TEWKSBURY — Students in the Environmental Science class at Tewksbury Memorial High School had the chance to hear first hand from the town’s stormwater management project manager Arthur Markos and GIS project manager Chester Cheng about the impact that runoff can have on local water sources and greater watershed, and the new stormwater management activities the town has recently undertaken.
This is the third year Markos and Cheng have visited TMHS. The pair gave students a glimpse into their educational backgrounds and job responsibilities as well as showing them the importance of good stormwater management.
The Environmental Science class is taught by Janet Gordon, and students learn about the impact of humans on the environment. This impact includes the effects of human behaviors on natural resources, both biotic (living things like plants and animals) and abiotic (non-living things like air, soil and water).
Gordon teaches a unit about water resources and discusses how pollutants enter our waterways and the effect they have on natural habitats and on drinking water.
“Part of the discussion includes how water flows when precipitation falls and whether it filters into groundwater reservoirs or enters the nearest waterway,” said Gordon.
Gordon explained, “Stormwater, in particular, can flow into the catch basins in Tewksbury's streets and carry pollutants with it into the very same place from which we draw our drinking water, the Merrimack River.”
Pollutants can include excess lawn fertilizer, motor oil, animal feces or improperly disposed household chemicals. The DPW has a comprehensive stormwater information guide at www.tewksbury-ma.gov/stormwater.
As part of their presentation, Chen and Markos discussed the town’s stormwater management program and explained what the Engineering Department and DPW are doing to fulfill the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) MS4 permit which is required by the federal government for all municipalities.
According to the DPW webpage, the Town of Tewksbury’s Stormwater Management Program consists of public education, illicit discharge detection, system mapping, water quality testing, construction site runoff control, and good housekeeping practices.
Part of the discussion and demonstration centers around the Enviroscape, a diorama that the town purchased to help bring a visual component to the public. The 3D model lets the students see firsthand how precipitation carries pollutants along as it flows into catch basins and, from there, into local streams and rivers.
Said Gordon, “the students learn that, contrary to what many adults believe, town catch basins do NOT carry stormwater into a wastewater treatment plant. They learn that by following town guidelines for stormwater management, they can help protect aquatic environments and a precious natural resource upon which they depend, fresh water.”
About the class, Markos said, “We gave tips on ways they and their families can help keep stormwater clean around their homes,” explaining that students were very engaged. “The students had interesting questions about careers in science, engineering, Geographic Information Systems, city planning and what it’s like to work for a municipality.”
The Town of Tewksbury passed a stormwater fee at the October 2019 Town Meeting, necessary to fund the infrastructure improvements needed to comply with the federal government’s requirements. The unfunded mandate requires all cities and towns to document outfalls, perform outreach, inspect water pipes for leaks, and create a number of action plans for all town buildings and stormwater pollution plans for the parks and DPW.
Markos and Cheng are available to bring the Enviroscape to schools and civic organizations, and provide an educational program. They may be contacted at email@example.com or by calling the DPW at 978-640-4440.