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The Healthy Waters Program is an outreach program within the Stormwater Division of the City of Oak Ridge Public Works Department. The program aims to educate the community on how to enhance the quality of our local waterways, address water quality issues in our city and enrich natural habitat in our urban area.

Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

City of Oak Ridge Central Services Complex
100 Woodbury Lane
Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Get directions

Phone: (865) 425-1875
Fax: (865) 425-1843


What are Best Management Practices?

Best Management Practices, or BMPs, are techniques used to help mitigate water quality. There are many different types of BMPs, geared toward both residential and commercial applications.

Silt fences and storm drain filters are two forms of inlet protection used to control the amount of sediment pollution that enters the storm drains. Constructions sites are often required by municipal ordinances to provide some type of inlet protection during construction.

Stormwater runoff quantity is controlled by using water storage techniques on site. Under or above ground water containment systems like cisterns can be implemented to satisfy the water quantity control regulations put in place by the stormwater ordinance.

Rain barrels are useful for collecting rainwater from the roof and prevent stormwater from accumulating in unwanted areas of the property like in the driveway or a low spot in the lawn. The collected rainwater can be used for irrigation in gardens and landscaping, as well as to wash cars and other tasks that use non-potable water. The best part is that they are easy to make on your own! Rain chains can also be paired with rain barrels as a decorative way to slow stormwater runoff.

 Rain gardens are a good alternative to the typical non-edible garden because they are designed to collect, hold, and filter stormwater.  Native plants and shrubs make for a beautiful landscape that helps water quality and quantity!

Permeable, in this case, means that water can infiltrate the surface.

Permeable paverspea gravel, and pervious pavement installations are great ways to help increase infiltration into ground water, and help control pollution, flooding, and pooling. Impermeable surfaces block the infiltration of stormwater and encourage flooding and pollution to the waterways. We often see impermeable surfaces in the form of sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots.

Other installation options to increase infiltration of stormwater

  • Green Roofs not only reduce the negative effects of stormwater by absorbing and slowing runoff, but they also lower the SRI (Solar Reflectance Index). SRI is defined as “a measure of the roof’s ability to reject solar heat, as shown by a small temperature rise” [1]. Having a low SRI can help lower energy bills in warmer weather because the roof will absorb less heat from the sun. Green roofs also act as a good insulators, which will help keep heat inside the building’s envelope during cooler months.

  • Infiltration Trenches and Bioswales are good options in place of concrete swales because they increase infiltration of stormwater runoff, effectively filtering and slowing runoff before it enters a nearby waterways.


Implementing Best Management Practices at home:

  • When your car needs a wash, either take it to a commercial car wash (wastewater is directed to the sanitary sewer system), or wash your car on your lawn! By doing this, you can prevent pollutants such as oil, soap/chemicals, and debris from entering the storm drain, because the grass works as a filter as wastewater infiltrates.

  • When washing out paint brushes or dumping out dirty mop water, do so in your sink so that the wastewater is directed to the sanitary sewer. Another option is to dump the water and wash the brushes in a grassy area, but not down the gutter or storm drain! Remember, all storm drains lead to the streams, and if the brushes are too dirty for your sink, they are definitely too dirty for the natural waterways! If you need to dispose of oil-based paint, contact Anderson County Solid Waste at (865) 463-6845 for information on how to do so.

  • Collect your grass clippings after mowing the lawn. When clippings are allowed to flow into the storm drain, they eventually get to the streams and can negatively affect the ecosystems of those streams by increasing algae growth which can cause aquatic life to suffer. Same goes for fallen leaves!


Best Management Practice Guides:

These Best Management Practices (BMP) guides were designed to help business owners in Oak Ridge protect stormwater quality, and avoid illicit discharges and fines. Please click on the links below to find our more information.

NPDES MS4 Program

In addition to the ongoing Stormwater Management programs, other stormwater programs will be added in the future in response to the recent EPA regulations.  Pursuant to the Clean Water Act, EPA has developed a number of water quality regulations.  Among them is a system that permits discharges to waters of the United States.  This system, known as the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), has historically regulated point source discharges such as Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP), or industrial processes.  The City currently maintains an NPDES permit for its WWTP.  New regulations now require some cities to obtain NPDES permits for stormwater discharges.

The Stormwater NPDES program has been implemented in two phases.  Phase I was designed for medium and large Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) and industry, and Phase II is designed to focus on stormwater discharges from small MS4s.  Locally, the DOE facilities fell under the Phase I requirements and currently maintain a single NPDES permit which includes stormwater discharges.

Operators of MS4s include municipalities, local sewer districts, state and federal departments of transportation, universities, hospitals, military bases and correctional facilities.  Medium and large MS4s are defined as systems that serve, or are located in an incorporated place or county with a population greater than 100,000.  Small MS4s are any MS4 that is not covered by the existing Phase I of the NPDES Stormwater Program as a medium or larger MS4.

Phase I, promulgated on November 16, 1990, required large, medium, and specific other MS4s to obtain NPDES stormwater discharge permits.  The Phase II Final Rule was signed by the EPA Administrator on October 29, 1999 and published in the Federal Register on December 8, 1999:  The Phase II Final Rule requires Regulated Small MS4s to obtain NPDES stormwater discharge permits.

Phase II MS4 Designation

The NPDES Stormwater Phase II Final Rule covers a small subset of small MS4s called regulated small MS4s.  A small MS4 is designated as a regulated small MS4 in one of three ways:

  1. Automatic Nationwide Designation – An MS4 is automatically designated if it is located within the boundaries of an urbanized area (UA) as determined by he Bureau of the Census based on data from the current census.

  2. Potential Designation by the NPDES as a result of Meeting Specific Criteria – The Phase II Rule requires the NPDES permitting authority to establish and apply a set of criteria to MS4s outside of a UA, located in an area with a population of at least 10,000 and a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile.

  3. Physically Interconnected – Any small MS4 located outside of a UA that contributes a large amount of pollutants to a physically interconnected MS4, which is already permitted by the NPDES stormwater program, must be designated.

  4. Potential Designation After Evaluation by the NPDES – Additional MS4s may be designated as regulated small MS4s if the NPDES permitting authority determines that stormwater discharges into a local water body cause, or have the potential to cause water quality problems.


Phase II MS4 Program Requirements

The Phase II rule will required development of programs in support of six minimum control measures.  Each Regulated Small MS4 will be required to develop a Stormwater Management plan that incorporates all of the six minimum control measures.  The six minimum control measures are listed below.

1.  Public Education and Outreach – The EPA recommends this control be focused on three areas.

a.  The encourage MS4s to form partnerships with other governmental and non-governmental entities to establish more cost-effective regional or statewide programs.

b.  Educational material and strategies should be relevant to local issues.  Existing materials from governmental, public interest, or trade organizations may be used for this purpose.,

c.  The education program should be applicable and available to all communities, including industrial and commercial entities that may likely have considerable stormwater impacts.

2.  Public Participation and Involvement – The involvement and participation of the public in the stormwater management program broadens public support and provides economic and intellectual resources otherwise unavailable.  The purpose of public involvement and participation is to involve a diverse group of participants incorporating various ideas and concerns.

3.  Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination – Illicit discharges can contribute significant levels of pollutants to the storm sewer system.  Untreated discharges containing heavy metals, oil and grease, bacteria, viruses, toxic materials, and other constituents can bear serious consequences on receiving waters, wildlife, and human health.  The purpose of this control is to eliminate discharges to the stormwater system.

4.  Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control – Construction sites can contribute a considerable amount of pollutants to stormwater without appropriate runoff control measures.  Sediment runoff is generally the primary concern.  Sort-term sediment runoff from a construction site can be equivalent to decades of sediment runoff in natural conditions.  In addition, other pollutants such as oil and grease, pesticides, construction chemicals, construction debris and various other construction-related pollutants, can contribute detrimentally to the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of aquatic habitats.  This control requires the implementation of a program to reduce impacts to stormwater from construction activities.

5.  Permanent (Post-Construction) Stormwater Management in New Development and Redevelopment – The intent of post-construction runoff control is to address two major impacts associated with new development or redevelopment.  The first issue is the increased quantity of stormwater runoff due to a greater impervious area.  The impervious areas prevent the percolation of water through soil and vegetation, increasing the volume channeled to the storm sewer system producing higher and faster peak flows.  The second major impact is an increase in the type and quantity of pollutants in stormwater runoff.  Pollutants such as oil and grease, nutrients, chemicals, heavy metals, and pesticides often become suspended in runoff and are carried to receiving waters such as creeks, rivers, and lakes.  The Phase II rule; therefore, requires the implementation and enforcement of a program to reduce these impacts.

6.  Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping – The purpose of this control is to address potential water quality issues associated with municipal operations such as fleet management, materials storage or operations such as landfill management or wastewater treatment.


How will the NPDES Program affect Oak Ridge?

The City of Oak Ridge has been officially designated as a Regulated Small MS4 and is committed to effective Stormwater Management.  The following are options being developed or considered in our current Stormwater Management Program:

1.  Public Involvement and Education –  (this web site is an example)
2.  Regulation Update – Oak Ridge will evaluate an update to current regulations and/or through an ordinance or other regulatory mechanism to address requirements in the Phase II MS4 program.
3.  Emphasize the need to consider potential water quality impacts.
4.  Have standard procedures for site inspection and enforcement of control measures
5.  Establish procedures for enforcement of control measures.
6.  Develop and implement strategies, which include a combination of structural and/or non-structural Best Management Practices.
7.  Ensure our municipal operations are managing stormwater quality properly.


If you have information about pollution being spilled, dumped or discharged into the storm drainage system, which includes storm drains, ditches, swales, creeks, lakes, ponds, streets, or directly into a waterway, please call (865) 425-1875 or email


When contacting us, leave as much information as possible:

  • Date of Incident

  • Time of Incident

  • Location*

  • Source & Type of Pollution (if known)

  • Responsible Party (if known)

  • Your Contact Info* *

  • Photos of the event would also be helpful if available.

*We cannot take reports for violations that occur outside the City limits.
**It is helpful to have your contact information in case we need to get more information or follow up with you about the report.  We understand confidentiality and will handle your information in that manner.

 Examples of what you can report:

  • Foam, bubbles, or a milky appearance in a ditch or waterway

  • A strange odor coming from a storm drain

  • Spilled or dumped auto fluids (motor oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, etc) or chemicals (paint, cleaners, etc) on the street or into a storm drain

  • Wastewater piped to a creek or ditch (i.e. from a washing machine, floor drain)

  • Washing equipment outdoors using chemicals

  • Sediment flowing off a construction site.

Adopt-A-Stream Program

Mission and Goals

The Adopt-A-Stream program serves to enhance the quality of our local waterways through citizen action and education. The program aims to reduce the amount of trash in and along our waterways, increase citizen awareness of water quality issues, and train citizens on how to monitor stream health.

Any organization, company, or group can volunteer to adopt a creek or section of a stream in which they will conduct at least two stream clean-ups per year. The participants will pick up and remove litter in and around the creek at least once every six months. During the clean-ups, volunteers will fill trash bags with litter and place them on the shoulder of a nearby roadway for the City crews to remove the following day. Additionally, participants will perform a visual stream assessment at each stream clean-up. The first year (two clean-ups) is a trial period, after which the participants may choose to officially adopt the stream segment, receiving recognition for their work in the form of t-shirts, a certificate of appreciation, and a sign, contingent upon the group continuing to conduct at least two cleanups per year, with additional add-on activities possible. 

How does the City support Adopt-A-Stream participants?

The City of Oak Ridge will provide safety and stream assessment training for each volunteer group’s Coordinator and Co-Coordinator. The City will also provide trash bags, gloves, safety vests, and warning signs for the groups to use during each clean-up event.

How are participants recognized?

Participation allows the organizations to publicly demonstrate their concern and dedication to clean, healthy water. Upon completion of the first year of commitment, the City will present participants with a Certificate of Appreciation. If the participants choose to officially adopt their stream, this dedication could also be recognized with an official Adopt-A-Stream sign highlighting the organization’s name. The sign will be erected on the roadside next to the stream after the second stream clean-up if your organization is committed to continuing cleanups at that site. Participants in the clean-ups can also receive a t-shit in recognition of their efforts.

Educational Opportunities

Mission and Goals:

The Watershed Lessons Program is dedicated to inspiring kids and adults to become lifelong learners and watershed stewards in Oak Ridge. In the process, students acquire knowledge and skills, build relationships, solve problems, overcome obstacles, make decisions, and take action. There is no age limit or barriers to lifelong learning. 

Its goals are to:

  • Make watershed learning fun by using lessons that are relevant to everyday life

  • Engage students in meaningful projects that can truly make a difference in their community

  • Build bridges between organizations and their community 


Program Features:

Watershed Lessons and Activities: The program incorporates watershed lessons that are tailored to suit the specific audience. Each lesson is unique and consists of a short presentation followed by a fun, hands-on activity. Some of the topics include: introduction to your watershed, stream health, how to identify bugs in streams, best management practices for homeowners, how land use affects the ecosystem, stream chemistry, pollution, mapping, and of course – stormwater!   Each lesson lasts approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can sign up for as many or as few lessons that fit your organization or school. 

Multi- and Interdisciplinary Approach:   In the past, we have taught at schools, but we are opening the doors to encourage anyone from any organization to become watershed stewards. Groups that we have worked with in the past include: the Girl Scouts of America, Girls Inc., LEGO League and Oak Ridge High School. Of course, teachers will always be highly encouraged to use our program, and teachers of multiple disciplines — biology, chemistry, ecology, social studies, and history, to name a few – independently or jointly can use these lessons. Watersheds know no boundaries between disciplines and organizations. 

Hands-On Curricula:   Curricula are created from the national Adopt-A-Watershed program, Project WET, Project Wild and the TVA Water Quality Monitoring Network.  Their implementation provides valuable baseline knowledge and skills.

Community Projects: In addition, there are optional community projects for your group to participate in like stream clean-ups, tree plantings, invasive plant removals, or brainstorm your own project and we will help you achieve your vision!

Construction Subcontractor On-Site Sediment & Erosion Control Training

This complimentary service is being provided by the City of Oak Ridge Healthy Waters Program to assist contractors and subcontractors in complying with Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control regulations. To schedule a training event, please contact us here

Target Audience: 

Subcontractors (e.g. excavators, painters, carpenters, landscapers, sheetrockers, electricians, plumbers, stone/brick masons, roofers) who do not correctly install and maintain sediment and erosion controls. 

Underlying Premise: 

Silt fences and inlet protectors are often damaged by subcontractors who are not fully aware of their function by running over them with their vehicles or dismantling them. This releases the sediment and water build-up behind them. Tracking dirt off-site often goes unnoticed due to a lack of awareness of erosion prevention and sediment control (EP & SC) practices. 


To minimize damage to EP & SC practices by subcontractors and involve them in reporting any observed on-site sediment and erosion control issues to management.

Primary Messages Conveyed: 

  • Purpose of sediment and erosion control practices

  • Compliance mandate by the state and local regulations that extend to subcontractors

  • Supervisor to notify if EP & SC practices are in need of repair or replacement


  1. Under developer/contractor’s supervision, work with site manager to schedule sessions

  2. Provide site manager with template flyers and other resources for advertising

  3. Set up in covered area if available (e.g. garage of partially finished house) 

    • Registration table (Sign-in for documentation of participation and introduction to session)

    • Food tables (typically donut, coffee and juice)

    • Educational materials:

      • Four educational posters displayed on easels

      • Display of erosion supply products

  4. Conduct sessions (15-20 minutes per group of 30)

    • Sign in and get coffee/donuts

    • Attendees move through educational boards – self-paced, bilingual and primarily pictorial

    • Educators gather small groups to talk about importance of EP & SC and answer questions 

    • Closing – Attendees are handed oil rag and asked a follow-up question like “of the practices that you just learned, which do they most often see in noncompliance?”

    • Optional – Developer/contractor may want as a component of the “closing” to distribute small cards identify who to call regarding any EP & SC problems

  5. Place signs on silt fences and inlet protectors that remind subcontractors of their functions

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