Friday, April 30, 2010

Citizens ask for more storm water drains

Dark clouds covered the sky Saturday, April 24, as U.S. Census Bureau employee Marcia Baxley returned home from a long morning of work. As she entered her apartment and looked at the gloomy sky through the living room windows, her facial expressions were concerning.

“When it rains around here, the waters can get pretty high,” Baxley said. “I don’t want to be liable for any water damages that could happen.”

The predicted weather forecast for that day was heavy thundershowers. Baxley said she would take precautions and line the front of her apartment door with towels. Fortunately she did, because a few hours later, the streets were overflowing with water.

On several occasions, Baxley’s apartment has fallen victim to minimal flooding, due to storm water runoff. Baxley resides close to the UWF campus, where runoff is common.

“On some rainy days I’ll be driving home and see water flowing through the streets, picking up trash sometimes,” she said.

It is not only Baxley that worries about water runoff. Storm water has always been a critical environmental issue in Pensacola, especially since it discharges into the bay.

Located in a watershed—an area of land that gathers precipitation easily—Pensacola has always been threatened by storm water runoff. According to the Pensacola City Web site, approximately $26 million are being spent on necessary storm water improvements, including sewer reconstruction and more storm water drains.

The Pensacola City Web site also states that the $26 million worth of renovations will be going on over the course of the next 30 years, which may be too long of a wait for some.

Charlie Morgan, manager of field services in Pensacola, said there have been several cases of erosion in Pensacola due to storm water.

“We’ve had some frequent cases of erosion due to storm water, especially in the Bayview area,” Morgan said.

After Saturday’s heavy rainfall, Pensacola citizens are concerned there might be a lack of storm water drains in the area, particularly at UWF.

Jasmine Jorge, secretary at the Fountains Apartments, said there is a lack of storm water drains on campus.

“More drains should be placed on campus near the parking lot by the Psychology building,” she said.

Jorge also said frequent runoff is noticeable in low-level areas, especially when it rains hard, just like Saturday.

The majority of storm water drains in the city empty into Bayou Chico and Bayou Texar. Toxic materials from storm water runoff such as garbage and oils from cars are deposited into the bayou, harming aquatic wildlife and creating health hazards.

Several health alerts concerning Bayou Chico and Bayou Texar have been addressed in the past.

According to Pensacola’s storm water utility fee, changes to the city’s sewage and storm water drains will be occurring over the next few years.

While future changes are falling into place, Pensacola residents can reduce risk of water contamination by doing simple things such as disposing of motor oil properly and cleaning up after pets so storm water will not pick up and carry bacteria and contaminants.

“It seems that the harder it rains, the worse the runoff gets,” Baxley said, glancing out the window.


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