Over the course of the past 3 years, the Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has been working with the City of Newport to improve the Nye beach stormwater and sewer issues that have resulted in high bacteria counts at Nye Beach. While the sewage issues still occur (although less frequent...insert happy face), on occassions of intense rain, these issues may be linked to several problems as close as your backyard. And to that extent, the City of Newport issued some sixty letters to homeowners in the City of Newport to make some improvements for improper connections. Now let's break these issues down a little:
Bottom line, too much rain in the sewer. You see, these sewer overflows occur because the Nye Beach pump station can only take so much sewage at one time. While the pump station is well equipped to handle our sewer demands and multiple upgrades have occurred over the past few years, it can't handle excessive volumes of rainwater that enter the system. Now wait a second you may say, I thought we had separate systems for rain runoff (stormwater) and sewer lines! And yes, you are correct. The problem is there are places where rainwater can get into the sewer lines...some of them may be at yourhouse. That's right, some of the homes here in Newport have their downspouts from their homes connected to the sewer lines sending high volumes of rain to the system. Of course there are other places like manhole covers for sewer lines and old joints where saturated ground water can make it's way into the sewer system.
The Newport Chapter of Surfrider Foundation is working with the City of Newport on strategies for improving infrastructure and sourcing other non-point sources (which will cover in a future post...as this also involves you). To date the City has been doing extensive source water quality testing up the urban watershed and smoke testing for proper sewer line connections. These tests have found sewer lines connected to storm drain lines sending untreated sewage directly to the beach through the stormwater outfall. They've found homes where small animals being raised are polluting Nye creek with there feces. They've found excessive dump spots for animal and human feces (literally bucket fulls!). And, they've found many homes with improper downspout connections to sewer lines sending rainwater into the sewer system. So, here's where you fit in, from simple to complex:
A) Engage with the Newport Chapter - come to a meeting, help with water quality monitoring...lots of opportunity, figure out what's right for you
B) Check your downspouts - make sure they are properly connected to the stormdrain (not the sewer line!) or if feasible, look into a rain barrel or downspout disconnection and rain garden - click here to learn a little more
C) Clean up! - Be sure and properly dispose of your pet waste...every little bit counts and can add up quickly in an urban watershed.