Managing Storm Water on the MSU Campus

Michigan State University is regulated under Phase II of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Storm Water Program. MSU is required to have an NPDES permit for its storm water discharges into the Red Cedar River because MSU is considered to be a small MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) operator in an urbanized area. Under NPDES regulations, MSU was required to develop a Storm Water Management Program which must be implemented using best management practices. There are six minimum control measures required of the management plan. These include: public education and outreach, public participation, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site runoff control, post-construction runoff control and pollution prevention/good housekeeping practices. A copy of the plan is available here. You can also view the 2016 progress report here.

A campus Storm Water Committee directs the implementation of the University’s Storm Water Management Program. Campus-based activities include:

  • Student involvement in best management practice design and implementation
  • Identifying and eliminating illicit (illegal) discharges to the river
  • Coursework that incorporates the Red Cedar River
  • Implementing low impact development techniques to reduce storm water runoff
  • Public education and outreach activities
  • Soil testing and non-phosphorus fertilizer use
  • Tall grass mowing/buffer zones
  • Computerized irrigation
  • Using environmentally-friendly turfgrass products
  • Staff training and record keeping to protect water quality
  • Development of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan for south campus
  • No-till farming practices
  • Composting manure, bedding, waste feed and leaves
  • Requiring new development projects to meet Storm Water Design Standards
  • Pre-treatment of storm water to remove trash, debris and fine sediment

A number of different storm water Best Management Practices (BMPs) are in place on MSU’s campus. These are described below:

Campus Storm Water BMPs

Impervious surfaces such as roads, buildings, parking lots and sidewalks prevent rainfall from entering the ground. This significantly increases the amount of runoff into local water bodies. Porous pavement allows water to infiltrate through the soil, recharging our aquifers. Conventional paving materials are less expensive than porous pavement materials, but in the long run porous systems can lower development costs by reducing the need for conveyance and detention of storm water. One downside to porous pavement other than the higher upfront costs is that maintenance requirements are higher. Porous pavement must be vacuumed regularly to maintain its efficiency. Porous pavement can be used for parking lots, walking paths, sidewalks, playgrounds, plazas, sports facilities and other similar uses. A typical porous pavement system consists of a porous surface as the top layer, with drainage materials placed beneath to facilitate storm water infiltration. The MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center and MSU Police are MSU’s latest porous asphalt parking lots.

MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center

Porous asphalt used at the MSU Recycling Center and Surplus Store allows for infiltration of water which decreases the amount of runoff into rivers, streams and storm drains.

Porous asphalt sign

An educational sign located at the MSU Recycling Center and Surplus Store explaining the benefits of porous asphalt for storm water management.

Continuous Deflective Separation (CDS) Technology involves a non-mechanical screening process that removes suspended solids and floatables from storm water flow. Raw storm water enters the unit’s chamber; a diversion barrier guides the flow into the separation chamber where a vortex is formed. This vortex spins the suspended solids and floatables to the center of the separation chamber which fall to the catchment sump. The screened liquid then moves toward the outlet and the cleaned water then is free to move to the receiving waters. The units are cleaned on a regular schedule.


Bay Separator with the Bay Separator, incoming flow of runoff is treated at the same rate and path as the treatment flow rate. The initial inflow of storm water is treated through the series of manholes. If the flow rate increases, the device enters into maximum treatment flow. When this occurs, all of the runoff is treated in the primary manhole, and water that contains sediment, oils and floatables is diverted to the storage manhole for a secondary treatment process. Suspended solids are removed by gravity in the primary manhole and are removed.


Nutrient Separating Baffle Boxes (NSBB) reduce the contaminant load in storm water and are capable of removing sediment, debris and litter, and organic matter. They can also remove hydrocarbons and bacteria, and decrease the biological oxygen demand of receiving waters. NSBB’s are capable of removing up to eighty percent or more of total suspended solids in storm water. A NSBB was installed on campus to treat a total of 27 acres.

Detention basins and wetlands are temporary storm water storage structures that prevent flooding and also help to ease storm water runoff peak flows. They also provide pollutant removal, aesthetic benefits and reduce the volume of runoff. Wetlands and detention basins can be constructed in residential, industrial and commercial developments, as well as urban areas. Pollutants are removed from influent storm water runoff by means of physical, chemical and biological processes. Pollutants can be removed by the uptake of nutrients by algae and aquatic vegetation, and also through settling by gravity of particulates during retention. As with all storm water BMPs, ongoing maintenance is required for constructed wetlands and detention basins.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.50.58 PM

The Mount Hope wetland that is located at the corner of Mount Hope and Farm Lane Roads.

Rain gardens are shallow surface depressions that are planted with native vegetation in order to capture and treat storm water runoff from impervious surfaces such as rooftops, streets and parking lots. Rain gardens reduce the volume of storm water runoff, reduce peak rate runoff, increase groundwater recharge, provide pollutant removal and also have aesthetic and habitat benefits. Rain gardens also can provide potential air quality and climate benefits. There are some downsides to bioretention areas; they require regular maintenance until vegetation is well established and they always require periodic maintenance. Plants must be carefully selected and allowed enough time to establish, and they may be costly. A small rain garden was installed at Erickson Hall on the MSU campus. A large bioretention research facility is located at the corner of Farm Lane and Service Roads, which treats storm water runoff from the Farm Lane Underpass.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.50.58 PM

The rain garden located at Erickson Hall.

Grow zones (vegetative buffers) provide many benefits such as improved water quality, reduced flow volume and pollutant removal. Grow zones have low long-term maintenance needs and costs are relatively low, and they can provide aesthetic and habitat benefits as well. Although some people prefer the natural look that buffer zones provide, others don’t like the uncultivated appearance, underscoring the importance of educational signage. The use of vegetative buffers is most effective if used along with nutrient management and runoff, sediment, and erosion control practices.

Green roofs are rooftops that include a thin covering of vegetation which allows the roof to function more like a vegetated surface than an impervious one. The green roof can range from 2-6 inches thick, and usually contains several layers of waterproof material, insulation, growth media, fabric and the actual vegetation on top of these layers. Vegetated roofs are a form of source management for reducing the rate and volume of runoff from a precipitation event. Green roofs not only provide storm water volume control, but they also provide cooling and heating energy benefits, provide habitat for wildlife, reduce the heat island effect, and extend the lifespan of the roof. There are some downsides to green roofs: they require careful design and construction and some maintenance periodically, and they are more costly upfront. However, they usually pay for themselves in the long run with energy savings and a longer lifespan. There are three different types of green roof systems; intensive, semi-intensive and extensive. Intensive green roofs have deep substrate layers and a wide variety of trees and shrubs. They require significantly more maintenance, are more costly and are often accessed by the public because they are more park-like. Extensive green roofs are limited to short herbs, grasses, mosses and sedum. The vegetation/substrate is usually less than 4 inches and requires minimal maintenance. These roofs are not generally accessed by the public as they are designed to achieve environmental benefits. A typical profile of an extensive green roof would include the following layers: waterproofing membrane, protection layer, root barrier, drainage layer, filter layer, growth media and the final layer of vegetation. Semi-intensive green roofs fall somewhere between the intensive and extensive systems.

MSU has been experimenting with green roof technologies throughout campus. Currently, the Plant and Soil Sciences building has a system that is 3,500 square feet. This green roof has a two inch base layer that drains water, establishes plant roots and provides a medium for plant growth. Green roof research platforms are being experimented with at the Communication Arts and Sciences building, Plant Science Greenhouses, and the Horticulture Teaching and Research Center. Most recently, green roofs were installed at the Wells Hall addition. Research has shown that green roofs have a sixty year life expectancy compared to twenty years for traditional roofs. Green roofs can also significantly decrease runoff as they retain 60-100% of storm water, releasing it over a period of several hours. Research at MSU by several graduate students is also being conducted to see the amount of carbon that is offset by a green roof. Check out this Be Spartan Green article to learn more about green roofs at MSU.

stormwater-badge

Partners

Infrastructure Planning and Facilities

  • Michigan State University Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) works closely with numerous campus units to protect water resources across the MSU campus.
    Visit the IPF website
The Greater Lansing Regional Committee

  • The Greater Lansing Regional Committee for Storm Water Management (GLRC) is a guiding body comprised of urbanized communities within the Greater Lansing Region.
    Visit the GLRC website
Institute of Water Research

  • The Institute of Water Research (IWR) at Michigan State University is responsible for coordinating research and educational programs on surface water and groundwater quality and quantity.
    Visit the IWR website
MSU Campus Sustainability

  • At MSU, green is much more than a school color. It’s an attitude of personal responsibility and hard work that is shared by students, faculty, and staff, who through both small steps and big collective actions, show how daily collective actions can make a big impact—and a better world.
    Visit the MSU Campus Sustainability website