Tips: Solutions to stormwater pollution
This guide from EPA offers a comprehensive list of tips for homeowners to help prevent stormwater pollution.
As stormwater flows over driveways, lawns and sidewalks, it picks
up debris, chemicals, dirt
and other pollutants. Stormwater
can flow into a storm sewer
system or directly to a lake,
stream, river, wetland or coastal
water. Anything that enters a
storm sewer system is discharged
untreated into the waterbodies
we use for swimming, fishing and
providing drinking water. Polluted
runoff is the nation's greatest threat to
By practicing healthy household habits, homeowners can keep common
pollutants like pesticides, pet waste, grass clippings and automotive fluids off
the ground and out of stormwater. Adopt these healthy household habits and
help protect lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands and coastal waters. Remember
to share the habits with your neighbors!
Vehicle and Garage
- Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on a lawn or other unpaved surface to minimize
the amount of dirty, soapy water flowing into the storm drain and eventually into your local
- Check your car, boat, motorcycle 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 don't rinse the spills into a
nearby storm drain. Remember to properly dispose of the
- Recycle used oil and other automotive fluids at
participating service stations. Don't dump these
chemicals down the storm drain or dispose of them in
Lawn and Garden
- Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. When use is
necessary, use these chemicals in the recommended
amounts. Avoid application if the forecast calls for rain;
otherwise, chemicals will be washed into your local
- Select native plants and grasses that are drought- and pest-resistant.
Native plants require less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
- Sweep up yard debris, rather than hosing down areas. Compost or recycle yard
waste when possible.
- Don't overwater your lawn. Water during the cool times of the day, and don't let 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 your yard and into local waterbodies. Vegetate bare spots in your
yard to prevent soil erosion.
Home Repair and Improvement
- Before 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 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. Store
substances properly to avoid leaks and spills.
- Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled
and recyclable products whenever possible.
- Clean paint brushes in a sink, not outdoors. Filter
and reuse paint thinner when using oil-based paints.
Properly dispose of excess paints through a household
hazardous waste collection program, or donate unused
paint to local organizations.
- Reduce the amount of paved area and increase the amount of
vegetated area in your yard. Use native plants in your landscaping
to reduce the need for watering during dry periods. Consider directing
downspouts away from paved surfaces onto lawns and other measures to increase
infiltration and reduce polluted runoff.
- When walking your pet, remember to pick up the waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing pet
waste is the best disposal method. Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks
by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local
Swimming Pool and Spa
- Drain your swimming pool only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels.
- Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system.
- Properly store pool and spa chemicals to prevent leaks and spills, preferably in a covered area to
avoid exposure to stormwater.
Septic System Use and Maintenance
- Have your septic system inspected by a professional at least every three years, and have the septic
tank pumped as necessary (usually every three to five years).
- Care for the septic system drainfield by not driving or parking vehicles on it. Plant only grass
over and near the drainfield to avoid damage from roots.
- Flush responsibly. Flushing household chemicals like paint, pesticides, oil and antifreeze can
destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system. Other items, such as diapers, paper
towels and cat litter, can clog the septic system and potentially damage components.
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This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.