U.S.

May 2, 2013

What goes down the stormdrain will come up

Jeffery Schone
56th Civil Engineer Squadron

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – Do you know what is going down your storm drain?

Rain storms can flush the smallest amounts of pollutants from parking lots, streets, driveways, pressure washing activities or lawns and send them into the storm drain system that eventually ends up in rivers, streams and lakes. Ultimately, these pollutants can migrate into the groundwater.

One household may produce minimal amounts of pollutants but the combined quantity of pollution from everyone in the community may be cause for concern. Pollutants in the water run-off can poison fish and other aquatic life, and make water unsafe for drinking and swimming. Employees and residents can help protect stormwater and ground water systems by practicing pollution prevention initiatives.

Some healthy industrial and household habits to reduce water pollution include:

Vehicle maintenance 

Use a commercial car wash or wash vehicles on a lawn or other unpaved surface to minimize the amount of dirty, soapy water flowing into the storm drain and eventually into the local water body.

Check cars, boats, motorcycles, and other machinery and equipment for leaks, and spills. Make repairs as soon as possible. Clean up spilled fluids with an absorbent material like kitty litter or sand, and avoid rinsing any spills into a nearby storm drain. Remember to properly dispose of the absorbent material.

Recycle used oil, grease, and other automotive, industrial or household fluids. Avoid dumping these chemicals on the ground, down the storm drain, or in the trash. These chemicals have the potential to contaminate run-off and leach into the groundwater. Base residents should perform auto repairs and maintenance at the auto skills shop.

Yard maintenance

Over-fertilization is a common problem, and the excess can contaminate rivers, streams and lakes.

Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. Only use these chemicals in the recommended amounts. Avoid application four days prior to a forecast for rain otherwise, chemicals will be washed into the local stream.

Select native plants and grasses that are drought and pest-resistant. Native plants require less water and fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

Sweep up yard debris, rather than hosing down areas. Compost or recycle yard waste when possible.

Avoid over-watering the lawn. Water during the cool times of the day, and don’t allow water run-off into the storm drain.

Cover piles of dirt and mulch being used in landscaping projects to prevent these pollutants from blowing or washing off the yard and into local water bodies.

Vegetate or place a groundcover on bare spots in the yard to prevent soil erosion.

Clean up after pets and dispose of the waste in the trash or down the toilet. Pet waste contains viruses and bacteria that can contaminate surface and groundwater and is the number one culprit in stormwater pollution in Arizona.

Home repair and facility improvements

Prior to beginning an outdoor project, locate the nearest storm drains and protect them from debris and other materials.

Sweep up and properly dispose of construction debris such as concrete and mortar.

Use nonhazardous materials or water based paints. 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.

Never leave hazardous substances outdoors on the ground. Store them properly to avoid leaks and spills.

Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled and recyclable products whenever possible for cleaning (ex. baking soda, distilled white vinegar and ammonia are safer alternatives to caustic chemicals and are less expensive). You can find some great alternatives at www.Earth911.com.

Properly dispose of excess paints through a household hazardous waste collection program, or donate unused paint to local organizations. Homeowners can contact the local city to learn about the next household hazardous waste turn-in event or a certified drop-off location near the residence.

Everyone must work together to keep the surrounding areas as pollutant-free as possible. By considering the environment when planning daily activities, individuals can minimize their contribution to stormwater and groundwater pollution. Water is one of the nation’s most valuable natural resources. It must be protected for current and future generations.

Together, we all make a difference.




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(U.S. Air Force Illustration by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau)

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