Smiths Station is watching its water!

Many smaller cities and communities in Alabama may have been wailing and gnashing their teeth back a few years ago after the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) released its General Phase II MS4 Stormwater Permit requirements. As part of these requirements, smaller communities had to develop a stormwater management program to prevent pollutants in stormwater from flushing into their stormwater sewers and local streams. The program had to include drafting a stormwater management plan, implementing a stormwater monitoring program, conducting a stormwater/nonpoint source pollution outreach program, and submitting an annual stormwater report to ADEM. The merits of government regulations can be debated, but the fact is, the Phase II requirements are here to stay, and small communities started searching for efficient ways to meet the Phase II requirements from ADEM.

Lisa Pippin-Hall measuring hardness in a stream near Smiths Station
Lisa Pippin-Hall measuring hardness in a stream near Smiths Station

One such community is Smiths Station, Alabama – Home of the Panthers, a bedroom community of Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama. Smiths Station is one of Alabama’s newest cities, after incorporating in 2001. It has also seen explosive growth as a result of military base consolidations (BRAC), which has greatly increased the military personnel in the Fort Benning area and surrounding communities. The result – increased population, accelerated development, and increased pressure on land and water resources. Now add to the mix the burden of the new Phase II regulations, and Smiths Station city personnel were looking for solutions.

The first thing they did was to reach out to neighboring communities to see what they were doing. They joined the ALOA effort, a group of governmental agencies in Lee County that formed in 2001 to address upcoming Phase II requirements. The group, comprised of representatives from Auburn University, Lee County, the City of Opelika and the City of Auburn, maintains a Stormwater Advisory Panel that has made great strides in municipal stormwater management and education, especially in the areas of preservation of steam buffers and erosion/sediment control. Smiths Station saw great benefit in collaborating with ALOA, which has now morphed into ALOAS after adding the City of Smiths Station as an active partner in the group’s efforts and goals.

Lisa monitoring E. coli levels in a local tributary in Smiths
Lisa monitoring E. coli levels in a local tributary at a stormwater outfall in Smiths Station

During one of the group’s meetings, the Smiths Station folks heard about the Alabama Water Watch (AWW) monitoring program and read about AWWs capabilities relative to bacteriological monitoring in an AWW position paper (see http://wp.auburn.edu/aww/aww-position-paper). Smiths Station personnel were excited about gaining the capabilities of water quality monitoring, backed by EPA-approved QA plans and the statewide AWW Program. Lisa Pippin-Hall, Smiths Station Planning and Zoning Administrator, attended both Water Chemistry and Bacteriological Monitoring workshops and became a certified monitor.

Lisa now routinely monitors four sites on waters running through the Smiths Station area, primarily in the Mill Creek Watershed. The City also monitors for E. coli when an illicit discharge is suspected. The data are collected and used for many purposes, including:

  • Public outreach and education
  • Pollution sourcing
  • Required monitoring data for reporting to ADEM.

Lisa feels that AWW water monitoring is not only very cost effective for Smiths Station (a small fraction of the cost of setting up a water chemistry laboratory or paying a consulting firm to test), but it’s also a lot of fun! Turns out, all that wailing and gnashing of teeth was for naught J

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