The majority of people now live in cities. These urban environments are characterized by suburbs that contain many acres of hard surfaces. Natural vegetation such as forests and fields slow rainwater down, allowing it to soak into the surface. In contrast, streets, roofs, parking lots and manicured lawns, all provide hard, impervious, surfaces that prohibit rain from soaking into the ground. Since the excess rain water can not soak into the ground, it accumulates and rushes into storm sewers and waterways.
There is a common misconception that water traveling into storm sewers ends up treated at the local wastewater treatment plant. Because of this misunderstanding, many citizens use storm drains and ditches as places to dispose of all kinds of pollutants . Thus, storm drains carry large amount of pollution away from urbanized areas mixed with the excess storm water.
Street litter, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, pet and yard waste, motor oil, anti-freeze, household hazardous wastes, and paint are just a few of the pollutants that find their way into storm drains. This water travels from storm drains into local streams, ponds, and lakes, and ultimately into local streams and rivers.
Because storm drains can be a major source of pollution to our waterways, it is important to keep polluting materials out of them.
Following is an overview of the problem, and some suggestions on how you can help keep storm drains clean.
Household Hazardous Waste
Pollution: Many household products we use daily contain toxic materials that can threaten public health and the environment. Drain and oven cleaners, paint thinners, and bathroom cleaners are just a few of the items we use that can cause serious health and environmental problems.
Dispose of all unused household hazardous wastes at your local disposal site.
Use natural alternatives.
Pollution: Fertilizers contain large amounts of chemicals that are good for lawns and plants when used properly. The main chemicals contained in fertilizers are nitrogen and phosphorus. These two chemicals can cause accelerated growth of aquatic plants in leading to oxygen depletion and large fish kills.
If you spill fertilizers, sweep them up, do not wash them into the streets and storm drains.
Never apply fertilizers before a heavy rain is anticipated.
Do not over apply fertilizers. More application does not mean a greener lawn, it means more
watering and mowing. Testing soil.
Pesticides and Herbicides
Pollution: Pesticides and herbicides contain toxic materials that pose both environmental and human health risks. Humans, animals, aquatic organisms, and plants can be severely threatened by these chemicals. The toxins found in pesticides and herbicides can runoff lawns and gardens into storm drains and streams whenever it rains.
Minimize the use of pesticides and herbicides and use alternatives if possible.
Make sure that all directions and warnings are read before use.
Pollution: When improperly used, paint can poison people and animals. Lead is an especially harmful content of some paints.
Donate your old paint to community groups.
Dispose of oil-based and lead paints at your local household hazardous waste collection site
Pollution: Anti-freeze can seriously deplete oxygen from water, and can be harmful to all plant and animal life, including humans.
Recycle your used anti-freeze.
Do not mix used anti-freeze with any other material.
Pollution: Motor oil can damage or even kill aquatic vegetation and animal life. An oil slick - contaminating two million gallons of drinking water - can develop from one quart of oil.
Recycle your used motor oil.
Never pour used motor oil down a storm drain or onto your grass or driveway.
Street Litter and Plastic
Pollution: Large quantities of street litter ends up floating in streams, rivers and lakes. Street litter is often made of plastics. Plastics take hundreds of years to biodegrade and can be harmful to birds and animals who mistake them for food.
Put litter into garbage cans, never throw it into storm drains or the street.
Recycle as much plastic and other materials as possible.
Pollution: Yard waste can clog storm drains making it difficult to carry away excessive amounts of water during storms.
Remove soil, leaves, and grass clippings form your driveway, street, or sidewalk.
Compost grass clippings and other plant waste.
Pollution: If left on yards, pet waste can release untreated bacteria and other harmful materials into streams.
Bury or flush pet wastes down the drain.