Clean water, less flooding, economic development
What is a stormwater sewer system?
Athens has two distinct sewer systems: sanitary and stormwater. The stormwater sewer system is maintained by the Streets division of Public Works. This system helps prevent flooding by carrying excess rainwater away from streets, homes, and businesses. Because the stormwater system does not have treatment facilities, pollutants that enter the system eventually enter our streams. The American Rescue Plan funded stormwater projects and Athens was a recipient of an award to create a stormwater master plan. Follow the progress here.
What is stormwater pollution?
An unfortunate side effect of the city's stormwater system is that it carries urban pollution straight into our streams. Rain, industrial, and household water mixes with urban pollutants to create stormwater pollution. These pollutants include:
- oil and other automobile fluids
- cooking oil
- construction debris
- yard and pet wastes
- and litter.
Stormwater and the pollutants it carries flow to the Oostanaula and Mouse Creeks through the same system intended to only carry stormwater. Each time it rains, tremendous amounts of polluted urban runoff enters our streams untreated, leaving toxic chemicals in our creeks and tons of trash along their banks. Urban runoff contaminates our streams and rivers, harms aquatic life, and increases the risk of flooding by clogging storm drains and catch basins.
What can you do to help?
Reducing household sources of pollution
The Public Works department and other government and nonprofit agencies do what they can to detect and eliminate illicit discharges into the stormwater sewer system. However, many of the pollutant sources are not attributed to a single point like a spill at an industrial site. We rely on citizens to do their part in reduced these distributed sources of pollution and to report larger spills or illegal dumping. Some of the things you can do to reduce stormwater pollution are:
- do not rake leaves into the street during the leaf collection season
- capture and dispose of oil or other fluids from your automobile at the Recycle Center
- do not use fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides in excess
- report spills or illegal dumping to an appropriate agency
You can find other great resources in the Stormwater Resources below.
The EPA has many resources collected about what communities and residents can do to help Soak Up the Rain. They have pages dedicated to resources and information about:
- Rain Barrels
- Rain Gardens
- Trees (Yes, trees! Their canopies help reduce erosion caused by falling rain, and provide serface area where water lands and evaporates. But remember that their leaves need to be kept from entering the stormwater system in the fall to keep them from clogging catch basins!)
Another way that might help reduce stormwater pollution would be to reduce waste through practices like recycling, composting, reducing hazardous material waste, and reducing waste in general. Again, the EPA has gathered some resources on topics like recycling, reducing food waste and composting, and how to reduce and reuse products. You can also reduce waste of hazardous materials like house paint by buying only the paint you need, using any remainder for small touch-ups or DIY projects, and donating leftovers to theater groups, schools, churches, or other organizations.
An important part of protecting the natural waters in our town is learning more about how our stormwater system and how pollutants enter it. The Tennessee Wetlands Festival provides education in a fun and friendly atmosphere for children and adults to increase their knowledge and appreciation of wetlands and their part in our stormwater system. People learn how the wetlands reduce flooding and provide habitat for native species of animals, fish, birds, and plants. Past festival events and educational booths have included bird-spotting walks, stormwater erosion demonstrations, and more!
- Athens Fire Department: 911
- Athens Public Works: (423) 744-2745
- Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control: (423) 634-5745
Recycling and household hazardous waste
To report illegal dumping
- Athens Community Development: (423) 744-2753
- Athens Public Works: (423) 744-2745
- Keep McMinn Beautiful: (423) 506-7316
- McMinn County Executive: (423) 745-7634
Any questions or comments about stormwater, the stormwater ordinance, or the MS4 annual reports can be sent to Public Works.
- TN Dept. of Environment and Conservation
- TN Div. of Water Pollution Control
- TNSA YouTube Channel
- TN Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook
- TVA Native Plant Selector
- NPDES Storm Water Permit Program
- NPDES Menu of BMPs for Storm Water
- Storm Water Discharges Permitting
- Stormie's Clean Water Tips
- The EPA’s Office of Water
- EPA's Kids Link
- Center for Watershed Protection