Stormwater Summit challenges the region with ‘What’s Coming?’

By: Jessica Strachan | Southfield Sun | Published October 2, 2013

SOUTHFIELD — Not everyone has been an environmentalist since the age of 14, like former Ferndale Mayor and Oakland County Commissioner Craig Covey, but he believes each person can do their part in raising the next generation of young environmentalists.

“It’s always been important to me. It makes me happy that we are able to keep trying to protect the environment,” said Covey, treasurer of the nonprofit Pure Oakland Water. “I think there’s nothing more important than handing over to the next generation a place that’s not trashed. I think we should leave the earth a better place than we found it, because none of us own this earth; we just get to exist in it for a little while and it moves on to the next generation.”

So what is in store for the next generation?

That’s exactly the focus of the inaugural Regional Stormwater Summit Oct. 4 at Lawrence Technological University. The event is a collaboration between the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office — which is closely linked with POW — and LTU.

“This summit is all about what’s coming — the future,” Covey explained. “The (Environmental Protection Agency) is releasing new rules for 2014, and it will affect how we all deal with stormwater. The rules are getting stricter. Also, the summit will very much focus on green technology, to see the very latest in green infrastructure and how to make the water we drink from, boat on, fish at and swim in cleaner.”

Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, who also leads POW, will convene the summit. LTU President Virinder Moudgil and civil engineering professor Donald Carpenter will serve as the hosts.

The conference is an educational event for all stakeholders in the community, including local elected officials and staff, industry providers, environmental groups, educators, and students, as well as the general public.

Proceeds from tickets sales will go towards POW’s main efforts, which include youth engagement activities and educating local students through a calendar contest for children, water festivals and other outreach programming that the six-month-old non-profit has already launched.

Collective advocacy in order to protect water resources is not unfamiliar on LTU’s campus. That is largely due to the work of water engineering professor and activist Don Carpenter.

He founded the university’s Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute in 2009, which has a mission to rally students and the community for sustainability and cutting-edge water projects. He’s also one of Michigan’s leading proponents of low-impact development, which is a process for sustainable development and redevelopment that conserves and protects natural resources.

Carpenter emphasizes the importance of collective advocacy to make a greater impact.

“Cumulatively, individual actions play a huge role in affecting water quality in the Great Lakes basin,” he said, adding that even the water running off each person’s driveway has “far-reaching influence.”

LTU is home to several examples of LID best management practices, including a green roof, a bioswale, porous pavers, naturalized areas, cisterns and rain gardens, according to LTU spokesman Eric Pope. These features will be detailed at stops along the stormwater management educational trail.

The summit’s keynote speaker will be Jim Smullen, senior vice president at Camp, Dresser and McKee, who has 30 years of experience in surface water resources engineering with a specialization in stormwater runoff research and planning.

He has served as the project manager for the Philadelphia wet weather and source water protection programs support contract since its inception in 1994, and he also oversaw the development of the “Green City, Clean Water” program — the first long-term combined sewer overflow control plan in the U.S., relying entirely on green stormwater infrastructure.

Other topics that will be explored at the summit include shifting from gray to green infrastructure in the Rouge River Watershed and stormwater utility funding.

The summit will close with a free workshop on climate change in southeastern Michigan, open to the community. “Change in Southeastern Michigan: What’s Coming?” will be a lecture led by Daniel Brown, with the Research Association of Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments. It will run 3-4 p.m. in the main auditorium of the Technology and Learning Center.

There is a $20 registration fee to attend the Stormwater Summit, which includes continental breakfast and lunch. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., and the concluding remarks are scheduled for 3:45 p.m.

For information and to register online, click on the events tab at www.oakgov.com/water.

LTU is located at 21000 W. 10 Mile Road in Southfield. For a campus map or more information about the university, visit www.ltu.edu.