Introduction To Stormwater – When It Rains, It Drains
When it rains or snows, the water soaks into the ground, evaporates back into the atmosphere or runs off. This runoff, also known as stormwater, has some obvious impacts such as flooding and erosion. Some less obvious, but equally important, impacts of stormwater runoff include increased pollution, reduced ground water supplies, and lower stream flows during dry spells.
Traditionally, stormwater has been seen as a nuisance to be collected and dumped into the nearest ditch or stream and disposed of. Unfortunately, such an approach neglects the reality that most of us live or work downstream of someone else. As a result, our neighbor’s nuisance becomes our problem, which in turn becomes a problem for our downstream neighbors.
Changes in the way stormwater is to be handled will affect not only East Donegal Township, but also, builders of new residential and commercial developments, renovators of existing structures and anyone who discharges stormwater or any prohibited substance to existing storm sewers or waterways.
New stormwater regulations require East Donegal Township to ensure that stormwater facilities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated properly. In addition the township must identify and eliminate the discharge of any materials other than rainfall, snowmelt or uncontaminated groundwater that may be discharged to the stormwater system.
Information on this program is available from the Pennsylvania DEP.
Preventing Stormwater Pollution
Stormwater runoff occurs when water from rain or snow and ice melting flows over the ground. Stormwater becomes a problem when it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants as it flows or when it causes flooding and erosion of streambanks.
Stormwater travels through a system of pipes and roadside ditches that make up storm sewer systems. It eventually flows directly to a lake, river, stream, wetland or coastal water. All of the pollutants stormwater carries along the way empty into our waters, too, because stormwater does not get treated!
Here are some of the most important ways for Township residents to prevent stormwater pollution:
- Properly dispose of hazardous substances, such as used motor oil, cleaning supplies and paint – never pour them down any part of the storm sewer system, and report anyone who does.
- Use pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides properly and efficiently to prevent excess runoff of these items.
- Look for signs of soil and other pollutants, such as debris and chemicals, leaving construction sites in stormwater runoff or tracked into roads by construction vehicles. Report poorly managed construction sites that could impact stormwater runoff to the Township.
- Install innovative stormwater practices on residential properties, such as rain barrels or rain gardens, that capture stormwater and keep it on-site instead of letting it drain away into the storm sewer system.
- Report any discharge from stormwater outfalls during times of dry weather – a sign there could be a problem with the storm sewer system.
- Pick up after pets and dispose of their waste properly. No matter where pets make a mess – in a backyard or on open space – stormwater runoff can carry pet waste from the land to the storm sewer system to a stream.
- Store materials that could pollute water indoors and use containers for outdoor storage that do not rust or leak to eliminate exposure of materials to stormwater.
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 waterbodies 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
- 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 waterbody.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 waterbodies.
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.
- For more information regarding the proper method to drain your pool, View DEP Fact Sheet About Pool and Hot Tub Discharges.
Septic System Use and Maintenance
- 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).
- 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.
REMEMBER: ONLY RAIN DOWN THE DRAIN!
Information for Homeowners and Residents:
Information for Agriculture:
Information for Businesses:
Information for Builders and Developers:
- Don’t Let Storm Water Run Off With Your Time and Money
- When It Rains It Drains
- After the Storm
- Does Your Construction Site Need a Stormwater Permit?
- Maintain Your BMP’s
- Stormwater and the Construction Industry