Only rain in storm drain acceptable

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Most people understand that they should not dump toxic substances into storm drains. Things like fuel, oil, antifreeze, paint and other chemicals should definitely be kept out of storm drains. However, many are not aware that only rain should go into storm drains. That includes the storm water system that is made up of streets and gutters, drains and scuppers, storm sewer pipes, and open channels.

Some people believe if something is natural or biodegradable, it can go into the storm water system. That is not correct. Water going into Luke Air Force Base’s storm water system is not treated, but instead flows into streams and canals that flow into Arizona’s rivers. Leaves, grass clippings, and paper are biodegradable, but are sources of storm water pollution. They can disrupt the chemistry and nutrients in rivers, thereby adversely affecting wildlife in the rivers.

Soil or dirt is also considered a storm water pollutant. Muddy water can change river temperatures thereby adversely affecting wildlife in the rivers. Construction sites often expose soil and so must take measures to prevent soil, or sediment from getting into the storm system. Luke also uses street sweepers to keep soil out of the storm system.

Pesticides and fertilizers are another common source of storm water pollution. When used, the application instructions must be followed, and the minimum amount possible should be applied. They should not be applied before pending rainstorms, and should not be over watered. The key is there should not be water washing the pesticides or fertilizers into the road or gutter.

Another common source of storm water pollution is litter or trash. Styrofoam cups, plastic bottles, cigarette butts, plastic bags, etc. often get into the storm system. Sometimes trash is dropped in parking lots or around buildings, but usually it accidentally blows out of a vehicle or dumpster. This is easy to prevent by placing trash and recyclable items in garbage or recycling containers and ensuring lids to dumpsters are then closed. Closing the lids keeps trash from blowing out and keeps rain from getting into the dumpsters.

The Clean Water Act regulates storm water quality. Luke has two permits from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to allow rainwater to leave Luke property. The locations where rainwater leaves Luke are regularly inspected to ensure the water is not polluted. If someone sees something that could cause storm water pollution, he or she should call Scott Mendenhall, Luke’s storm water manager at 623-856-3621, or email scott.mendenhall@us.af.mil.

It is everybody’s responsibility to help ensure only rain is in the storm drain.