We have all seen the grates along the sides of the street, but do you know what happens to everything that falls into that black hole?
Storm sewers, or drains, direct the water that runs off our driveways, sidewalks, roads and parking lots through a network of pipes that lead to nearby wetlands, ponds, creeks and rivers. In order to provide good water quality and help prevent flooding, this system requires maintenance which is paid for with stormwater utility fees. That is why it is important to know about storm sewers and your role in keeping costs down while helping to keep our water clean.
Storm sewers should not be used for dumping paint, oil, grease, soapy water, leaves, yard waste or other trash. The waste is not pre-treated. Pollutants that flow through the pipe go straight into our local water bodies, contaminating the water that we enjoy for fishing and swimming!
Since the water that enters storm sewers does not go through a treatment plant, we need to watch what we leave on the hard surfaces around our homes and offices. Fertilizers, de-icers, herbicides, grass clippings and leaves are easily washed off sidewalks and driveways with rain and snowmelt. The best choice for chemicals, if they are needed, is to sweep up excess for later use. The grass clippings, leaves and brush can be composted. These are all harmful to aquatic life because they are toxic or add excess nutrients to water bodies causing harmful algae growth.
In addition, waste that people dump down storm sewers can get stuck in or adhere to the sides of the pipes, which snags more debris and could result in backups. These storm sewer backups can cause flooding in your neighborhood and a potentially expensive clean out.
So next time you pick up after your dog, think twice about throwing that baggy in the storm sewer. It may end up in the lake you swim in tomorrow or cause a water backup that floods your home.