glen Brook, usually with little or no treatment
Clean water is necessary for drinking, swimming, fishing, boating, and for protecting wildlife. It is far less costly to prevent pollution to water bodies than it is to clean them up after the fact. Keeping stormwater clean not only benefits our neighborhood and community, but the entire network of water bodies and land that make up our watershed.
Our Storm Drainage System
The Department of Public Works manages our drainage system, also known as a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) because we have separate systems to handle the City’s wastewater and stormwater collection. Woburn’s drainage system consists of approximately 70 miles of pipe, 4002 storm drains (also known as catch basins), 447 City-owned or operated outfalls, and 1577 drain manholes, as well as various lengths of drainage swales/ditches and curbs. While these numbers will change from time to time as we continue to refine our inventory, the replacement value of our stormwater infrastructure assets is approximately 125 Million dollars.
What’s the Problem?
Stormwater becomes a transportation system for pollutants. Soil that erodes from a construction site, cigarette butts and other litter from parking lots, antifreeze and oil dripped from cars, fertilizers and pesticides from yard or turf management, and sand and salt left over from de-icing operations on roadways can be deposited untreated into our waterways. Stormwater can contain and transport sediments, metals, nutrients, salt, petroleum products and bacteria among other pollutants.
Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen can promote the overgrowth of algae, deplete oxygen in the waterway and be harmful to other aquatic life. Toxic chemicals from automobiles, sediment from construction activities and careless application of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers threaten the health of the receiving waterway and can kill fish and other aquatic life. Bacteria from animal wastes and illicit connections from sewers can make nearby ponds and streams unsafe for wading and swimming.