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Stormwater Runoff and Pollution 

Clean Water Starts At Home!
Homeowners tips and tricks to reducing stormwater runoff and pollution at their place of residence
What is Stormwater?

Stormwater runoff is created when rainfall or snowmelt flows over land into storm drains and eventually our local streams, rivers, and lakes. Precipitation will soak into the soil if it falls on a grassy or forested area. In urban or developed areas, precipitation will not soak in and will instead flow off of the hard surfaces like pavement or rooftops, known as impervious surfaces. After heavy precipitation events in areas with lots of impervious surface, an increased amount of water will enter our local waterways, potentially causing flash floods, pollution, and erosion concerns. 

Stormwater Pollutants
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Land & Water Works

Any pollutants that are left on impervious pavement will be picked up as stormwater runoff flows over top those surfaces, into drains, and eventually local waterways. These pollutants can include:

  • Sediment

  • Pesticides

  • Fertilizers

  • Oil and grease

  • Metals

  • Trash

These pollutants can cause harm to aquatic communities and water quality. Extreme rain events can also cause flooding and erosion  in streams that are not able to handle large amounts of flows. 


Sediment particles can be picked up when precipitation falls on exposed soils. Sediment is detrimental to aquatic life through interruption in important physiological processes processes including respiration and oxygen exchange across gills. Sediments can decrease light availability for plants by causing murky, cloudy waters. Sediments can also bind other pollutants including metals. Some sources of sediment pollution include: 

  • Construction sites

  • Agriculture activities 

  • Urban activities 

  • Stream erosion 


Nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus are used as fertilizers in agricultural fields but are often found in stormwater runoff from urban areas. Fertilizers can be good for maintaining landscapes and for plant growth, but using too much or improper use can cause excess nutrients in runoff. Nutrients provide fuel for algal growth and when the algae die off they consume oxygen and deplete oxygen levels available for fish and other aquatic life. Certain algae can also produce toxins that are dangerous to pets and humans if ingested. Sources of nutrient pollution include:

  • Fertilizers 

  • Wastewater

  • Animal waste

  • Failing septic systems

Bacteria and pathogens

Microorganisms like bacteria and viruses in the water can also cause health issues if you come in contact with contaminated water. These can cause impacts to aquatic life by decreasing oxygen and can also impair primary and secondary contact recreation, which means you cannot swim, boat, or wade in waterways with these warnings. Bacteria like E. Coli and other harmful pathogens can enter our waterways through:

  • Leaking sanitary sewer lines 

  • Failing septic systems

  • Animal waste and manure

Oils, greases, metals

Oils and greases can come from several sources, such as poorly maintained cars, spills, vehicle accidents, restaurants, and waste oil disposal. Oils and greases typically leave an oily sheen on the surface of the water and can be toxic to aquatic organisms even in low concentrations.Metals are also another harmful pollutant that can be toxic to aquatic life and can bioaccumulate in animals like fish. Metals like zinc, cadmium, lead, copper, and nickel are some commonly found metals. Metals can come from:

  • Automobiles 

  • Industrial sites

  • Urban activites

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Pesticides like herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides can be helpful in preventing unwanted pests, but can have adverse effects on the environment. When used excessively or improperly, pesticides can leach into storm drains and into local streams, rivers, and lakes. These can be toxic to aquatic life and even to other organisms that feed on the aquatic critters after the bioaccumulation of these toxins. Pesticides can also be harmful to drinking water quality.


Trash and other debris that enters waterways through stormwater runoff can carry all of the aforementioned pollutants with them. Litter on the streets, animal waste, lawn clippings, woody debris, and more can impair habitat in streams and can break down, causing excess nutrient pollution and hazards to aquatic organisms. Trash also clogs waterways and drains, which can lead to flooding concerns. Plastic pollution has also been an increasing concern in the recent years. Microplastics can bioaccumulate in fish and other aquatic organisms and can be detrimental.

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Storm Drain Dumping - It's Illegal!

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. 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. 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.

Reducing Stormwater Pollution and Runoff: Tips and Tricks
  1. Properly dispose of any household hazardous waste at approved collection sites in Butler County that can be found on the Butler County Recycling and Solid Waste District website.

  2. Test your soil to learn which nutrients are lacking and to get a recommendation on fertilizers and correct amounts needed.

  3. Pick up after your pet!

  4. Install a rain barrel or a rain garden to reduce runoff.

  5. Recycle used motor oil and antifreeze.

  6. Wash your car at a commercial car wash and not in your driveway.

  7. Regularly maintain your vehicle to ensure there are no leaks.

  8. Keep storm drains and streams clear or lawn clippings and leaves.

  9. Plant vegetation buffers along a streambank to help filter pollutants.

  10. Maintain your septic system, if you have one.

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Rain barrel

For any other questions or concerns about stormwater, please visit the Butler County Storm Water District wesbite here or call 513-785-4120.

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