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By: Adrianna Noton
Throughout history mankind has used the large pools on earth as a place to dispose of unwanted material. The theory was that there is so much volume that whatever is dumped will be dissolved and dispersed. We now realize the limitless ocean idea of pollution control does not work; reality demands we work harder at storm water management.

The global community is now well aware of the importance of keeping oceans clean, for a number of important reasons. Almost everything dumped into an ocean lake or sea ends up resurfacing in another format later. The ocean is the source of all the moisture on the planet and thus is a source of life for every creature. It is also the beginning of a food chain that stretches all the way back to man.

The practice of dumping from sea-going vessels has a long and sordid history, which lasted until only a few decades ago. Until then it was common international policy to consider the impact of mankind on the oceans as negligible. Globally the impact is being felt in the form of red tides, inedible shellfish and actual waste and debris washing ashore and closing beaches.

But now that man seems to have come to grips with the folly of dumping directly into the sea, the fight is not over. Now the challenge is even greater, because the cause is much more insidious and difficult to arrest. The greatest challenge now is in the daily activity of humans as they go about their lives, primarily in both urban and rural environments.

The hydrological cycle begins with the vast oceans and seas evaporating into the atmosphere, where it drifts as clouds over land. The precipitation it produces falls upon the earth and in one of many ways, finds its way back to the seas. The journey from precipitation back includes whatever it carries with it from the surface.

Under the circumstances before civilization, a natural filtration system existed as precipitation made its way through the earth into ground pools or washed along creeks, streams and rivers, dropping particulate matter and eliminating dissolved material along its path. By the time it returned to the source, excluding severe rainfall amounts, it was clear and pure.

But in the current situation, the precipitation that falls in cities does not hit ground that can absorb and filter it. Instead, it hits impermeable surfaces like asphalt and concrete. Because standing large puddles can be such a hazard, it is channeled through a succession of drainage systems into the nearest creek or stream. Because none of this is absorbed into the ground, the volume becomes enormous even for a normal rainfall event.

The naturally formed streams and rivers would not have to handle such an enormous volume. The result is an incredible erosive force washing sediment downstream. In effect the precipitation is washing the surface, carrying with it all the material it dissolves or pushes along. To prevent all of that hazardous material from becoming a source even greater than open dumping, storm water management is an essential defense.


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