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EPA to look at Tahoe drainage systems

Tahoe Daily Tribune article, copied from Wednesday, November 2, 2005
EPA to look at Tahoe drainage systems
By Amanda Fehd

Homeowners and businesses in Tahoe could be installing drainage systems regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for health safety reasons - and not know it.

Representatives from the EPA, Tahoe's planning agency and Nevada's environmental protection agency met by conference call last week to discuss whether drainage systems used in Tahoe fall into a category EPA alleges has the potential to contaminate groundwater. No decision was made.

A variety of drainage systems are used in Tahoe to comply with a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency ordinance requiring most property owners to install devices to catch rain and snowmelt.

Called stormwater best management practices, or BMPs, the systems are intended to prevent soil erosion.

Most not a concern

While most of the drainage systems in Tahoe are not a concern, some may be classified as Class V wells, according to Elizabeth Janes at EPA's Region Nine groundwater office in San Francisco.

Tahoe's rain and snowmelt, called stormwater, is generally very clean, diminishing risk of contamination, according to Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control board, which regulates water quality at Lake Tahoe.

However, certain drainage systems would allow any contaminants, or spills of auto or lawn chemicals, to more easily enter groundwater, according to EPA.

EPA requires inventory information from property owners who install Class V drainage systems because of their alleged potential to contaminate groundwater.

Users must also agree not to allow any substances that are threats to drinking water to enter the systems.

EPA's list of threats to drinking water includes chemicals used in household cleaning, lawn and auto care and is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/mcl.html#mcls.

The worst kind of Class V well is a drilled hole allowing water directly down to the water table. The technique is not used in Tahoe but has been standard construction practice in other parts of California, Janes said.

But Class V wells can include many other types of underground drainage systems, according to EPA.

Much of South Shore gets its drinking water only from groundwater, while the lake supplies drinking water to most of the Nevada side. Drinking water is constantly monitored for purity.

No decision yet

EPA is not ready to make a determination on designs for residential or commercial BMPs in Tahoe before taking a closer look at them, Janes said.

"We all agreed we need to sit down and look at these on location," said Russ Land, supervisor of the groundwater protection office of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Janes's Nevada counterpart. NDEP provides funding for TRPA's residential BMP retrofit program.

Based on his limited review of residential BMP designs in TRPA's contractors handbook, Land said none fit the definition of a Class V well.

EPA Region Nine was not so sure, Janes said.

The three agencies met after inquiries to EPA from the Tahoe Daily Tribune about whether the Class V wells were used in Tahoe. Area engineers raised the issue with the Tribune.

While Birgit Widegren, head of TRPA's soil erosion team, said it has not been interpreted in the past that Tahoe's designs qualify as Class V, EPA representatives were not certain.

Engineer approved

All Tahoe BMP designs are approved by a state engineer, according to Erik Larson, program coordinator for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, which provides information to owners of homes where BMPs are installed.

Measures are in place to protect groundwater in Tahoe, according to Widegren. Properties expected to release pollution into rain water or snowmelt, like an auto station, are required to treat it before it is allowed to enter the ground.

TRPA's approach to BMPs is very conservative, Janes said. "They aren't ignorant of the vulnerability of their groundwater."

TRPA's BMP ordinance is aimed at reducing soil erosion, one of the main factors in Lake Tahoe's declining clarity.

"The fundamental concept of keeping soil on property is sound and how we do it may evolve over time," said TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan. "It's a collaborative process and we will be making sure we are all in agreement."

Homes less risky

Residential properties are less of a risk to groundwater than commercial properties, Janes said.

"EPA does not want to discourage anyone from implementing their residential stormwater BMPs," said Janes. But she cautioned property owners to be responsible about chemical use such as fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and auto chemicals.

"What you pump into the ground ends up somewhere," she said.

A fact sheet from EPA says there is concern "there may be a dramatic increase in the use of Class V wells as a (BMP) to dispose of stormwater. Infiltration through stormwater drainage wells has the potential to adversely impact [underground sources of drinking water].

The runoff that enters the stormwater drainage wells may be contaminated with sediments, nutrients, metals, salts, fertilizers, pesticides and microorganisms."

The fact sheet was put out in response to construction practices in Modesto, Janes said. It is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/pdfs/fact_class5_stormwater.pdf.

Replicating Natural Runoff Through Retention and Dissipation

A simulation model for estimating retention volumes
By Randel Lemoine, Stormwater E-magazine September 2008

Natural watersheds retain and dissipate most rainwater. This water is retained on the surfaces of vegetation and in ground depressions, such as puddles, wetlands, and marshes. Natural processes such as transpiration by plants, infiltration into the soil, and evaporation dissipate this water. A natural watershed’s retention and dissipation capacity is sufficient to prevent any runoff from occurring during most rainfalls. Occasionally, when there is a heavy rainfall, a small amount of the rainwater becomes surface runoff that enters nearby creeks, rivers, and lakes.
The natural processes that retain and dissipate the rainwater are diminished when land is developed, whether for agriculture or for urban use. Land development removes vegetative cover, fills in low areas, compacts the soil, and creates impervious areas. The result is increased water runoff flowing more frequently across the land and discharging into the watershed’s rivers, streams, and lakes. This increased runoff causes downstream flooding, accelerated soil loss from erosion, unstable stream banks, and pollution of water resources.

Problems in Mitigating Increased Runoff
Detention basins temporarily hold collected runoff and slowly release the water. They are constructed in an attempt to mitigate the downstream flooding problems by limiting the peak discharge rate of the runoff. However, they do not reduce the volume of runoff discharged into the nearby creeks, rivers, and lakes. Consequently, the runoff volume discharged remains greater than when the land was in its natural condition. Therefore, detention basins fail to match the natural runoff pattern that occurred prior to the land being developed. Streambank erosion, stream channel instability, and occasionally even downstream flooding continue to be problems.
Retention basins hold a certain volume of water. There are two types of retention basins: water-quality basins and water-volume basins. Water-quality retention basins remove pollutants collected by the runoff. These basins allow the runoff to pass through after holding it long enough to give natural processes time to remove a percentage of the pollutants. They do not reduce the volume of runoff discharged. Water-volume basins capture and dissipate the runoff, thereby reducing the volume and frequency of discharges from a site. A discharge of runoff occurs only when the runoff volume exceeds the basin’s maximum retention volume. However, the actual volume available for retaining the runoff from the next rainfall depends upon the dissipation of the water held from the previous rainfall. Therefore, a key factor in determining the effectiveness of a water-volume basin is the dissipation rate.
Two commonly used methods for estimating the maximum retention volume for a water-volume retention basin are the “90% Rule” and the “Two-Year-Difference Rule.” The 90% Rule requires the capture of 90% of the runoff coming from a developed site. The Two-Year-Difference Rule requires that the maximum retention volume should be equal to the difference between the two-year runoff from the developed site and the two-year runoff from the site in a natural undeveloped condition. Neither rule addresses the necessary dissipation rate relative to the storage volume. Therefore, it is uncertain that the maximum retention volume derived by these rules will adequately address the adverse effects caused by the increased runoff coming from developed land.

An Alternative Method for Determining Retention Volume and Dissipation
An alternative to these methods is to use a simulation model. This model is set up on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and uses local historical precipitation data. The runoff volume for each day of the simulation is estimated using the TR-55 runoff equations (USDA 1986). The retained water volume for each day is calculated by taking the difference between the precipitation volume and the runoff volume, then subtracting the daily dissipation volume. This retained water volume is added to the precipitation of the next day, which is valid because the effect of the retained water on the next day’s runoff volume has the same effect as if it were part of the precipitation for the next day. Adding the previous day’s retained water to the precipitation provides the continuity needed for determining the appropriate combination of retention and dissipation to replicate the natural runoff.

For entire article, please visit website.

Pervious Pavements: New findings about their functionality and performance in cold climates

By Jeff Gunderson, StormCon Sept. 2008 online issue

Widespread misconception exists in the industry about pervious pavement systems, specifically about their functionality in cold-weather environments. The prevalent belief is that pervious pavements are not an effective stormwater management option for cold-weather climates because of concerns related to diminished permeability during freezing and that the material is not durable enough to withstand freeze-thaw conditions. Cold climates are typically very hard on constructed systems, and naturally, questions should arise about the effectiveness of pervious pavements in these environments—especially due to concerns about freezing of the filter media.

However, according to Dr. Robert Roseen, director of the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center (UNHSC), stormwater management systems using infiltration and filtration mechanisms, if properly designed, can work well in cold-weather environments. He has been leading a four-year research effort focused on monitoring the year-round performance of a porous asphalt placement that was installed on the UNH campus. In addition, the UNHSC is hoping to shed light on the functionality of pervious concrete by testing a large placement that was also installed on the university campus in August 2007—the first major pervious concrete parking facility in New England. The purpose and function of the UNHSC is to evaluate the range of stormwater treatments systems available to designers, including proprietary and nonproprietary systems. The UNHSC is funded by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Findings from the porous asphalt study have demonstrated functionality that exceeds conventional practices by measures of both water quality and hydraulics.

Porous Asphalt Study
Design and Durability. The principal cause of parking lot pavement breakdown in northern climates is freeze-thaw cycling. Parking lots in these regions typically have a lifespan of about 15 years. By design, an open-graded, well-drained porous pavement system incorporating significant depth will have a longer life cycle from reduced freeze-thaw susceptibility and greater load-bearing capacity than conventional parking lot pavements. “Design guidelines for freeze-thaw consideration reflect frost depth ranges from 48 to 52 inches from coast to inland,” says Roseen. “For porous pavements, greater depth of frost is not the concern, but rather, the increase in the rate of cycling between freeze and thaw. This rate is highest near the coast.”

For entire content of study and article, please visit website below.

Donner Lake escapes the scrutiny Tahoe gets

By Greyson Howard / Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE - It's just a fact of life: Donner Lake plays second fiddle to Lake Tahoe.

"At the watershed council, we like to say Donner Lake is in the glory shadow of Lake Tahoe," said Lisa Wallace, executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council. "If it was further away from Tahoe, I think it would be really famous."

But the attention deficit isn't just in the minds of tourists - it's also in the amount of scientific scrutiny the body of water receives. Whereas Lake Tahoe has its own clarity standards, goals and even its own governing entity (the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, or TRPA), Donner Lake doesn't have its own standards or objectives. There is no DRPA.Instead, the lake is lumped into Truckee River watershed standards from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Lauri Kemper, supervising engineer with the board. In fact, Kemper said, Lahontan has no monitoring on Donner Lake compared with the collaborative work on Lake Tahoe of the University of California, Davis, Lahontan and the TRPA. "Lake Tahoe gets more attention because it is federally designated an Outstanding National Water Resource for its extraordinary clarity, purity and unique situation," Kemper said. "But Donner is an important part of the watershed."

Tim Tweedie, a 25-year resident of Donner Lake, has his own observations of the lake over the years. "I am just concerned with the water quality," said Tweedie, who has collected bags of litter from the lake. "When I dive in the water, the distance I can see is less each year." Tweedie said that although fees are being collected and money spent attempting to catch sediment before it reaches Donner Lake, with no baseline water quality data to measure improvements or setbacks, no one knows what good these efforts are doing. One type of litter Tweedie has collected from the lake recently has been fireworks debris. "I love (the fireworks), but is it good for the lake?" Tweedie said.

Steve Randall, general manager of the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District, said the company that runs the annual fireworks show over West End Beach has to clean up after itself. District workers also go back the next day to check, Randall said, and any fireworks that are missed are biodegradable.

Kemper said the Water Quality Control Board studied the effects of fireworks in Lake Tahoe and found that trash is a bigger issue than any chemicals the fireworks might contain. Wallace questioned whether trash is the biggest problem."Between stormwater runoff, erosion and trash, if we were to rank these things, would we focus on litter first? We would want to start at the highest impacts," Wallace said.

The watershed council, along with the U.S. Forest Service and the Truckee Donner Land Trust, has plans under way to restore Negro Canyon, which Wallace said is feeding tons of sediment into Donner Lake through Gregory Creek.  "We'll be launching that project in the next three or four weeks," Wallace said.

Billy Mack Canyon to the west also carries sediment into the lake, drawing on sand used on Interstate 80 that ends up in Summit and Frog creeks, she said.  "There is literally 6 to 8 feet of sand in the canyon in some places," she said....

For entire article, please visit website.

Questions swirl around Donner's water quality

Questions swirl around Donner's water quality By Greyson HowardSierra Sun TRUCKEE -- It's just a fact of life up here; Donner Lake plays second fiddle to Lake Tahoe."At the watershed council, we like to say Donner Lake is in the glory shadow of Lake Tahoe," said Lisa Wallace, executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council. "If it was farther away from Tahoe, I think it would be really famous."But it isn't just in the throngs of visitors to the region where Donner Lake gets less attention: It's also in the scientific scrutiny the body of water receives for clarity and quality. Lake Tahoe has its own clarity standards, goals, and even its own governing entity, but Donner Lake doesn't have its own standards or objectives.  Instead it is lumped into Truckee River watershed standards from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Lauri Kemper, supervising engineer with the board.In fact, Kemper said, Lahontan has no monitoring on Donner Lake - that's in comparison to the collaborative work on Lake Tahoe by the Lahontan water board, UC Davis, and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.  "Lake Tahoe gets more attention because it is federally designated an Outstanding National Water Resource for its extraordinary clarity, purity, and unique situation," Kemper said. "But Donner is an important part of the watershed. ... For entire article, please visit website.

Rain Gardens Reign

Kansas City sets an ambitious goal, and communities around the country follow.
Source: Stormwater Magazine, May 2008
By Margaret Buranen

Rain gardens may have started in Maryland and been developed in Maplewood and Burnsville, MN, but it was Kansas City, MO, that put them on the map of public awareness. If, as Rodgers and Hammerstein told us in their musical Oklahoma!, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City,” the 10,000 Rain Gardens project there is on the cutting edge of stormwater management.

Rodgers and Hammerstein aside, one thing in Kansas City is very out of date: its water and wastewater infrastructure. Some pipes have been in the ground for more than 100 years. So in August 2005, voters approved a $500 million bond issue that will fund new and improved water infrastructure for Kansas City.

The bond issue is part of KC-ONE, a comprehensive plan for the management of stormwater throughout the city and its suburbs. It will be years until all of the necessary work is completed. To help manage stormwater now, Kansas City officials started the 10,000 Rain Gardens project.

The idea came from a Stormwater Coordinating Committee meeting in May 2005.

Six months later, Kansas City’s former mayor, Kay Barnes, together with Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields and Johnson County Commission Chairman Annabeth Surbaugh, launched the program at a regional rally.

The project’s Web site (www.rainkc.com) is listed as a resource in the handouts of rain garden programs all around the country. Scott Cahail, manager for the Water Services Department of Kansas City, said in the summer of 2007 that the Web site had received more than 100,000 hits.

Barnes installed a rain garden at her home, as did Dan McCarthy, president of Black & Veatch, a global engineering company that works in the water and energy fields. Black & Veatch employees planted the first corporate rain garden in Kansas City. McCarthy wrote an editorial for the local paper, urging other corporations to install their own rain gardens.

One by one, the number of rain gardens in Kansas City grows. There are two at City Hall. The local ReHabitat store has a small rain garden. Hallmark has one at its corporate headquarters. One of the most interesting is shaped as a boomerang and measures almost 5,500 square feet. It was installed in Theis Park by students at the Kansas City Art Institute. For good measure, they added messages on taking care of the environment.

Mt. Airy Rain Catchers
Influenced by the efforts in Kansas City and other cities, community rain garden programs are starting in many locations. One such program is in Ohio.

Until the post–World War II expansion of suburbs, the Mt. Airy section of Cincinnati, OH, was a small community of farms and country homes surrounded by woodlands. Now more than 9,500 residents live in the 3-square-mile area. As in other suburban areas, the growth of population and corresponding paved surfaces has increased stormwater runoff in Mt. Airy and pollution in its Shepherd Creek watershed.

...for complete article, please visit website below.


By Greyson Howard, Sierra Sun
May 28, 2008

Surveying a fresh set of tire tracks cut deeply into the mud in Coldstream Canyon, Beth Christman and Cyndie Walck explain the challenges of working in one of Truckee’s most troubled watersheds.

“We’ve looked at the whole Cold Creek watershed and know there are tons of problems. It’s the problem child dumping tons of sediment into the Truckee river,” said Christman, program manager with the Truckee River Watershed Council.

The Truckee River is considered impaired by sediment, and the Donner Basin is considered a major contributor, but Christman said within the Donner Basin, Cold Creek is really the problem.

The issue stems from a combination of the natural topography of the canyon and human interference, said Walck, a fluvial geomorphologist with California Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Coldstream is one of the most hammered watersheds I’ve ever been in,” Walck said. “The railroad blew out a lot of the canyon, it’s been logged repeatedly and mined for gravel.”

For entire article, please visit website.

Tests show water's fine, TMWA officials say

By Steve Timko, Reno Gazzette-Journal
May 17, 2008

No pharmaceuticals turned up in the Truckee River water that was sent for testing by the area's largest water supplier.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority in March sent samples of water taken from the river to MWH Lab in Southern California after the Associated Press reported that up to 41 million Americans drink water contaminated with trace amounts of medicine and endocrine blockers.

After testing for 31 compounds associated with medication and other chemicals, all samples came back at a level described as nondetectable, Paul Miller, TMWA manager of operations and water quality, said at a Friday news conference.

That means there was less than one part per trillion for all of the substances, Miller said. The threshold for detecting the compounds was set at one part per trillion.

"We've gotten so good at detecting things in the water, there is no such thing as zero any more," Miller said.

Report: No chem residue found in Truckee River

By Jenny Goldsmith, Bonanza News Service
May 21, 2008

Results from an analysis on the purity of the Truckee River are back and confirm what Truckee wastewater treatment plant officials have been saying: The major water supply for Reno and Sparks is not contaminated.

In March, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority decided to sample the Truckee River after reports surfaced in an Associated Press investigation into pharmaceutical remnants in major metropolitan water supplies, said Paul Miller, manager of operations and water quality for Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

“The data shows that no pharmaceuticals or endocrine disrupting compounds were detected in the raw or finished water samples,” Miller said in a statement.

There are no direct discharge of treated wastewater into the Truckee River like there are in other municipal areas that are under investigation, but there is an indirect discharge.

The Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency’s wastewater treatment plant — located east of the 267 Bypass and just one mile from the Truckee River — discharges an average of 4.5 million gallons of treated water a day into a disposal field by spray irrigation, said Jay Parker, chief engineer and assistant general manager of the plant.

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Illegal dumping discovered on Donner Creek

May 13, 2008

Government officials have found trash, car batteries, and motor oil dumped into one of the Truckee River’s tributaries.

The California Department of Fish and Game and Nevada County Environmental Health are investigating illegal dumping in Donner Creek, near the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park on West River Street.

“We found at least one car battery in the river, and lots and lots of trash,” said Game Warden Jerry Karnow. “And as far as hazardous material, we found motor oil — not a huge amount, but significant.”

Karnow said officials were tipped off by local residents, and investigations are ongoing.

“We still don’t know how it got there, and we can’t pin it to the exact people yet,” Karnow said.

At least one person has been cited so far however, he said. The illegal dumping poses risks both to people and to wildlife, Karnow said.

“Some of the trash is hazardous if people get swimming or wading get caught up in it,” Karnow said. “And obviously batteries and petroleum is not good — the big one is aquatic life.” He said no immediate concerns have been raised over Reno/Sparks water supply, and so far only the California and Nevada County agencies are involved.

The dumping site on Donner Creek is just above its confluence with the Truckee River, he said, so impacts could go for miles downstream.

For entire article, please visit website.

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