This post is brought to you in partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. All opinions are our own.
There’s an old adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
On the surface it seems pretty wry. But then along comes something you think you’re pretty well versed in, and you realize there’s lots of things you had no idea about, or had completely wrong.
That’s the idea behind Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services’ “Know Pollutants” initiative.
What is stormwater?
It’s rainwater that doesn’t soak into the ground, running off hard surfaces like paved streets, parking lots, sidewalks and rooftops. There’s more than 2.2 billion square feet of this kind of hard surface in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, resulting in a lot of runoff that goes into our storm drainage system.
Does stormwater get treated?
Stormwater that goes into storm drains runs directly into local streams and lakes.
While there are natural filtering processes to a certain degree, there’s no “treatment” at all — only indoor drains are connected to water treatment processes.
If chemicals or other pollutants get into your (or your business’) nearby storm drain, they are polluting your local waterways.
That’s why it’s essential to be aware of pollutants that can find their way into storm drains.
Preventing pollution at home
The easiest way to avoid pollution is to remember only clean water or rainwater should go in storm drains. Some of the lesser-realized pollution prevention measures at home include:
- Cars should never be washed on driveways/hard surfaces unless using biodegradable cleaners. (Wash on lawns or use a car wash instead.)
- Hazardous chemicals that are toxic, flammable, corrosive and/or explosive (like nail polish, turpentine, oven cleaner, bug & weed spray, motor oil, etc.) need to be taken to a household hazardous waste recycling center. Just one gallon of these chemicals can pollute up to a million gallons of water.
- Scoop the poop. Unlike other animals’ waste, dog waste is not “fertilizer,” and is actually quite harmful to both grass and waterways.
- Keep yard waste out of storm drains — it can clog storm drains and streams, causing local flooding and harming aquatic life.
- Prevent muddy streams. Sediment/mud is one of the top pollutants of our local waterways, which makes it harder for fish and aquatic organisms to breathe and reproduce.
Preventing pollution, businesses
Some of the most common sources of stormwater pollution are from businesses whose operations may occur outside and include:
- Poor landscape maintenance practices, typically involving disposal of yard waste, pesticides, fertilizers, and sediment.
- Runoff from washing of vehicles, equipment, structures & tools.
- Discharge of wastewater from improperly maintained private sewer systems and grease traps.
If you work in a business that has operations outside, or works with chemicals, Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services encourages you to be aware of the best practices to avoid pollution. Specific guidelines for a variety of industries that can be found here.
What can you do?
Once you “Know Pollutants,” what can do with this information?
Obviously, if you need to change your habits, do so to prevent pollution!
But the public can also help by reporting potential pollution so it can be stopped, corrected and prevented in the future.
- When you smell or see something unusual in or near storm drains, streams or lakes, report it by calling 3-1-1 or using the Water Watchers App.
- Learn more about how you can prevent (or report) pollution here.
Now you know, and knowledge is power … to literally make the world a better, more pollution-free place!