Have you noticed the storm drains in your street and intersections? Most of these drains empty directly into local streams. It is important that only rain goes down the drain. We can all help direct pollutants and debris away from these drains and keep our water ways clean.
Most of our Seattle water falls from the sky and lands on the ground. Trees and grass soak up this ground water. The excess ground water, including rain that lands on paved areas, flows into storm drains. Pollutants from vehicles, pet waste, and fertilizer are washed into the storm water as it flows directly into neighborhood creeks, lakes, and Puget Sound.
Polluted storm water is damaging to wildlife, sea life and human life. The direct flow of storm water into our water ways means we should never pour oil, paint, or any chemicals into a storm drain.
Some storm drains collect and hold water in a catch basin before flowing downstream. This underground container catches storm water and then separates the sediment before it flows downstream. You might see a grate next to the sidewalk curb, or a grate opening under a downspout.
Commercial car washes have special catch basins installed so that the dirty water is routed to a water treatment facility. The city advises homeowners to wash cars at a car wash and not in the street so that the dirty wash water containing oils, grease, antifreeze, and transmission fluid does not flow directly into streams and the sound.
Car Drips and Leaks
If your car leaks oil, gasoline, grease, antifreeze, and other automotive fluids onto the street, these are washed into the storm drains when it rains. A little leak may seem minor, but multiplied by the approximately 457,000 vehicles in Seattle, it is a huge problem. Car leaks are said to be the largest polluters of Puget Sound.
Take your vehicle into a repair shop to check for drips and leaks. See www.fixcarleaks.org for more information. This organization also offers free workshops on how to identify leaks.
Pet Waste and Fertilizer
Some tips to reduce pet and fertilizer pollutants from entering the storm drain are:
- Pick up pet waste and put it in the garbage can. Don’t let the rain wash it downstream.
- Use fertilizer with zero phosphorus, and use half of the amount recommended. Phosphorus is detrimental to fish and aquatic plants.
- Plant trees and flowers that naturally filter water. Trees are an amazing protector of pollutants. One caution before planting is to be aware of where your water lines and sewer lines are located.
In summary, keep pollution out of the storm water system by allowing only rain down the drain. And, keep storm drains working by clearing leaves and debris out of the water’s path.
For more information on storm drains and storm water, watch King County’s two minute storm drain video. Thank you for reading!