Have you ever wondered what happens to the water and snow melt, and where it goes after a storm?
In general, it flows into the gutter along the side of the road and eventually winds up in a river or stream, not in the sewer as you might expect. This stormwater also does not get treated and anything that is collected along the way remains in the environment.
How it impacts us and why we should be concerned.
As stormwater travels over impervious surfaces, it collects and accumulates instead of draining into the ground. These impervious surfaces include the familiar paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops. In many cases it contributes to flooding, such as in a heavy storm or in cases where the storm drain system is unable to handle the higher capacity of water flow. Flooding can also occur as it travels and picks up debris along the way causing blockage in the storm drains.
In addition to debris, stormwater can also pick up chemicals from your home, sediment from construction and a variety of other pollutants. These ultimately end up in the rivers, streams, lakes and in some cases, directly to our oceans. Pollutants carried by the stormwater will affect the water quality of the receiving waters, causing it to no longer be fishable or swimable. No one wants to swim in or eat fish from polluted waters. The pollutants may even kill birds, fish, and other aquatic organisms.
See if you can find the duck in the picture with the garbage.
Pollutants can come from your home and work environment.
At home, pollutants such as fertilizers, pet waste and leaves may find their way into the storm drain. Other things that we may not have considered, de-icing materials such as sand, salts and chemicals also create an impact. Likewise, high phosphate soaps and detergents or other cleaning compounds, oil and antifreeze from spills or leaking cars.
At work, pollutants can come from the improper storage of chemicals, dirt from construction or land disturbance activities, improper disposal of shop waste, such as towels, spill containment cleanup debris and trash.
What we can do.
We can all play part to protect the storm drains through simple actions in our day to day activities and prevent the pollution of our river and streams by following these simple guidelines.
- Pick up litter.
- Put trash and recyclables in the appropriate containers.
- Properly dispose household waste at your local landfill.
- Repair leaking motor vehicles, use absorbent materials to clean up all spills and leaks.
- Recycle used motor oil and antifreeze.
- Clean vehicle at the car wash instead of the driveway or street.
- Use fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides sparingly and prevent from washing in the storm drain.
- Compost and/or mulch yard waste. Sweep up lawn clippings.
- Direct water flow from rain gutters and downspouts away from impervious surfaces.
Let’s take responsibility and do our part for the environment to ensure that we and future generations can enjoy our beautiful oceans and waterways.