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Education plays key role in London’s stormwater management efforts

Oil/grit separators allow larger particles to settle to the bottom, while oily fluids will rise to the top and be captured.
Oil/grit separators allow larger particles to settle to the bottom, while oily fluids will rise to the top and be captured.

 Underneath the parking lots and driveways of properties throughout the Province of Ontario sits a silent yet essential tool in the fight to protect local waterways. The Stormceptor oil/grit separator (OGS), manufactured in Ontario by Hanson Pipe & Precast and one of several OGS devices on the market, is a unique precast concrete device that filters runoff from hardscaped surfaces, removing particles from 20 to 20,000 microns along with free oils, heavy metals, and nutrients that attach to fine sediment.

But while Stormceptor is a key tool in combating the non-point source pollution that accounts for 80 percent of water pollution in North America, municipalities still face a big challenge: occasional cleanout that many property owners don’t know they need to perform or are simply unwilling to do. Oil/grit separators must be emptied once every one to 10 years, depending on various factors; bad winters with excess runoff and road sand, or construction site erosion for example, can accelerate the need for maintenance. Unfortunately, many businesses are unaware the device even exists under their property and still others balk at paying to have them serviced.

“OGS devices single-handedly have the potential to immediately impact water quality. But we found a lack of awareness of oil/grit separators, their importance, their locations, and their maintenance requirements,” says Barry Orr, Sewer Compliance Officer for the city of London. “This led us to begin an educational program, including the creation of a pamphlet and video.

The City of London’s team embarked on a campaign to educate London residents and business owners about the importance of oil/grit separator maintenance. The proactive efforts include printed materials, in-person conversations and training, and adding OGS maintenance to business license requirements. A video on the city’s website explains the devices in layman’s terms, with an entertaining approach designed to foster positive understanding and support.

Cleaning frequency of oil/grit separators may range from one to several years, dependent upon site specific conditions.

The City of London’s team embarked on a campaign to educate London residents and business owners about the importance of oil/grit separator maintenance. The proactive efforts include printed materials, in-person conversations and training, and adding OGS maintenance to business license requirements. A video on the city’s website explains the devices in layman’s terms, with an entertaining approach designed to foster positive understanding and support.

The city’s work to increase awareness and maintenance of oil/ grit separators is just one component of a larger effort to educate the public on proper waste disposal and its impact on the local environment.

Along with raising general awareness, Orr is working behind the scenes to ease the burden of tracking all of the OGS devices across his jurisdiction; having the capability to do so would help enforce current or future maintenance requirements. A software pilot program, currently in development, will help his team track the devices and, by interacting with other departments, will automatically populate with newly built properties.

At the office and in the field, Orr’s approach is one of positivity, emphasizing that these devices and the efforts to keep them functional are about protecting current resources. “It’s really not that hard to look after and be aware of,” he notes. “Oil and grit separator devices are out there, they have a function, and they do work.”

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