What is stormwater?
Stormwater is rainwater, snowmelt, or even water from a garden hose or car wash that runs off of a surface (like driveways, parking lots, or rooftops) and goes into a gutter, ditch, or roadside drain, and ultimately into the storm drain system. In our area, stormwater does not go to a treatment plant, so any pollutants carried in the stormwater are discharged into waterways and the environment.

Do sanitary sewer systems and stormwater systems flow through the same pipes?
No. Sanitary sewer systems flow to a treatment plant, whereas stormwater systems flow directly into the creeks, rivers, and lakes without the benefit of treatment.  Watch H2O Jo Takes a Trip Down the Storm Drain to learn more.

Can paint, solvents, and used motor oil be safely disposed of into a stormwater system?

No. Only rainwater should be entering the stormwater system. Anything else could be considered an illicit discharge and a violation of local, state, and federal laws. Tri-County Health Department provides information on how to dispose of Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW) in your community.

Are grass clippings, garden trimmings, and fallen leaves a source of water pollution?

Yes. These items generally contain a high percentage of fertilizers and chemicals, which impacts the quality of water. Organic materials such as grass clippings deplete the oxygen level in the water, which is harmful to aquatic life.  Yard waste can clog the storm drain system and cause flooding of neighborhood streets. Sweeping yard waste into the street or storm inlet could be considered an illicit discharge and a violation of local, state, and federal laws.

Do storm drain inlets remove pollutants?

No. Storm drain inlets, the metal grate and/or curb opening that allow surface water to enter the storm water drainage system, are connected directly to storm pipes that flow straight into our creeks, rivers, and lakes.

How can I help reduce stormwater pollution in my area?

Participate in the next creek cleanup in your area. Storm drain stenciling events – where the destination of storm water is clearly marked on the drain – are a fun way to let your neighbors know the storm drain is only for rain. Attend public hearings or meetings on the topic so you can express your concerns. Report stormwater violations when you spot them to your local government. Keep learning about polluted stormwater runoff and tell a friend!

If you have a question that is not answered here, please e-mail us and we will get back to you promptly.