By Carol Roberts, DHEC Watershed Manager
Did you know that stormwater drains flow directly to our rivers, lakes, streams and ocean with little or no treatment? You might assume that any trash, pollutants or debris that washes into a storm drain gets sent to a water treatment plant and cleaned up, but it all goes right into water bodies where people swim, fish and recreate.
That’s why keeping storm drains pollution free is an important part of keeping our communities clean and healthy.
What is stormwater?
Stormwater runoff occurs when rain flows over the ground and flows into storm drains or nearby creeks, rivers and ponds. In natural, grassy areas, rain can usually soak into the ground and eventually back into the water table underground. This provides a natural filtering process. But if rain falls in heavy amounts or over impervious surfaces ( or surfaces water can’t get through, such as driveways, concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets) the rain is not able to soak into the ground and creates stormwater runoff.
Reducing stormwater pollution
Stormwater picks up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other materials as it flows into our waterways. Common pollutants include trash, sediment, leaves, grass clippings, fertilizer, pesticides, animal waste (bacteria), residue from chemical spills or container overflows, vehicle drips and leaks, and detergents.
Credit: Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, Atlanta, Georgia
Everyone can help prevent stormwater pollution. Here are some easy tips you can follow:
Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that can wash into recreational waters. Always pick up after your pet and dispose of pet waste in a trash can.
Never throw dog or cat feces or cat litter down a storm drain and never flush cat litter.
Litter that is thrown on the ground or out of a car window ends up in our water. Make sure to always dispose of trash in a trashcan or recycle it.
Never dump automotive fluids down a storm drain – it is the same as dumping them directly into your favorite swimming or fishing spot.
Repair leaks that can leave chemicals on driveways and streets, and dispose of used auto fluids and batteries at designated drop-off or recycling locations.
Use a commercial car wash that treats or recycles its wastewater, or wash your car on your lawn/yard so the water infiltrates into the ground.
Lawn / Property Care
Sweep yard debris and trash out of the street so it doesn’t get washed into storm drains.
Reduce impermeable surfaces by using pavers or gravel on sidewalks and driveways that rain water can soak through into the ground.
Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly so they don’t wash into local streams – potentially harming wildlife and people. When use is necessary, use these chemicals in the recommended amounts. Use organic mulch or safer pest control methods whenever possible.
For more information on stormwater, visit www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Water/Stormwater/