How Clean is Your Stormwater?
Posted: January 11, 2012
With all of the rain that we have had over the last several months, many homeowners have had to deal with an excess of stormwater. How clean is that stormwater that runs off of your property or off of your neighbors? Stormwater pollution is one of the leading causes of water pollution nationally. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground and causes excess stormwater runoff. Stormwater can become polluted when it runs off streets, lawns, farms, and industrial sites if there are fertilizers, dirt, pesticides, oil and grease, or other pollutants and then flows into a stormdrain or directly into a body of water. Storm drains found along curbs do not go to wastewater treatment plants. These drains lead directly to the nearest body of water and carry all that stormwater picks up along the way.
According to the US EPA, to decrease polluted runoff from paved surfaces, homeowners can develop alternatives to areas traditionally covered by impervious surfaces. Porous pavement materials are available for driveways and sidewalks, and native vegetation and mulch can replace high maintenance grass lawns. 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. You can collect rainwater from rooftops in mosquito proof rain barrels. The water can be used later on lawn or garden areas.
Homeowners can use fertilizers sparingly and sweep driveways, sidewalks, and roads instead of using a hose. Instead of disposing of yard waste, they can use the materials to start a compost pile. Also, homeowners can learn to use Integrated Pest Management to reduce pesticide use. In addition, homeowners can prevent polluted runoff by picking up after pets and using, storing, and disposing of chemicals properly.
Drivers should check their cars for leaks and recycle their motor oil and antifreeze when these fluids are changed. Drivers can also avoid impacts from car wash runoff such as detergents and grime by using car wash facilities that do not generate runoff. Households served by septic systems should have them professionally inspected.
Before beginning an outdoor project, homeowners should locate the nearest storm drains and protect them from debris and other materials. You should sweep up and properly dispose of construction debris such as concrete and mortar. Use hazardous substances like paints, solvents, and cleaners in the smallest amounts possible, and follow the directions on the label. Clean up spills immediately, and dispose of the waste safely. Clean paint brushes in a sink, not outdoors.An excellent source for more information is the National Home*A*Syst Program publication “Stormwater Management for Homeowners” which is available for free on line from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at: http://www.soil.ncsu.edu/assist/homeassist/stormwaterHAS.pdf
This publication provides a checklist and series of questions that help homeowners identify sources of stormwater pollutions on their property and steps to take to reduce potential problems.
Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals and people. Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs. By changing our habits and how we manage our properties, we can reduce both the volume of stormwater runoff and the amount of pollutants in that water.