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Community Safety

Pollution Concerns Amid Mass Rainfall

Springfield-Greene County Stormwater Management

Last week’s storms that hit Springfield brought power outages and morning traffic delays. But storm systems such as these also put pressure on city infrastructure meant to divert heavy rains. KSMU’s Briana Simmons has more.

A big concern during times of heavy rain is pollution. Melissa Bettes, project manager with James River Basin Partnership, says the pollution comes from areas such as roadways and parking lots and washes into waterways.  

“A lot of people in the community think it goes to the waste water treatment plant to be treated, but all storm water does is goes directly into the closest tributary. So of course it’s going to be detrimental to the water quality at first, but the cities work real hard to reduce the amount of storm water that enters into the water way and so do we,” Bettes said.

Local officials are engaged in several initiatives to alleviate these issues, including the Springfield-Greene County Urban Watershed Stewardship Project, nicknamed the Big Urbie. Since 2013, the Big Urbie has taken on many projects around the area to improve stormwater runoff, thanks to a federal grant and local matching funds.  

For instance, Thursday marked the first phase of demolition of the City Government Plaza parking lot. It will be replaced with pervious pavement allowing rainwater to soak into the ground rather than runoff so quickly.

Todd Wagner is the principal stormwater engineer for the City of Springfield. He said focal points include improving water quality, upgrading the system to better handle floods and replacing outdated infrastructure by adding larger pipes and more inlets to the drainage system. But he notes that it is a costly task that will need more funding.  

Wagner said officials have developed an unfunded needs list outlining a majority of the flooding issues reported in their database, but that would cost about $500 million. So they’ve consolidated of high priority projects that would address public safety issues totaling about $200 million.

He said many of the projects are focused in the Jordan and Fassnight Creek areas because they create the most problems due to the age of the city and its old infrastructure.

“I think a lot of the flooding we saw is indicative of our drainage system. It does have some deficiencies out there and that becomes obvious whenever you have a big rain event like that. It’s an old system. We have 600 miles of drainage system and about ¼ of the system if more than 50 year sold particularly in the Downtown and Midtown areas we do have an inadequate drainage system,” Wagner said.

Mike Kromrey, executive director of Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, said the public can have a big impact on projects like the Big Urbie.

“I hope people think about getting involved and learning about their water resources and maybe even taking action  by volunteering or taking steps in their own personal lives to improve our waterways,” Kromrey said.

On Tuesday, Wagner addressed the City Council on new development requirements that increase runoff and water quality protection measures.

Last year, a stormwater task force recommended a combination of a permanent 1/10 cent sales and a 7-year 1/8 cent sales tax as the best approach to funding the current and impending storm water system needs. Wagner said a proposal is likely to come before the council in the near future.  

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