Water is an essential component of all life. It’s used to hydrate the bodies of animals and humans, acts as a source of energy and is an essential part of the ecosystem for plants and wildlife.

Water is an essential component of all life. It’s used to hydrate the bodies of animals and humans, acts as a source of energy and is an essential part of the ecosystem for plants and wildlife.
Everyday water is threatened by seemly innocent acts that can cause its pollution, whether it’s a family washing their car, sprinklers watering lawns or a construction project on a new apartment complex. The soap used to wash cars, fertilizer sprinkled on the grass to help it grow and dirt/clay dug up for building sites all become potential water pollutants.
To protect this life-sustaining element from contaminants, Fort Polk’s Environmental Natural Resources Management Division’s storm water team inspects, educates and helps to prevent storm water pollution.
According to Bridget Goldsmith, storm water technician, ENRMD, Fort Polk’s storm water runoff is transported through municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4s), which flows directly into local creeks without being treated.
“Everything that runs off the streets, parking lots and drive ways goes directly into the environment,” Goldsmith said. “What we take for granted is that storm water is a natural resource. It’s what recharges your ground water, drinking aquifers and surface waters. So when you take a natural resource and you pollute it overtly, think about all the things it will impact.”
To prevent harmful pollutants from contaminating these MS4s, Fort Polk received an MS4 permit under Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Fort Polk also has a multi-sector general permit, which covers storm water release on all industrial facilities.
Under the MS4 permit, Fort Polk is required to develop and implement a storm water management plan, targeting six minimum control measures including; public education and involvement, illicit discharge detection and elimination, construction site storm water run-off control, new development/redevelopment of post construction storm water management and pollution prevention. 
For the storm water team, most of their work is performed when it’s not raining. One of the duties storm water technicians perform is illicit discharge detection and elimination. Under MS4, storm water technicians perform dry weather monitoring at 21 pre-selected points across the installation to detect potential illicit discharges such as sewer leaks and potential storm drain dumping sites. To help them with this task, the team utilizes computer software called GIL ware.
“This software is unique in that it maps out streets, sewers, manholes and streams,” said Randy Jopling, storm water technician. “If we find a problem, like an oil slick or sewer leak, we can pinpoint where it could be coming from and where it possibly can go to.”
The team had an incident recently where the GIL ware helped them locate a sewer leak. While walking the Warrior Community Center Golf Course one evening, William Matlock, another member of the storm water team, unexpectedly found an illicit discharge area.
“When he was walking across a bridge, he caught a whiff of what was obviously raw sewage,” Jopling said. “We came back the next morning and the water under the bridge was completely gray with no sign of aquatic life. We grabbed samples and the water tested positive for E. coli and ammonia.”
Jopling and Matlock used the GIL ware software to locate the possible source of sewage by viewing sewer lines near the stream.
“We looked on the GIL ware and followed where the stream flowed,” Jopling said. “We could never get to the exact spot because the woods were too thick, but we knew where the water was clean above and dirty below, so we contacted the correct authorities to fix matter.”
Fred Hartzell, storm water manager, said it’s that type of teamwork that makes protecting Fort Polk’s water easier.
“It takes the entire team and each one of our members are very enthusiastic about their job,” Hartzell said. “They all interlock, but each team member has their own niche that allows them to bounce of one another to ultimately get the job done.”
To report an illicit discharge, call the storm water hotline at 531-9626. For more information about the storm water program, contact Fred Hartzell, storm water manager at 531-1962.