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Storm Drain Dumping - Don't Do It

No dumping, drains to creek sticker found on storm drains

When it rains, water that does not infiltrate into the ground will flow off hard surfaces (parking lots, rooftops, etc.) as stormwater. Stormwater will eventually make its way to a storm drainage system, a system of conveyances like catch basins, ditches, and storm drains that are solely designed to convey stormwater to local waterways. When discharges other than stormwater are carried to local waterways, known as illicit discharge, it threatens water quality and biological communities. Dumping any kind of pollutant into storm drains other than stormwater not only harms our aquatic ecosystems, it is also illegal and can lead to criminal prosecution. Next time you are thinking about dumping down a storm drain, don’t do it.

When you see a storm drain, you may think it is an easy way to get rid of some trash or some soapy water you used to wash your car. However, here in Butler County, dumping anything other than stormwater down the drain is against the law. This includes trash, automotive fluids like oils, hazardous household products like paints, fertilizers and pesticides, and soaps. There are also some pollutants that might not have crossed your mind as harmful, but can still impair waters, including pool water that has not been dechlorinated, yard waste, and pet waste. All of these can cause issues in aquatic ecosystems.

When pollutants enter streams, rivers, and lakes, they can impact water quality, drinking water quality, and can harm biological life. Solid waste like trash can clog storm drains and smother aquatic life. Sediments can smother important stream habitat for organisms like fish and stream bugs. When pet waste or fertilizers get into waterways, they can cause nutrient concerns. Nutrients like nitrate and phosphate can cause algal blooms, which reduce dissolved oxygen and can harm aquatic life. Hazardous materials, like antifreeze or pesticides, can threaten drinking water quality and can be toxic to aquatic fish and amphibians. Any discharge other the rainwater that enters storm drains will most likely have an impact on the water quality and aquatic organisms.

While you may not see any direct evidence of storm drain dumping, you may notice some indirect signs that illegal dumping may have occurred. For instance, some signs include strange odors, odd residues, discoloration of waters, and materials present such as toilet paper or sanitary products. All are indications that there may be storm drain dumping occurring illegally and needs to be reported. Do keep in mind though that if you do see discolored or foamy water, sometimes it is a natural process that occurs in freshwater ecosystems. For example, sometimes orange water consistent with an oily sheen can be iron-oxidizing bacteria, which are not harmful and occur naturally in streams, lakes, and other water bodies. If you are concerned at whether you are observing illicit discharge, just call and ask. *who should they call us or storm water district?*

If you happen to see any illegal dumping in progress, call 911. If the materials that are being dumped appear to be hazardous, call Ohio EPA’s 24-hour Emergency Response Hotline at 1-800-282-9378. For any other materials, contact the Butler County Storm Water District at 513-785-4120.

Remember, only rain down the storm drain.


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