Urban Storm Water Runoff

Public Health: Storm Water Runoff

Many individuals are unaware of the harmful effects that storm runoff has on public health and our lake, beaches and drinking water. “Public health impacts are for the most part related to bacteria and disease causing organisms carried by urban storm water runoff into waters used for water supplies, fishing and recreation” (EPA). Chicago has a combined sewer system where storm water and sewage water run through the same pipes. When there is a heavy storm in Chicago, the pipes can often times get flooded with storm water. The way in which Chicago alleviates the problem is to let out the combined water into the river and lake. Putting contaminated water into Lake Michigan and the river. This has detrimental effects on the cleanliness of the water we use for drinking and use recreationally. “…the major sources of heavy metals in urban-runoff are tires, automobile exhaust, road asphalt, fuel combustion, parking dust and also other pollutants left on recreational land. Such non-point contaminant sources are the main contributors of water pollution of many lakes. Several research studies have found significant levels of heavy metals such as Cd, Cu, Pb, Ni, Cr, and Zn in urban storm water, which poses harm to public health and the environment” (Reddy). Many of these contaminants are getting into are lakes and deterring our access to beaches and other recreational activities, thus lowering our standard of living and our health. This is especially concerning because the, “Average annual rainfall has increased in Chicago since the 1950s. The city (and Illinois as a whole) has also experienced an increase in precipitation intensity over the past few decades” (The Climate Reality Project & CMAP). This means that water runoff will continue being a problem in the future. Solutions are already being established. For beaches, many scientists and engineers are experimenting with filters being placed in between roads and the beach so that when runoff occurs, it goes through the filter media and gets cleared of its contaminates once it gets to the water. Engineers like Krishna Reddy are using sustainable filter media that use components like, “calcite, zeolite, iron filings and sand,” all of which are materials easily available and not detrimental to the environment. Another small solution is to not use water intensive appliances when it is raining because they can collectively add to the over burdened combined sewage system.

Work Cited

Reddy, K.R., Xie, T., and Dastgheibi, S. (2014). “Removal of heavy metals from urban stormwater using different filter materials.” Journal of Chemical Environmental Engineering, 2(1), 282-292 (DOI: 10.1016/j.jece.2013.12.020).

Reddy, K.R., Xie, T., and Dastgheibi, S. (2014). “Mixed-media filter system for removal of multiple contaminants from urban stormwater: Large-scale laboratory testing.” Journal of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste, ASCE, 18(3), 04014011(DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)HZ.2153-5515.0000226).

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Climate Adaptation Guidebook for Municipalities in the Chicago Region, Appendix A: Primary Impacts of Climate Change in the Chicago Region (June 2013). http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/10180/14193/Appendix+A+- +Primary+Impacts+of+Climate+Change+in+the+Chicago+Region.pdf/2a85b021-f3bd-4b98-81d1-f64890adc5a7




4 thoughts on “Urban Storm Water Runoff

  1. This is an interesting and important issue, since our drinking water could be directly affected by this. The links that I posted show a plan that by 2030, the city hopes for people to be able to swim in the Chicago River, which will have to address the issues of a system which leaks sewage water into the river, as well as the City of Chicago’s diagram for how it filters its water.




  2. Filtering is a great way to handle an excess of stormwater. Another idea for handling stormwater is using it as energy. This would mainly work for cities that receive a lot of rainfall in places such as the Pacific Northwest, Florida or some on the East Coast. In a way its like reuse, reduce, and recycle but for stormwater. I also found a site that explains this well.



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