Storm drainage systems are very helpful in the way that they prevent roads and highways from flooding when there is heavy rainfall. They allow the rain water to drain from urban areas safely back into the environment and into natural bodies of water. Unfortunately, materials other than rain water make their way into the drainage systems. They are called illicit discharges. An illicit discharge can be any material that enters a storm drainage system other than natural precipitation. This includes dirty water from laundry or a carwash; hazardous waste like lawn care chemicals, oil, paint; sewer overflows and yard debris such as leaves, grass clippings and animal waste. These pollutants can enter the stormwater drainage system directly by entering through connective drains and pipes or indirectly by seeping through the joints of the pipes or street openings of storm drains. Illicit discharges make their way into the storm drainage systems and out to nearby bodies of water like streams, rivers, bays and the ocean. Contaminated discharges can be harmful to the health of the plants and animals living in the water, the wildlife that may drink or eat from the water, and humans that may swim in the water. Illness, defects, and death can result from this serious pollution. Companies and businesses can monitor and fix faulty connections and cracks in the piping to prevent contamination of stormwater. As a community we can also take action to prevent illicit discharges from entering the storm drainage system.
Some possible actions:
- Pick up pet waste.
- Pick up litter and secure trash cans lids.
- Dispose of liquid hazardous waste like oils, gasoline, paint, etc. through your local hazardous waste collection.
- Avoid blowing, raking, sweeping, or hosing yard debris like leaves and grass clippings into storm drains.
- Don’t apply lawn chemicals near curbs, streets and driveways.
- Use fertilizers and chemical pesticides sparingly and only when and where they are necessary.
- Spread awareness and educate others of the effects of illicit discharge and how to prevent it.
Not only do these suggested actions protect against water pollution, they also keep our local land environment clean. Recognition, elimination and prevention are key to resolving this illicit discharge problem. If we join together and each do our part this will soon be an issue of the past.
Guest blog submitted by Natalie Prevette, Environmental Intern with James City County Stormwater Division.