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What is the Purpose of the Gary Storm Water Management District?
Protecting Public Health and the Environment
Gary, like other municipalities across this nation, must manage stormwater to protect people's health and our environment. Stormwater is runoff from a rainstorm or melting snow. Urban stormwater runs off roofs, streets, and parking lots into sewers, storm drains and ultimately, our rivers and lakes.
Most people are aware that rainstorms and melting snow can cause flooding and property damage. But the stormwater runoff is also a health and environmental concern because it contains potentially high levels of pollutants that wash off our streets, and residential and business properties. Common pollutants include pesticides, fertilizers, fuels, oils, road salt, pet waste, litter, sediment and other debris. Poorly maintained septic systems also contribute to fecal coliform bacteria in stormwater runoff. These pollutants can result in fish kills, the destruction of wildlife and wildlife habitats, and contamination of drinking water supplies and recreational waterways that can threaten public health.
It's the Law
The Gary Storm Water Management District is mandated by Congress under the Clean Water Act to implement controls through a Phase II National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to prevent harmful pollutants from being washed by stormwater runoff into local water bodies such as the Grand Calumet and Little Calumet Rivers, and Lake Michigan, the source of our drinking water. The regulated stormwater management program is called the MS4 (Municipal Separated Storm Sewer System) Permit Program.
Stormwater management is an unfunded federal mandate. Local communities must find the means to pay for stormwater management and protection through fees and tax dollars. The City of Gary and its residents and businesses need to work together to meet the requirements of our NP DES Storm Water permit.
Clean Water Life Essential
Storm Water Pollution Prevention can only be accomplished through the participation and cooperation of residents, business, and municipal departments. The Gary Storm Water Management District is also reaching out to our local, regional, state, and federal partners to reduce flooding and improve water quality today and into the future. For more information or to provide comments about the Gary Storm Water Management District Program, please contact the Gary Storm Water Management District at (219) 882-3000.
Working with the Community to Protect and Improve Water Quality
An Informed and Active Community
A community that is informed about stormwater pollution and active in helping to prevent stormwater pollution is critical to the success of the local storm water protection program. Not everyone realizes that we all play an important role in keeping our water clean by our actions at home, at work, at school, and in our communities.
The Gary Storm Water Management District (GSWMD) has developed a public education and involvement program focused on reaching Gary residents, business, and schools. GSWMD also partners with other Storm Water Districts in Lake and Porter Counties to promote a uniform message on the importance of protecting water quality to all the residents of our region.
- GSWMD offers an educational presentation for schools and community groups that can be tailored for all ages and interests. Just call us; we'll come to you.
- Come to the Gary Clean Water Celebration, a fun educational activity held annually in beautiful Marquette Park on Lake Michigan. Join with environmental and community partners to test your knowledge and learn about simple things you can do to help to keep our water clean. Canoe, paddleboat, and fish in the Marquette Park Lagoons.
- Organize a community clean-up and GSWMD will help by providing gloves and bags for your volunteers. A Certificate of Recognition is presented to all cleanup groups at the Clean Water Celebration.
- Looking for a community service activity? Help the GSWMD get the word out by volunteering for storm drain marking, information distribution at community events, and promoting pollution prevention activities.
For information on these community programs and more, contact our office at (219) 882-3000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Street Drains are not for Dumping
Most of Gary's street drains are connected to underground pipes that take stormwater and sewage to the Gary Sanitary District for water cleansing treatment before discharging to the Grand Calumet River. Some street drains take stormwater only, directly to a water body such as the Marquette Park Lagoons and the Little Calumet River. Other drains allow storm water to infiltrate or seep into the surrounding soils. It is most important to protect the "stormwater only" drains from spills and illegal dumping but NO STREET DRAIN SHOULD BE USED TO DUMP HOUSEHOLD OR BUSINESS WASTES. A spill or intentional dumping into a street drain should be reported to the Gary Storm Water District Report-A-Polluter Hotline at (219) 944-1211 so that staff can come out to inspect and clean up. Give the operator the location of the drain and the material that was spilled or dumped.
Storm Water Management Permits and Storm Water Monitoring
All construction and remodeling projects, and projects that disturb an acre or more of soil in, the City of Gary must be reviewed by the Gary Storm Water Management District staff for construction and post-construction storm water management permits. During construction, measures must be taken to prevent soil erosion and to stop sediment-laden water and dirt from leaving the construction site and entering storm drains or waterways.
Post Construction stormwater permits require the project owner or developer to manage any stormwater from roofs, roads, or parking lots with a "Best Management Practice" that will keep the storm water on site and prevent it from entering the city sewers and contributing to water pollution and sewer overflows. Gary Storm Water Management District inspectors visit construction sites on a regular basis to document compliance with the stormwater permit requirements.
Gary Storm Water Management staff and inspectors also monitor the Grand Calumet and Little Calumet Rivers by boat or canoe to observe whether there are any illicit or illegal discharges from drain pipes or surface runoff that are contributing to water pollution. These illicit discharges could be the result of oil or chemical spills, poorly maintained septic systems, or intentional dumping of wastes into sewers or onto the ground. Illicit discharges are particularly damaging to water quality and dangerous to public health and wildlife because they are often composed of undiluted chemical or organic waste.
Good Housekeeping is Good for Water Quality
We all live in a watershed. A watershed is the land that water flows across or under on its way to a stream, river, or lake. We need to keep our yards, driveways, streets, and business operations clean so that the storm water that flows across our land does not end up polluting the Grand Calumet or Little Calumet Rivers and Lake Michigan.
Improper storage and handling of oils, fuels, antifreeze, fertilizers, pesticides, industrial and commercial chemicals and wastes can expose these pollutants to storm water that washes into drains and waterways.
Homeowners, business owners, and municipalities can protect water quality by keeping their properties clean and free of litter and managing chemicals and wastes properly. Storm Water
Management staff inspects local business and municipal facilities to assist them with proper operational maintenance and material management.
Homeowners can properly dispose of Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW) such as oils, garden chemicals, cleaning products, batteries, and fluorescent light tubes or bulbs at local HHW Disposal Days. These products should not be thrown in the garbage can with regular garbage as they can spill and end up on streets and in waterways. Old and broken electronic equipment also should not be put out with the garbage. Gary residents can drop off old electronic equipment for recycling. A special container is located at 900 Madison Street. Call Gary Recycling Department at (219) 882-8445.
Brenda Scott Henry, MBA PM
Director/Storm Water Coordinator
City of Gary Department of Commerce
Green Urbanism & Environmental Affairs
Gary Storm Water Management District