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Disconnect Your Downspouts!

by the Nyack Green Infrastructure Committee

The public is invited to a Sat 9/22 9a-12n meeting in Nyack’s Village Hall for a  community discussion about ways to improve the health of our village, our water system, the Hudson River and to help reduce recurrent flooding problems.

Nyack’€˜s recent spate of floods has put stormwater on our minds. Flooding damages buildings, scours pavement, erodes stream banks and causes sewage overflows. The costs are high and the solutions are complex. But like communities across the region and the country, Nyack is turning to green infrastructure solutions for managing stormwater.

Green infrastructure (GI) is both a planning approach that uses techniques like rain gardens, green roofs, permeable paving, tree plantings, rain barrels and cisterns to mimic the way nature manages water. GI slows down the runoff, letting the ground filter debris, sediment and chemicals returning the stormwater to the ground or the atmosphere. Large areas of impervious surface ‘€“like roofs, roads, driveways and parking lots’€”prevent this, causing flooding and sending polluted runoff into the waterways.

GI is one piece of the puzzle of effective stormwater management for water quality and quantity. In a place like Nyack that is mostly built out, it will need to be combined with big pipe solutions for managing major flooding. To have a real impact, green infrastructure needs to be introduced property by property and multiplied across the whole village. Each property has opportunities for some GI practices.

The Mayor’s Green Infrastructure Committee was formed in 2011 to promote green infrastructure on public and private properties, help property owners learn what they can do, remove obstacles to implementation, and evaluate financing options, incentives and partnerships. This article is the first in a series that will introduce GI techniques and projects and describe ways that the Village will promote and support them.

Downspout Disconnect

All property owners should be aware where their downspouts and sump pumps discharge. In some cases, basement drains and sump pumps are unlawfully connected to the sanitary sewer, which delivers waste water to the sewage treatment plant. Allowing stormwater to flow into these pipes wastes money, increases the burden on the sewer system and can cause sewage overflows.

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The Town of Orangetown conducts smoke tests to locate these improper connections. Some property owners have received notices to disconnect their downspouts, and many have already complied. Everyone can help, though, by checking their homes and properties and fixing any problems they find.

Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart has set a high priority on the issue and his office is preparing a flyer that will be circulated by volunteers to raise awareness. Please contact him at supervisor@orangetown.com if you would like to participate.

Many downspouts are already disconnected, but not all discharge to green space. Besides contributing to flooding, roof runoff that flows across driveways, sidewalks and streets, gathers oils, sediment and other pollutants that wash into the storm drains and into Hudson River. The Village Zoning Code also prohibits discharging runoff from downspouts directly to waterways, such as Nyack Brook. In many rain events, a small area of the yard is all that is needed to absorb the water on site.

Ready to Disconnect?

How about your downspouts? Can they direct rainwater to a garden, lawn or other area on your property where it can infiltrate? If so, make sure that the ground slopes away from the foundation and that you are not sending it across your property line.

Gargoyles, rain chains and scuppers can be used instead of a downspout to send the water to the designated spot.

If you’re ready, all you need are a few supplies. Follow this link to the City of Milwaukee’s excellent webpage for instructions.

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