Waterway Management Keeps Pollutants At A Minimum

Story by A1C Alexandra Singer on 10/11/2018
The waterways and wetlands surrounding Langley Air Force Base, such as the Back River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, are among the environmental priorities for the base.

"We do an excellent job of protecting the surrounding bay," said Dawn Christian, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron Water Program manager. "Best management practice is to keep any contaminants from stormwater out of the Back River."

For example, Langley AFB uses stormwater biofiltration systems, which look like a stormwater inlet with a tree growing out of them. These biofiltration systems trap and decompose pollutants typically found in stormwater that has flowed over roads.

"State-of-the-art pretreatment solutions like these are in place around the base and help to protect water quality in the Back River," Christian said. "The local community uses the natural resources provided by the water for boating, hunting and fishing, and we are committed to protecting those resources."

JBLE-Langley collect samples of the stormwater leaving the base and performs water quality testing to ensure the water is in safe parameters twice a year, and personnel perform visual checks for signs of pollution quarterly, Christian said.

According to Alicia Garcia, 633rd CES Natural Resources program manager, base members can help stop pollutants from entering the water system that cause harm to wildlife a few different ways:

Avoid using single use plastics, especially water bottles. The base has an active recycling program, so members should always dispose of their recyclables properly.

Don't use herbicide to kill off plants growing in vegetated storm water ditches. Although a common practice, doing so leaves the ground bare, allowing dirt and other sediment to wash into the waterways and can drown aquatic life.

Use disposal areas when using recreational facilities. For example, Big Bethel Reservoir has trash cans and recycling stations for fishing line, should a member want to go fishing.

Leaving recreational areas clear of pollutants can save wildlife from potentially dangerous situations.

"(Fishing line) gets caught up in brush and trees from a cast and people leave it in place." Garcia said. "Eventually it comes loose where it can entangle animals or wind up in the water, either of which is often fatal for wildlife."

Langley AFB also has stringent practices in place to prevent oil or fuel spills from occurring.

According to Christian, leaks from privately-owned vehicles are harder to control. Another step members can take at any time of the year is to ensure their vehicle is in proper running order and not leaking any fluids which will run off of roads and enter into stormwater systems.

To prevent oil from any source from entering into the water, absorbent booms are in place around the installation. These booms collect any petroleum product that could potentially threaten the Back River, which in turn threatens larger bodies of water such as the Chesapeake Bay.

While the booms are efficient in keeping oil out of the water, wind and rain also carry trash onto Langley AFB and into storm drains. Fortunately, some storm drains on Langley AFB are equipped with water pollution prevention systems called "Safe Drains" which capture oils, trash and sediment, and prevent it from entering into the environment.

According to Garcia, anything on the land has the potential to reach the water. If members see loose trash and can pick it up, they should, even if it isn't theirs. If a big storm is coming, members should search their yard, porch and vehicles for anything that has the potential to get picked up by wind and make its way into the water.

"The culture and history of the Hampton Roads area is deeply tied to the water," Garcia said. "We all have to be stewards of our environment even through simple acts like this if we want future generations to have an opportunity to live in a clean and healthful environment."

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