Stormwater Pollution

Stormwater can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants, which flows directly into our streams, rivers, and lakes. So, any pollution that enters a stormwater system is discharged untreated into the waters we use fishing, swimming, and drinking water.

Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.

Affects on Aquatic Habitats

  • Sediment can cloud the water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow and thrive. Sediment also can destroy aquatic habitats.
  • Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms. When algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms can't exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels.
  • Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, often making beach closures necessary.
  • Debris - plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts - washed into water bodies can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds.
  • Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.

Ways You Can Help Prevent Stormwater Pollution

Vehicle & Garage

  • Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on a lawn or other unpaved surface to minimize the amount of dirty, soapy water lowing into the storm drain and eventually into your local water body.
  • Check your car, boat, motorcycle, and other machinery and equipment for leaks and spills. Make repairs as soon as possible. Clean up spilled fluids with an absorbent material like kitty litter or sand, and don't rinse the spills into a nearby storm drain. Remember to properly dispose of the absorbent material.
  • Recycle used oil and other automotive fluids at participating service stations. Don't dump these chemicals down the storm drain or dispose of them in your trash.

Lawn & Garden

  • Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. When use is necessary, use these chemicals in the recommended amounts. Avoid application if the forecast calls for rain; otherwise, chemicals will be washed into your local stream.
  • Select native plants and grasses that are drought- and pest resistant. Native plants require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
  • Sweep up yard debris, rather than hosing down areas. Compost or recycle yard waste when possible.
  • Don't over water your lawn. Water during the cool times of the day, and don't let water run off into the storm drain.
  • Cover piles of dirt and mulch being used in landscaping projects to prevent these pollutants from blowing or washing off your yard and into local water bodies. Vegetate bare spots in your yard to prevent soil erosion.

Home Repair & Improvement

  • Before beginning an outdoor project, locate the nearest storm drains and protect them from debris and other materials.
  • Sweep up and properly dispose of construction debris such as concrete and mortar.
  • Reduce the amount of paved area and increase the amount of vegetated area in your yard. Use native plants in your landscaping to reduce the need for watering during dry periods. Consider directing downspouts away from paved surfaces onto lawns and other measures to increase infiltration and reduce polluted runoff.

Pet Care

  • When walking your pet, remember to pick up the waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method. Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local water bodies.

Swimming Pool & Spa

  • Drain your swimming pool only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels.
  • Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system.
  • Properly store pool and spa chemicals to prevent leaks and spills, preferably in a covered area to avoid exposure to stormwater.

Septic System Use & Maintenance

  • Flush responsibly. Flushing household chemicals like paint, pesticides, oil, and antifreeze can destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system. Other items, such as diapers, paper towels, and cat litter, can clog the septic system and potentially damage components.
  • If you have a septic system - have it inspected by a professional every 3 years and have the septic pumped as necessary (usually every 3 to 5 years)
  • Care for the septic system drain field by not driving or parking vehicles on it. Plant only grass over and near the drain field to avoid damage from roots.

Household Hazardous Waste

  • Use hazardous substances like paints, solvents, and cleaners in the smallest amounts possible, and follow the directions on the label. Clean up spills immediately.
  • Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled, and recyclable products whenever possible.
  • Clean paint brushes in a sink, not outdoors. Filter and reuse paint thinner when using oil-based paints. Properly dispose of excess paints through a household hazardous waste collection program, or donate unused paint to local organizations.