Initiative aims to improve University's stormwater quality

February 26, 2004

University Park, Pa. -- The University has joined forces with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to improve the quality of stormwater runoff from Penn State property. The DEP is requiring all communities and other entities such as Penn State which operate separate stormwater systems to implement stormwater management programs. All members of the Penn State community can help with these stormwater improvement efforts. If faculty, staff and students make some small behavioral changes, their individual actions can have a positive effect on the quality of the University's watershed.

Stormwater is precipitation that flows across the ground and pavement. The precipitation can be in the form of rain, or snow and ice that melts and drains into storm sewers. These are the drains normally seen at street corners and low spots all over campus. They are connected to a series of underground pipes that outlet to streams. It becomes a problem when the stormwater picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants as it flows across pavement or erodes stream banks. Sometimes pollution is not picked up by stormwater runoff, but enters storm sewers where people dump pollution such as antifreeze, motor oil, carpet cleaning liquid or paint into storm drains. These are called illicit discharges and can be eliminated by choosing proper disposal techniques.

Stormwater runoff can have serious impacts on the campus' quality of life. Without proper management, stormwater can cause damage to property from flooding; degrade local stream quality; disturb wildlife; and have long-term implications for the region. New federal clean-water regulations required the DEP to develop a permitting program for nearly 900 communities in Pennsylvania. This includes many Penn State campuses and the University is committed to following all the new guidelines.

The University's stormwater program includes public education; public involvement; construction and post-construction runoff management; and illicit discharge detection and elimination. There also will be a new emphasis on good housekeeping and general pollution prevention. As the program rolls out, the University community will be asked to partner with these stormwater management efforts. Additional information will be presented during campus Earth Day activities in April.

For more information on Penn State stormwater management efforts, check the Penn State Stormwater Web site at

How to help

-- Properly dispose of hazardous substances: Never pour used oil, paint or cleaning supplies into storm drains.

-- Use pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides properly and efficiently to prevent excess runoff.

-- Report any signs of leaking oil or other chemicals from construction sites at University Park to the Office of Physical Plant at (814) 865-4731. On other campuses, contact that campus' Office of Physical Plant.

-- Always pick up pet waste since stormwater can carry it into the storm sewers and into streams.

-- Store materials indoors that could pollute stormwater or use non-leaking containers for outdoor storage.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009