WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE BLIZZARD? 6 WAYS SEWERS AND STREAMS REACT TO MOUNDS OF MELTING SNOW

While cities endure the brunt of winter storms, school closings and travel delays are the immediate concerns. Our hats are off to safety and operations crews braving the elements as they occur, but there are aftershocks many don't think about after the blizzard.
  1. Road-salty streams and sewage
    Road salt has major impacts on the snowmelt that flows into sewers. Storm sewers flow directly to the environment and the flow can increase streams' toxicity and affect aquatic life. In combined-sewer cities that carry stormwater to treatment plants, operators can adjust processes to account for the flow's higher levels of sodium chloride. http://www.cuyahogaswcd.org/blog/2016/01/12/hold-the-salt
  2. Ice jams and debris blockages
    When heavy snow snaps branches, streams can be strewn with this woody debris and contribute to ice jams as flows move move along the banks. A Stormwater Management Program like ours can help address problems: "Our ability to remove debris from from critical locations on our regional stream network and maintain open conveyance can decrease severe ice jams and reduce localized flooding," said our Watershed Team Leader Matt Scharver.
  3. Flooding
    Slush-filled sewers and saturated ground lead to more snowmelt having nowhere to go. This was a major factor several Februaries ago when storms and snow combined to flood out our Southerly treatment plant. You gotta see it to believe it: http://youtu.be/ypkPpWqX72E
  4. Higher stream volumes
    Saturated ground means water can't soak in and infiltrate. "Instead of seeping into the soil, the meltwater and rainwater rapidly run off into our streams and rivers cause severe flooding and erosion," explains Stormwater Project Specialist Paul Kovalcik.
  5. Higher flows at treatment plants
    "Bad weather doesn’t stop treatment, but operators and maintenance personnel must be extra careful, especially working around tanks, when it is snowing," said Southerly Assistant Superintendent Kathryn Crestani. "Heavy snow causes increased flows when it melts, too," and treatment plants must be prepared to accept and treat higher flow volumes to prevent pollution from reaching the environment.
  6. Street safety
    Sewer maintenance crews may be able to delay some inspections and scheduled projects while road conditions are treacherous, Superintendent of Maintenance Services Tom Madej told me. But emergency repairs and some pump station work can't wait and crews take necessary precautions to ensure systems continue to operate safely and efficiently.