Adopt a Storm Drain
Why are storm drains important?
Most communities have storm drains as part of the street or parking lot infrastructure. Storm drains are designed to collect and redirect the excess water from rainfall or flooding. Located most often at the low curb of a street or set off of the road in a drainage area, storm drains move water off the street and into a piping system below ground.
In some areas, usually older parts of cities, the storm drain system is connected to the sanitary sewer system and the water from both is combined and treated in a local wastewater treatment facility. But in many cases, in more modern parts of cities or younger cities, storm drains are part of a separate pipe collection system where they collect stormwater and it flows directly into our area streams, rivers, lakes and into the ocean without any treatment at all. This separate system evolved because as cities grew and more impervious surfaces like concrete and rooftops expanded, it became clear that when it rained the added runoff from these areas would quickly overwhelm a combined sewer system, thus leading to sewage overflow events in the streams, which are dangerous to public health and stream ecology. These separate pipe systems however, have their own challenges and risks. When storm drains lead directly to our waterways, it can cause flooding downstream and also bring significant pollution (ie. common contaminants from our city landscape like oil, fertilizers, pet waste, yard waste, etc.) into our waterways without any treatment. Anything but pure rain water is a potential contaminant that negatively impacts water quality, as stormwater runoff often carries nutrients, sediment, and E. coli with it.
Keep it Clean
Keep all leaves, limbs and debris cleared away from drains; too much of any of these can block the drain meaning water can’t flow properly and flooding may result. Also, any material that goes into a storm drain will end up in a local stream without treatment if the pipe is not directed to the wastewater treatment plant (which most are not). Even natural materials such as leaves and grass clippings can degrade water quality, causing an excess of nutrients and sediment. This can lead to suffocation of plants growing on the banks/in ditches or even harm aquatic wildlife. Pet waste, oils from parking lots and driveways, lawn fertilizers, and street litter that wash into a drain will pollute our waterways, too.
Use a rake or broom to keep leaves and other materials clear of the drain. Leaves and lawn clippings should either be bagged or even better, use it for mulch in your yard! Grass clippings can reintroduce nutrients to your lawn, acting as a natural fertilizer. So next time, set your mower to “mow high” so that grass clippings will be trapped and create an organic layer of soil. This also helps retain grass moisture and encourages stormwater infiltration. Bagged leaves and lawn clippings can be use for your very own compost pile or can be dropped off at your local waste/compost drop-off sites. Be sure to check out Purdue University’s brochure for more tips on how to compost.
Be sure to check the drain BEFORE a rain event to ensure the drain is not blocked with things that will wash into the drain when it rains. In winter, snow and ice can also block the drain leading to standing water in the street and flooding. When possible, remove as much of the snow and ice as possible and create a 1 foot path along the curb leading to the drain. Pollutants from yards and streets will accumulate in the snow and ice over the winter and then rush into the drain and nearby stream during spring thaws.
Remember: Nothing but Rain Down the Drain!
Pouring anything into a drain is not only bad for water quality and wildlife but also illegal. If you see anyone dump anything into the street or directly into a storm drain, please call and report it to your local public works department.
Properly draining pools
Warm summer weather and swimming seem to go hand-in-hand. But when those temperatures and autumn leaves start dropping, make sure you are draining your swimming pools properly. Recently, there have been a rise in citizens switching over to saltwater pools rather than chlorinated pools. When draining these pools, there is a little bit of a difference from your typical routine for chlorinated pools.
Saltwater pools use salt chlorine generators to convert salt added to the water into chlorine. The range of salt in a saltwater pool is around 3,000 to 4,000 ppm. Annually, saltwater pools tend to cost less than traditional chlorine pools, which is why they are becoming more commonly seen in communities.
Like chlorinated pools, you cannot dispose of saltwater into storm drains untreated. Salt is considered a chemical, and if untreated water enters a nearby stream or creek, it can be harmful to the water quality, aquatic wildlife, and vegetation. You also cannot drain saltwater pools into your lawn. With the high concentration of salt in the water, the grass, plants, and trees will be put under a lot of stress. This stress can damage or kill vegetation that cannot tolerate the salt. Going deeper, the salt disposed of will remain in the soil for years. This can prevent plants from reaching their full growth potential and even kill them in the future. If saltwater is drained into your lawn, you can remove some of the sodium from the soil with a gypsum treatment. But this may require multiple applications to return your soil to its normal sodium levels. If you have clay soil, it can take even longer to return the sodium levels to normal.
There are different options to properly draining your pools without harming the environment or your lawn.
- Drain water into a sanitary sewer line connection, these can be found by a sink, bathtub, or washer
- Contact a licensed hauler to truck away your contaminated water
Whatever you decide to do with your swimming pool water, just remember to never drain into a septic tank or storm drain. To learn more about draining chlorine pools, visit the Department of Energy & Environment’s webpage.