Keeping Our Water Clean

 UNDERSTANDING STORMWATER POLLUTIONstormwater pic for web

Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground. It flows from rooftops, over paved areas, bare soil, and sloped lawns. Stormwater collects and transports animal waste, litter, salt, pesticides, fertilizers, oil & grease, soil and other potential pollutants which end up in our streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands and other waterways.

Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen can cause the overgrowth of algae resulting in oxygen depletion in waterways. Toxic substances from motor vehicles and careless application of pesticides and fertilizers threaten water quality and can kill fish and other aquatic life. Bacteria from animal wastes and improper connections to storm sewer systems can make lakes and waterways unsafe for wading, swimming and fish consumption.

A sanitary sewer system and a storm sewer system are not the same. Water that goes down a sink or other inside drain flows to either a wastewater treatment plant or to a septic system for treatment. Water that flows through stormwater systems are not treated.

It is not just rain or snow that can cause pollutants to flow into our waterways. For example, when you wash your car on the driveway, that water, dirt, and grime ends up in the system. That’s why we need to be careful with what we put into the storm sewers.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT STORMWATER POLLUTION

  1. Only rain belongs in the drain!  Do not dump anything down storm drains. Be sure to clear away leaves and debris.
  2. Wash your car over your lawn or gravel.  This allows the ground to neutralize the soap and grime from your car rather than sending it directly to our creeks and streams. Use biodegradable or non-toxic soap that is phosphate-free. You can also take your car to a commercial car wash where wastewater is either recycled or treated.
  3. Keep your car well-maintained. Fix any fluid leaks promptly and make sure to clean up any spills. If you perform your own automotive maintenance, automotive repair shops will accept 5 gallons of used motor oil per resident per day.
  4. Disconnect your downspouts. You can plant a rain garden to absorb stormwater runoff. You can also use a rain barrel to help collect runoff from your roof and gutters to be used on your lawn and garden.
  5. Use lawn or garden chemicals sparingly. Choose organic alternatives when possible or those with low nitrogen and phosphorus numbers and check the weather forecast to avoid applying them before a storm.
  6. Mow your lawn less often. Try to keep your lawn at least 3″ in height to minimize weed growth, reduce the need for watering, and decrease the likelihood of pests. Leaving the clippings on the lawn can also help block weeds and retain moisture. Sweep your sidewalks and driveway rather than hosing them down.
  7. Plant native, low maintenance plants and grasses. They often have longer root systems, which reduce the amount of chemicals and water needed.
  8. Pick up your pet waste. Bacteria, parasites and viruses contained in pet waste are a health risk to other animals and people, especially children.
  9. Do not over-water your lawn and garden.  Keep sprinklers on a timer to avoid pooling water.
  10. Use less ice-melt. Do not over-apply salt. Choose a more environmentally-friendly alternative when possible.
  11. Choose paving materials that allow water to soak through. Use bricks, gravel, cobbles, natural stone, or permeable pavers instead of asphalt or concrete when possible.
  12. Do not drain your pool, spa, or fountain into a storm drain.  Allow chlorine to dissipate for several days. Test the water to ensure the residual chlorine is zero before slowly draining to a landscaped area. You may be able to drain to a sanitary sewer. Contact your local municipality for more information.
  13. Keep your septic system well-maintained to prevent leaks. A leaking septic system can leach harmful bacteria into storm sewer systems and local waterways.
  14. Walk, bike, or share a ride when possible. Driving causes air pollution which contaminates the rain and ends up in our streams and lakes.
  15. Install a rain barrel or cistern to capture roof runoff. This helps prevent stormwater from reaching waterways and reduces the potential for pollution.  Use the captured water on your lawn or garden.  Keep the barrel emptied to not attract mosquitoes. Check with your local municipality to install properly.

Important links:

Stormwater PA

Recycling used motor oil, household chemicals, etc.

EPA – Do’s and Don’ts Around Your Home

Landscaping with Native Plants