Today, Senator Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the STOPS Runoff Act of 2011 that will reduce polluted runoff from federally funded highways and roads.
It’s hard to believe that the streets and highways we drive on every day are one of the leading sources of water pollution. But think about it – with over 985,139 miles of federal aid highways alone – these hard surfaces can have a pretty significant impact on our environment. Imagine a giant parking lot, bigger than the state of Ohio, and that’s about the size of the total amount of impervious surface in the U.S.
When rainwater falls onto these hard surfaces, it can’t soak into the ground naturally and instead flows along the surface washing heavy metals, tail pipe emissions, road salt and whatever else it picks up into the nearest storm drain and out untreated into the closest river or stream.
Senator Cardin’s bill is based on applying a standard that is already required for the construction of federal buildings – which requires maintaining a site as natural as possible to keep water from leaving the site – to federally funded highway and road projects. Essentially, this means that projects must include technologies to infiltrate and manage stormwater onsite so that runoff pollution to local streams, rivers, and drinking water supplies doesn’t increase after construction.
One of the best ways to meet this standard is through green infrastructure. From vegetated swales to permeable pavements, these technologies work with nature to capture and treat stormwater where it falls. Many cities and towns are already implementing ‘green streets’ using various green infrastructure practices to manage runoff while at the same time reducing the burden on existing water infrastructure, minimizing the pollution that enters our rivers and streams, and saving their communities money.
This bill is a critical step forward in addressing stormwater pollution by prioritizing green infrastructure approaches that work with the natural landscape to infiltrate stormwater where it falls and protect our clean water.