Water Quality and Roanoke's Streams

​The City of Roanoke is an MS4 Community
MS4 stands for
 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. That means Roanoke has two types of "sewer" systems, one for sanitary waste  and one for stormwater.
Sanitary Sewer System receives waste water from kitchens, bathrooms, and other plumbed fixtures. This waste is collected and piped to a sewer treatment plant and cleaned before it is released back into the Roanoke River. 

Storm Sewer System (or storm drains) is designed to quickly drain rainwater off streets, and away from homes and businesses as a flood-control measure. After stormwater is collected by an inlet, the water travels through an underground piping system to an outfall located along a stream bank. This water is discharged directly into our local streams untreated. That means any oil, dirt, pet waste, bacteria, or leaves and grass clippings that were "washed away" during a rainfall event are deposited into the closest stream to your home. See how easily our waters can run into trouble if we don't watch what gets into the storm drain inlet!
Oily Water into Drain
Diagram of a Storm Sewer System
MS4 Pic
The Roanoke River and 11 of the 13 tributaries are currently impaired.
These 12 streams (
1+11) are on the 303(d) list for exceeding safe bacterial (E.coli), sediment, temperature and PCB levels. All surface waters that do not meet water quality standards are placed on a 303(d) impaired water list as mandated under the Clean Water Act. All impaired waters must have a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or "pollution diet"  that establishes the limit of pollutants that a surface water body can receive daily and still meet water quality standards.The primary pollutant for most of the tributaries is bacteria (E. coli) that comes from pet waste, non-functioning septic systems, agriculture, and natural sources, like wildlife.

The Roanoke River Watershed Clean Up Plan or TMDL Implementation plan has been completed. The Stormwater Division will create a TMDL Action Plan outlining how it will meet the TMDL pollution reduction diet and work toward delisting our impaired streams. The Stormwater Utility can't do it alone! Community engagement in this process is vital to successful delisting of our streams. Every person's actions count! Learn more here about stormwater pollution and how you can help!