Sustainability Seven: Michael Carmichael, Facilities Management
Michael Carmichael became University of Maryland’s first Stormwater Management and Maintenance Inspector five years ago. He is featured in our “Sustainability Seven” because of his dedication to helping make UMD a more sustainable campus through better stormwater management practices.
1) For those who do not know or are not familiar with the term, what is stormwater management and how does it relate to sustainability?
In general, stormwater management is the control of runoff caused by storm events to prevent flooding and improve the hydrology of a given area. At UMD, we think of mimicking the natural environment within urbanized spaces. That means capturing runoff onsite, allowing for percolation for groundwater recharge, and filtering the water before it leaves our property.
In terms of our campus’ sustainable practices, we now realize that stormwater is actually a resource. I think we all recognize that leaving the tap water running when you're brushing your teeth or when you take long showers is not something we should do; but, when it comes to stormwater, I don't think people really equate the water running down the street as an important water supply. For sustainable practices related to stormwater treatment, recognizing that stormwater is a resource is key.
2) What interested you to pursue a career in stormwater management and maintenance? How did that come about?
I studied landscape architecture here at the University of Maryland. I knew that being in an office all day was not my idea of a fulfilling career, so I was already leaning toward something in project management or other site-specific work. When the opportunity to become UMD’s first ever Coordinator of Stormwater Facilities Maintenance opened up, I jumped at the opportunity. It was a natural choice in some regards since I had worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Earth Conservation Corps. This opportunity just hit all the key points I was looking for: academic setting, working with nature or outdoors, and also elements of design. My title has changed slightly, but the work is still focused on partnering with others on and off campus to maintain our stormwater infrastructure and sustainable practices.
3) What’s the day to day like for a UMD stormwater management and maintenance inspector?
On any given day I collaborate with a team of people within the Arboretum and Botanic Gardens department of Facilities Management-Building and Landscape Maintenance to manage our stormwater infrastructure. That means weeding, planting, invasive removal, grading, attending meetings on stormwater-related issues, giving stormwater talks and tours to students and professionals, sitting on committees that address stormwater management, and ensuring that we are compliant with our stormwater permits. I especially like the work I do with faculty and students, partnering on projects and engaging in the learning and teaching process. This is the benefit of working on a college campus; the interaction with academia. I am also fortunate to be able to attend seminars, lectures and symposiums. I love that I can visit other schools and see how they practice stormwater management.
4) Where can we see stormwater management systems/projects at work on campus?
One of the best examples of a bioretention facility on campus is at University House. Surrounding the property is a series of bioretention cells which collect stormwater from the roof and paved surfaces and allow the water to infiltrate, feeding plants rather than moving off site quickly.
The Peace and Friendship Garden is a beautiful and relaxing place at the west side of campus, just across from UMUC. It features a sand filter, which receives runoff from Lot 1 through a treatment train consisting of a vegetated swale, flow splitter and pretreatment basin. Water runs off the parking area and is captured by the swale, which carries the water to a flow splitter which directs the runoff into the pretreatment basin, then finally to the sand filter where it filters through the profile. In heavy rain, water will continue down the swale to prevent flooding.
With all the construction happening now on campus, we are getting more and more green roofs. The Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center has the first green roof on campus that provides visual access to visitors and another that is a patio space. It is our first intensive roof, meaning that it has a soil profile greater than 6”. While physical access is restricted, it can be seen from within the building.
5) What are a few of your favorite campus projects?
Aside from the spaces I just mentioned, three bioretention cells were installed at the golf course in 2016 to receive runoff from the parking lot. The thing that made this project so great was that it was done with a Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) grant and in collaboration with multiple departments on campus and outside organizations. In addition to the CBT, we partnered with the Anacostia Watershed Society and local high schools to bring a volunteer workforce together for the various planting events. Within the greater campus community groups like FM-Planning, Student Affairs, Office of Sustainability and Building and Landscape Maintenance, all chipped in to take a role in the design and installation of the facilities.
6) What can UMD students, faculty and staff do to help out with stormwater management efforts?
The university has some great resources available to the larger community who are interested in doing their part for stormwater management. The Office of Sustainability has a wonderful website full of information on stormwater related issues: sustainability.umd.edu. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Meg Smolinski, organizes planting, invasive removal and trash pickup events throughout the year, and signup is easy at the arboretum website: arboretum.umd.edu. I do stormwater tours for various classes and visitors to the campus throughout the year as well. If you are interested in seeing some of the ways UMD manages and treats stormwater, you can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look for information on the previously mentioned websites.
7) What do you see in the future for stormwater management and how does that relate to the university?
The field of stormwater management is growing, thanks largely to the need to control stormwater runoff while also accounting for greater density in our urban and suburban environments. Regulatory requirements become more demanding in response to these conditions, and as we see weather events in places like Houston, New York, the whole state of Florida, or even Ellicott City, change the conversation about development, we must be aware of the impact of greater impervious cover on what was once bayou, marsh and estuary. It’s not enough to remove water quickly from our city streets. We have to look at designing with nature to account for greater density and climatic change. With that in mind, we should also realize that water is very much a resource to us all. Clean water is not only important for aquatic habitat. It also means potable water, safe and inviting recreational spaces, edible fish, and the thriving economies these things provide. This is why stormwater management is a growing industry. Regardless of what any one administration sees as our path forward, we collectively bear the responsibility for ensuring our environment can support and sustain us. Stormwater management is but one important piece of the environmental cause.