It’s fall and that means many of us will begin—or already have started—spending our free time raking leaves. Did you know leaves can pollute and block our storm drains and natural drainageway systems? They are just one of many things that puts these systems at risk. Being aware of everything that can pollute and clog our waterways is extremely important.
Storm drains and natural waterways can be impacted by a variety of things, including yard waste, oil and other automobile fluids, trash, home improvement waste (paint, concrete and wood), detergent, pet waste, and even excessive mud or gravel. How? Water flows over the ground when it rains or snows and picks up debris, dirt, chemicals, and other pollutants and carries them into storm drains. Then, this water is discharged—untreated—into creeks and lakes we use for swimming, fishing, and as a source of drinking water. These pollutants also can create blockages in storm drains and natural drainageways that lead to a backup of water and even flash flooding.
Fortunately, there are a lot of easy things we can do to help keep stormwater clean and reduce the amount of tax dollars spent to comply with Clean Water Laws:
- In addition to raking leaves, be sure to sweep up and properly dispose of other yard debris, trash and dirt. Mulch or compost yard clippings instead of bagging to further benefit the environment.
- Clean up pet waste and dispose in the trash or toilet—do not flush plastic bags.
- Mow your lawn higher. Taller turf results in 80 percent fewer weeds and reduces the need to water and fertilize.
- Go to a car wash or wash your car on an unpaved surface rather than a road or driveway to keep water from going down the storm drain. Be sure to use biodegradable soap.
- Clean paint brushes in a sink, not outdoors, and recycle your oil-based paint, chemicals or auto fluids at St. Charles County’s Recycle Works.
- Use native plants to reduce or eliminate the need for lawn chemicals. Visit grownative.org for a list.
- If you live along a creek, protect your property and prevent erosion by refraining from mowing to the edge of the creek and keeping yard waste away from banks and surrounding areas. Leave a native vegetative buffer alongside streams.
Discharging pollutants into storm drains and natural drainageways is a violation of the law and can result in a citation. To report stormwater pollution, contact the St. Charles County Community Development Department’s Division of Building and Code Enforcement at 636-949-7345, or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can request a copy of the Stream Care Guide by calling the department at 636-949-1814.
Together, we can keep our waterways healthy for people, fish and wildlife!