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What Can Happen if You Discharge into the Storm Drain?

October 27, 2018
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Dumping or discharging waste into storm drains is not only wrong, it’s illegal.


Let’s back up first and clarify the difference between a storm sewer/drain and a sanitary sewer. A sewer consists of underground pipes that carry water from your home (sinks, showers, toilets) to a wastewater treatment plant. The water is filtered, treated, and discharged. On the contrary, storm drains carry rainfall runoff and other drainage. They’re designed to prevent flooding by transferring rainwater to larger bodies of water like streams, rivers, and lakes. This means that waste dumped into storm drains isn’t treated or filtered like water that goes through the sewer. Discharging into the storm drain goes to creeks, streams, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water—directly polluting them. Construction debris, material stockpiles, automotive fluids, erosion, paint, pesticides, litter, industrial construction waste, and household materials are the most common of storm water contaminants.


Contaminating fresh waters sources has a domino effect. Pollutants can poison fish, and cloudy water can block the necessary light needed for plant growth. If the contaminated runoff goes to swimming bodies of water, swimmers are at risk and beaches may be closed. Even our drinking water can be contaminated by dumping or discharging into storm drains.


Dumping into storm drains is illegal, so you need to make sure you have safety practices in place to prevent this. Follow these tips to make sure you aren’t contaminating storm drains:


  • Keep work areas clean by sweeping debris/litter and cleaning storage containers and dumpsters
  • Cover storage areas and dumpsters to prevent leaks
  • Install erosion controls and maintain them
  • Keep any possible contaminants away from storm drains, such as hazardous fluids, soil, and sand
  • When washing vehicles or rinsing out contaminated bins or trucks, do not wash out materials into or near storm drains
  • Protect your worksite from storm water
  • Report any spills (it’s mandatory under Federal, State, and County laws)
  • Educate your fellow employees


Following these simple practices at your worksites will keep you free of criminal penalties and fines. Follow state and local storm water regulations and ordinances to prevent pollution of local waterways. The environment will thank you!