Keep our Storm Drains Clean


10 Things you can do to Prevent Stormwater Runoff Pollution


Take a dip in Stormwater


Clean Water is Every Body's Business

In urban and suburban areas, much of the land surface is covered by buildings and pavement, which do not allow rain and snowmelt to soak into the ground. Instead, most developed areas rely on storm drains to carry large amounts of runoff from roofs and paved areas to nearby waterways. The stormwater runoff carries pollutants such as oil, dirt, chemicals, and lawn fertilizers directly to streams and rivers, where they seriously harm water quality. To protect surface water quality and groundwater resources, development should be designed and built to minimize increases in runoff. 

How Urbanized Areas Affect Water Quality Increased Runoff

The porous and varied terrain of natural landscapes like forests, wetlands, and grasslands traps rainwater and snowmelt and allows them to filter slowly into the ground. In contrast, impervious (nonporous) surfaces like roads, parking lots, and rooftops prevent rain and snowmelt from infiltrating, or soaking, into the ground. Most of the rainfall  and snowmelt remains above the surface, where it runs off rapidly in unnaturally large amounts. Storm sewer systems concentrate runoff into smooth, straight conduits. This runoff gathers speed and erosional power as it travels underground. When this runoff leaves the storm drains and empties into a stream, its excessive volume and power blast out streambanks, damaging streamside vegetation and wiping out aquatic habitat. These increased storm flows carry sediment loads from construction sites and other denuded surfaces and eroded streambanks. They often carry higher water temperatures from streets, roof tops, and parking lots, which are harmful to the health and reproduction of aquatic life. The loss of infiltration from urbanization may also cause profound groundwater changes. Although urbanization leads to great increases in flooding during and immediately after wet weather, in many instances it results in lower stream flows during dry weather. Many native fish and other aquatic life cannot survive when these conditions prevail. 

Increased Pollutant Loads

Urbanization increases the variety and amount of pollutants carried into streams, rivers, and lakes. The pollutants include:

  • Sediment
  • Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from motor vehicles
  • Pesticides and nutrients from lawns and gardens
  • Viruses, bacteria, and nutrients from pet waste and failing septic systems
  • Road salts
  • Heavy metals from roof shingles, motor vehicles, and other sources
  • Thermal pollution from dark impervious surfaces such as streets and rooftops

These pollutants can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water supplies, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.


Limit Salt and Deicers

At your home, you can prevent pollution to local waterways and rivers by limiting the amount of salt and deicers you use on your driveways and sidewalks. One teaspoon of salt can contaminate five gallons of water!

As a rule of thumb, if there is a layer of salt remaining on your driveway after the ice melts, you used too much salt. If you do have excess sand or salt, sweep it up and throw it away so that it is not washed into the storm sewer or a nearby lake.

The earlier you shovel after a snowfall, the less likely you are to need salt.

Consider using an anti-icing agent before it snows. It will prevent the snow from bonding with the pavement and speed the melting process.


This Fall, Don't Leave the Leaves

From the street, to the stream

Although leaves seem "natural" and harmless, excess leaves pose a threat to the health of our surface water. Leaves in the gutter in front of your house are on the fast track to our streams and rivers. When it rains, leaves are washed into storm drains and directly into the nearest stream or river. Once they get into the water and begin to decay, leaves release nutrients that contribute to that green stuff you see on the surface of our local streams and ponds: algae. Excess algae makes recreation unpleasant, plus decomposing algae uses up oxygen in the water which, in turn, suffocates fish.

Rake them up, not out

Raking leaves into the street the day before the street sweeper comes. Even if those street leaves don't blow away right away, leaves are crushed by car tires and mixed with rain making a rich "nutrient tea" that flows along the gutter into storm drains. So, the fewer leaves that make it to the street, the better.

Here are some watershed-friendly alternatives to raking leaves into the street:

Compost leaves for a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your gardens

Use a mower to chop leaves into small particles and apply directly to your lawn to enrich it (this is called top-dressing)

Use chopped leaves as winter mulch for your flower gardens

Drop off bagged leaves at

Everyone can participate. The distance between your yard and the water's edge is as close as the


the Silver Spring Township/Mechanicsburg Joint Use Composting Facility nearest storm drain. Keeping leaves out of the street is an important act of protection for our watersheds.

Backyard composting:

Purchase a compost bin:

Leaf drop-off



Storm Sewers - The Rivers Beneath our Feet

The Rivers Beneath Our Feet

If you look in the street outside of your home or office and search the parking lots around town, you will probably find storm sewer inlets. Did you ever wonder where they go? A common misconception about storm sewers is that they go to a wastewater treatment plant. This is not the case. Storm sewers transport stormwater (rain and melting snow) to the nearest river, lake, stream or wetland.  Stormwater often contains materials found on streets and parking lots such as oil, antifreeze, gasoline, soil, litter, pet wastes, fertilizers, pesticides, leaves and grass clippings. When these materials enter lakes and streams, they become pollutants that pollute the water, kill fish and close beaches. Lets see how storm sewers provide a direct link between our daily activities and water pollution in lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands. Follow the simple clean-water tips inside and become part of the solution to water quality problems.

According to federal regulations, many cities and industries must reduce water pollution from storm sewers. We can help by taking steps around the home to increase the amount of water that soaks into the ground. This reduces the amount of water flowing into the street. Heres what you can do:

Redirect down spouts from paved areas to vegetated areas.

Install gravel trenches along driveways or patios.

Use porous materials such as wooden planks or bricks for walkways and patios.

If building a new home, have the driveway and walkways graded so water flows onto lawn areas.

Use a rain barrel to catch and store water for gardens.

Wash your car on the lawn, not the driveway, or take your car to a commercial car wash.

Plant trees, shrubs or ground covers.

For more information about stormwater pollution and what you can do to reduce it, contact the Deparment of Natural Resources or your county UW-Extension or Land Conservation office.


Attention Construction Industry

Please (click here):

Don't let Storm Water Run off with your time and money

(What the construction industry should know about the storm water in our Community)


Attention Homeowners

Make your home the SOLUTION To 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 water bodies we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water. Polluted runoff is the nation's greatest threat to clean water.  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!
Healthy Household Habits for Clean Water
Vehicle and Garage

  1. 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 water body.
  2. 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 absorbent material.
  3. 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 your trash.

Lawn and Garden

  1. 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 stream.
  2. Select native plants and grasses which are drought and pest resistant.  Native plants require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
  3. Sweep up yard debris, rather than hosing down areas.  Compost or recycle yard waste when possible.
  4. Don't overwater your lawn.  Water during the cool times of the day, and don't let water run off into the storm drain.
  5. 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 water bodies. Vegetate bare spots in your yard to prevent soil erosion.

Home Repair and Improvement

  1. Before beginning an outdoor project, locate the nearest storm drains and protect them from debris and other materials.
  2. Sweep up and properly dispose of construction debris such as concrete and mortar.
  3. 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.
  4. Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled, and recyclable products whenever possible.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Pet Care

  1. 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 water bodies.

Swimming Pool and Spa

  1. Drain your swimming pool only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels.
  2. 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

  1. Have your septic system inspected by a professional at least every 3 years, and have the septic tank pumped as necessary (usually every 3 to 5 years).
  2. Care for the septic system drain field by not driving or parking vehicles on it.  Plant only grass over and near the drain field to avoid damage from roots.
  3. 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.

Remember:  Only rain down the drain.  For more information, visit



Useful Links

Click on the links below to find out more about stormwater from the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

Conodoguinet Creek Watershed:

Chesapeake Bay Foundation:



Cumberland County: