Strong storms increasingly wash pollutants into waterways

CHARLOTTE — ABC stations across the country are looking into “The Power of Water,” which is about the impact to the water supply.

Meteorologist Madi Baggett explains how more intense storms are leading to more pollution in our local waterways.

One of the major threats to water quality is stormwater pollution, which has led to many waterways in North Carolina being labeled impaired.

Rainfall causes water to flow from higher ground to lower levels picking up everything in its path.

Individual storms have been stronger even though Charlotte is slightly above average for precipitation this year.

It has rained more than one inch in 24 hours on eight separate days in Charlotte over the past six months.

The pollutants left behind by people are ending up in the waterways, which negatively impacts aquatic life, according to Sharnelle Currence, a water quality specialist with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services.

“What happens is a lot of sediment and erosion are going to happen during those rainfalls, during those storms,” Currence said. “And that sediment can actually smother the habitat for some of the aquatic life that lives in our streams and lakes.”

There is a long-term impact on a personal level while the short-term effects of stormwater pollution can affect the loss of habitats for native plants and animals, Currence said.

“For humans, it impacts us because our creeks lead to our lakes and we do get some of our drinking water from our lakes,” Currence said. “And if it is more difficult to clean, to remove some of these things from our waterways. Then that could potentially increase the price that people have to pay for drinking water. And also, just recreation -- people don’t want to come out and look at a stream that’s ugly, that’s filled with dirt and trash.”

Currence said people are the solution even though they are causing the problem.

She said there are ways the community can get involved in the restoration of the Carolina’s creeks and streams.

“We have an Adopt A Stream Program where people can go out and clean that stream a couple of times a year,” Currence said. “We also let people mark storm drains with storm drain markers and those serve as a warning to people that say, ‘Hey, do not pour anything down this storm drain.’ You know, we hope people will see that and they wouldn’t illegally dump anything down the storm drain because that leads directly into our creeks. We also do tree planting to help to improve the buffers along the streams so lots of different volunteer opportunities, lots of hands-on opportunities for people to really give back to our waterways.”

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Madi Baggett

Madi Baggett, wsoctv.com

Madi is a meteorologist for Severe Weather Center 9.

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