There’s a lot more to David Nunnally’s job than checking compliance to environmental regulations as a part the approval process for building-permit applications. As Senior Environmental Planner for the Caroline County Department of Planning & Community Development, he also offers help to home and land owners who have erosion problems or wet patches in the yard, especially when it is in a RPA (Resource Protection Area) near the bank of a body of water.
“Storm water management on an individual level is now becoming a much larger part of attempts to comply with the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Act,” Nunnally said. “In the past most people focused on simply draining away any excess storm water, and creating ways to absorb part of it into the ground just didn’t commonly take place.”
In most cases this practice just passed the problem water, along with any pollutants it had picked up, to the neighbors. In turn, they typically passed it on to someone else.
“I got a call once from a homeowner who wanted to know if it was illegal for their neighbor’s storm water to come onto their property,” Nunnally said. “I asked if any of [the caller’s] water moved onto another person’s yard, and that was the end of that complaint.”
Such situations are not good for the 64,000 square miles of runoff that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.
“Storm water from things like rooftops, patios and driveways can have pollutants in it,” Nunnally said. “And as more collects while it is passing through more properties, it can increase erosion as it moves on down the line. The guy at the end can have a serious problem.”
Nunnally can provide a homeowner with a variety of techniques for reducing runoff and erosion. Depending on the situation, some of the solutions can be expensive. However, VCAP, the Virginia Conservation AssistanceProgram, offers financial assistance for implementing “Best Management Practices” (BMPs). Grants can be obtained through the Hanover-Caroline Soil and Water Conservation District.
“These grants are pretty much available to any property owner,” Nunnally said, “but they are geared for homeowners.”
Anyone with an erosion or storm-water management problem can go online to www.hanovercounty.gov. Click on Soil and Water, then click on Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP) Manual to find a 108-page guide to the plan. At the end, you’ll find printable application pages for the cost-share program.
The manual presents diagrams and solutions for a variety of storm-water situations. Photos include a typical rain garden and a bio-retention area (a shallow landscaped depression that temporarily ponds runoff six to 12 inches above the mulch layer, then filters through special engineered soil, prior to discharging into an underdrain or infilterating into the underlying native soils.)
These and other steps are designed to help manage storm water in even the smallest tributaries that eventually flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
“We do a computer model of the maximum amount a body of water can handle,” Nunnally said. “The challenge is how to reduce the input down to that level. If you take all the programs we have operating at their full capacity, that currently isn’t enough to reach the goal.
“We have to move this effort forward,” Nunnally said. “But we have to do it in a way that is affordable and acceptable.
“If a lot of people do little projects, it adds up to a large overall effect,” he said. “And the real kicker is that, if it looks good, a lot will want to do it.”
Some projects are big, but small steps also help.
“People can feel like they are contributing, even if they just put rain barrels on their gutters,” Nunnally said. “It’s like picking up a little piece of trash.”