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With the feds watching, NCCo focuses on storm water. 5 things your community can do to reduce runoff and improve water quality - Community News

Landscaping, 'bio-swales' and other newer technologies mimic nature's way of dealing with storm water.

By Jesse Chadderdon
Community News
Posted Apr 07, 2010 @ 11:24 AM
Wilmington, Del. —

New Castle County wants residents to do their part to reduce erosion and flooding, with a newly issued federal permit requiring improvements to area ponds, rivers and streams.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requires local governments to screen illegal discharges from its storm sewers, regulate construction runoff and inspect storm water ponds.

How can you help? Properly disposing of hazardous household waste (motor oil, antifreeze, old paint) goes a long way, as does recycling yard waste and maintaining your neighborhood's storm ponds.

Here are five things officials are doing or encouraging you to do to reduce runoff and improve water quality:

1) Neighborhood Associations
County code requires developers to set aside open space in the communities they build for storm water ponds. But once the community is built, it's the residents' responsibility to maintain it. Typically that's done through the formation of a maintenance corporation, which pools funds to pay for landscaping not only around the ponds themselves, but in other common areas as well. With proper maintenance, organizations can preserve greenery and wildlife, provide recreation areas for community members, and most importantly, improve storm water runoff. For more information on maintenance corporations, visit

2) Storm Water Pond Amnesty
In 2005, County Executive Chris Coons initiated an assistance program for all maintenance corporations in New Castle County who have storm water ponds or basins.

By joining the amnesty program, communities pledge to perform routine maintenance. In return, New Castle County will do major repairs to the storm water management facilities if needed. What is routine maintenance and major repairs? Grassing cutting, removing of trash and debris, minor sediment removal, repairing minor erosion and animal burrows, and unblocking a clogged outlet structure. Major repairs consist of re-engineering or re-designing the facility, major sediment removal, major erosion, and major repairs to the outlet structures. Since 2005, New Castle County has spent $ 7.6M on repairs to storm water management facilities in over 70 communities.

3) Eliminate Phragmites
The need to treat and eliminate invasive phragmites from ponds is a perennially underachieved goal in storm water pond maintenance. Common reeds, phragmites are an aggressive, invasive perennial plant that create a thick, impenetrable mat across the floor of the ponds, destroying competing healthy vegetation. They contribute to sediment accumulation in the ponds, which in turn negatively affects their overall function. If they're not controlled, phragmites will often completely fill in and take over entire ponds. The best approach to treat and eliminate the phragmites is to combine an integrated pest management plan and mechanical removal. Chemical treatments should be done in the summer months, from July through August, followed by cutting and removal of the dead phragmites. Plans involving three years of consecutive treatment have proven to be most succesful. Call 302-395-5754 for more information.

4) Green Technologies
Storm water management is the science of preventing the adverse impacts of runoff. Today, scientists and engineers are designing and promoting a new generation of management that addresses water quality through more natural means than retention, things like bio-retention, bio-swales, infiltration basins, porous pavement, filter strips and artificial wetlands have all become more common. These functions treat the runoff before it enters into the streams or soaks into the ground. As compared to the traditional method of storm water management with wet or dry ponds, these newer devices mimic nature and require less maintenance. County code encourages - and in some cases requires - developers to use these new technologies whenever possible.

5) Yard Waste Disposal
With yard waste banned from landfills, residents are required to either take their clippings to designated disposal sites or make other pick up arrangements through various private companies. Some residents, though, illegally dump their yard waste, often along a pond or in a stream bed. Blockages can not only cause flooding, but any fertilizers used by the homeowner can find its way into the water.

The best way to dispose of your unwanted yard waste is to compost it. This can be done by taking it to one of the state's yard waste sites or creating and maintaining a proper compost pile on your property.

For more on yard waste disposal, visit

Is your neighborhood enrolled in NCCo's Storm Water Amnesty program?

To find out, check with Janice Catherman at 302-395-5754 or e-mail her at
This year's registration deadline is April 15.

For more information, visit

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