WMU News

New emphasis on campus groundwater quality

April 16, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- In an effort to protect groundwater quality and to be ahead of the curve when storm water regulations become effective next year, Western Michigan University has undertaken several initiatives to eliminate storm water pollution on campus.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has granted the University's request for a Voluntary Storm Water Discharge Permit, which certifies WMU's plan for managing its storm water system. Having the permit will make it easier to transition to new regulations expected in Michigan next year as part of the Clean Water Act, according to Groundwater Education Specialist Jill Winkler.

The University's storm water system includes outdoor catch basins, curb inlets, roof drains and some 18 miles of underground piping. Unlike the sanitary sewer system that drains faucets and toilets, water in the storm system is not treated-it drains directly into Goldsworth Pond, Arcadia Creek or the city of Kalamazoo's storm water system, and eventually into the Kalamazoo River. That makes it especially important that nothing but rain water run into the storm system, Winkler says.

"Anything we put into that storm water system can affect other life, and it also becomes part of the groundwater we drink," she notes. "We are fortunate to have so many more creeks, rivers and lakes in Michigan than in other states. We have a special responsibility as stewards. When you have something great, you're required to protect it as well as you can."

Members of the campus community can help in a number of ways, including reporting any substances released into storm drains or curb inlets as well as any suspected "illicit connections" in buildings: drains that should go to the sanitary sewer system but are inappropriately connected to the storm system instead. People are being asked to call Environmental Health and Safety if they suspect an illicit connection or if they see people dumping materials into the storm system. Faculty, staff and students also should use caution never to send anything into the storm water system themselves, including motor oil, soap, car wash water or pesticides.

The Division of Environmental Health and Safety, which is handling the storm water initiative, offers a number of services, including cleanup of hazardous waste spills, collection of certain chemical waste and training for employees on proper handling of hazardous wastes. For information or assistance, WMU employees should call 269 387-5590.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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