Environmental Protection


You Can Help

Environmental problems evolve slowly and tend to sneak up on us with damage usually being done before we realize anything is wrong. It is hard for us to imagine that a drip of oil or a bit of dirt will harm our water supply, but even small amounts can pollute a vast amount of water. One quart of oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of water. Tasks you perform daily may have a potential impact on what is washed down the storm drain. Here are some things to watch for and incorporate into everyday assignments or procedures. Two excellent sources of information developed by U-M OSEH include: Improving Surface Water Quality on Campus and Improving Surface Water Quality at Home.

Drain Awareness
Knowing the relationship between the nearest storm drains and your living and working areas makes it easier to take precautions to prevent materials from entering them. Whenever necessary, the drains should be plugged or bermed to prevent contaminated liquids from entering the storm system. Even if your activity doesn't require water, it is a good idea to cover the storm drain to prevent any loose material from getting into the system. Sweep the area and pick up the debris instead of washing it down the drain. If sediment is a concern, fabric bag filters can be hung in the catch basin to filter solids from runoff. These bags can be removed when they are full. If possible, divert any water to a vegetated area after all, the grass can really use the water.

Dumpster Patrol
Dumpsters are a common source of pollutants, especially when they contain damp or oily wastes. NEVER PLACE LIQUIDS INTO A DUMPSTER. Placing dumpters on concrete surfaces and keeping their lids tightly closed to keep out the rain can minimize leaking. If possible, build a shelter over them. If a dumpster leaks, immediately repair or replace it. Post signs to remind others to dispose of waste properly. Routinely clean up debris and litter in outside areas and pay special attention to parking lots, loading docks, waste storage areas and drain inlets. Assign someone to regularly pick up litter and sweep up any loose material before it has a chance to make its way to the storm drain.

Cleaning Equipment
Clean field equipment and vehicles with as little water as possible or wash the vehicle on the grass. For example, remove dirt and grit using wire brushes or other dry methods before applying solvent or water. Be sure to collect the dislodged material and dispose in the trash.

Preventing Spills
Taking a few simple precautions to prevent a spill will eliminate the headaches that come with cleaning up after one! Remain in attendance when tanks and open containers are being filled. Use secondary containers whenever carrying materials from one location to another. Use a funnel when transferring liquids from one container to another. Place trays under open containers and the spouts of liquid storage containers.

If improper dumping or discharge is observed on University property, immediately notify the University's Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health (OSEH) at 7-1143 or the University's Department of Public Safety (DPS) at 3-1131. Report any off-campus dumping into Ann Arbor storm drains to the City of Ann Arbor Water Utilities Department at 994-1760.

Training for Staff
Because many of the activities that protect water quality need to be performed continuously, employee education is key to any successful pollution prevention initiative. Staff education activities should include:

  • Train employees to routinely inspect equipment and activities for opportunities to prevent pollution.
  • Make water quality protection part of new employee training by assigning experienced workers to train new ones.
  • Conduct a routine walk-through of work areas to identify potential problems.
  • Encourage staff participation in protecting water quality by providing incentives.
  • Review procedures once a year with employees. Incorporate this training with "worker right-to-know" training for hazardous materials or worker safety training programs.
  • Display signs describing water quality protection activities where employees and visitors will see them.