Tips Tuesday: Minimize, Eliminate Environmental Risks Associated with Runoff from Rainfall, Snowmelt

Many people may be familiar with the nursery rhyme, “Rain rain, go away; come again some other day.” As an environmental professional, I propose a new rhyme: “Rain rain, it comes today; pollutants with it flows away.”

While the rhymes themselves may be lost in translation to other languages, the meaning of each is universal: rain ruins a child’s perfect day to play, and rain, as it falls to the ground and flows away, can carry with it debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that can negatively impact the environment. But this does not have to be. There are relatively simple and many times inexpensive best management practices that can minimize or eliminate environmental risks associated with runoff from rainfall and snowmelt.

A few of the more simplistic “non-structural” BMPs are described below.

1. Good housekeeping. Keeping a clean shop—inside and out—is the simplest way to protect against
the pollution of rainwater and snowmelt runoff.

2. Exposure minimization. Keeping containers closed, stored inside covered secondary containment,
or indoors are just a few of the many ways to minimize potential exposures of pollutants to the

3. Preventative maintenance. Maintaining all equipment as per manufacturer’s recommendations is
not only prudent to maximize the life of the equipment, but can also protect the environment.

4. Spill prevention and response procedures. The development of sound procedures for the
prevention of spills and what to do when they occur will assist with prompt and safe response that can
keep small spills from becoming large spills.

5. Routine facility inspections. Daily, weekly, and/or monthly inspections will help to ensure that all
equipment and controls are operating as designed and facilitate early detection and correction of
potential problems.

6. Employee training. This may be the most important BMP of them all. Employee education is crucial
to “buy-in” and the success of any program. You may even find that as your employees become
more engaged, that they will begin to offer up ideas for improvement.

It is worthwhile to note that the six best practices described above would require zero capital dollars to
implement and can significantly reduce environmental risks. Additionally, these practices are internationally
universal as they can—and should be—implemented across a global network of locations.

Source: Michael L. Thayer, CHMM, corporate HSE manager for air and water compliance for National Oilwell Varco.

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