Storm Water Pollution

Storm Pollution Basics

The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 controls pollutant discharge from what the EPA calls "point sources," like industrial, commercial, and municipal facilities, into any navigable waters of the United States. Point sources are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which requires compliance with technology- and water quality-based treatment standards. These polluters -- mercury from Company A or untreated sewage from City B -- are easy to identify and monitor. They fall easily under the enforcement powers of the EPA.
 
However, waterway pollution from what EPA calls "nonpoint" sources (NPS) are far harder to control.
 
What are nonpoint sources of pollution?
Nonpoint pollution comes mainly from our own backyards. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall, snowmelt or irrigation moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water. These pollutants include:
* Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production
* Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and  
   eroding streambanks
* Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainage from abandoned mines
* Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes, and faulty septic systems
According to the EPA, nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. Nonpoint pollution is known to have harmful effects on drinking water, wildlife and -- as we are now learning -- our sport and seafood fisheries.
Clearly, as urbanization continues, the effects of nonpoint pollution will only worsen unless we all participate in efforts to reduce or prevent the problem.
 
What can be done?
Some activities aimed at preventing nonpoint pollution are federal responsibilities, such as ensuring that federal lands are properly managed to reduce soil erosion. Some are state responsibilities, for example, developing legislation to govern mining and logging, and to protect groundwater. Others are best handled locally, such as by zoning or erosion control ordinances. And each individual can play an important role by practicing conservation and by changing certain everyday habits.
 
What can private citizens do?
According to the EPA, the best ways private citizens can help reduce the effects of nonpoint water pollution are:
* Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains--these outlets drain directly to lake, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
* Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions.
* Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals properly, not in storm sewers or drains. Link to Washington Blvd. S.A.F.E Center for disposal of hazardous waste.
* Clean up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease, and antifreeze. Do not hose them into the street where they can eventually reach local streams and lakes. Use sawdust or kitty litter for best results.
* Control soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas.
* Purchase household detergents and cleaners that are low in phosphorous to reduce the amount of nutrients discharged into our lakes, streams and coastal waters.

Frequently Asked Questions
 
What is stormwater pollution?
Storm drains are intended to take rainwater straight to the ocean to avoid area flooding. Rainwater or even runoff from sprinklers or hoses carries contaminants  such as litter, animal waste, automobile fluids, fertilizers and pesticides into the storm drains and pollutes the County's neighborhoods and waters, creating health risks for children, killing marine life and contributing to localized flooding and beach closures.
 
Where does the pollution come from?
We all contribute to stormwater pollution every day. Dropping cigarette butts on the ground, allowing paper or trash to blow into the street, and hosing leaves or dirt into the street are just a few examples of things you might be doing that contribute to stormwater pollution. Waters that flow over streets, parking lots, construction sites and industrial facilities carry these pollutants through a 5,000-mile storm drain network directly to the rivers and beaches of Southern California. Click here to find out what you can do right now to help prevent stormwater pollution.
 
Isn't stormwater treated before going into the ocean, like sewer water?
No! The storm drain system is separate from the sewage system. Storm drains are intended to take rainwater straight to the ocean to avoid area flooding. Storm drain water is not treated before flowing directly into rivers and the ocean, making it everyones responsibility to make sure storm drains and waterways are free of pollutants.
 
How does stormwater pollution affect my community?
Stormwater pollution can also have serious impacts on your neighborhood. Litter and animal waste in the streets and storm drains makes any neighborhood look bad and can contribute to flooded streets during the rainy season.
 
We also see the impacts of pollution in increased health risks to swimmers near storm drains, high concentrations of toxic metals in harbor and ocean sediments, and toxicity to aquatic life.  Clogged storm drains can lead to area flooding when it rains, creating traffic problems and unsanitary conditions. Pollutants in the community such as pet waste, litter and hazardous contaminants significantly degrade the appearance of the neighborhood and can lower property values.
 
What can I do to prevent stormwater pollution?
Everyone can help keep the City of Huntington Park clean. Here are a few tips that can help protect our environment.
  • Don't put anything in storm drains but rainwater.  Storm drains and flood control channels carry surface runoff directly to the rivers and ocean without treatment. Make sure that runoff carries only rainwater.
  • Avoid throwing litter into the street. Trash-laden gutters increase neighborhood pollution and clog storm drains causing street flooding and more traffic congestion.
  • Pick up after your pet. Animal waste, when left on the ground, washes down storm drains and contaminates beaches. Picking up dog waste is a City ordinance and dog owners disregarding this law may be fined.
  • Recycle your motor oil. There are more than 650 gas stations (County of Los Angeles), auto parts stores and repair shops that will collect and recycle used motor oil. Click here to find the one nearest you.
  • Bag, compost or recycle grass, tree limbs, leaves and other yard waste. Soggy yard waste is a major contributor to clogged storm drains and street and neighborhood flooding.
  • Use yard waste as mulch, as natural fertilizer, or as ground cover. Nearly 20 percent of the waste buried in landfills is from our yards like grass and tree trimmings.
  • Encourage local businesses to start a recycling program if they don't already have one. Today's consumers take their business to companies that have an environmental conscience, link.
  • Use double-sided photocopies. You can cut down on paper costs and reduce waste by making double-sided originals and copies whenever possible.
  • Don't use harsh, abrasive or toxic chemicals around the house. Select water-based products over solvent-based products when available (e.g.. paint, glue, shoe polish). Also, avoid aerosol sprays choose a pump spray or other alternatives.
  • Clean up your yard. Have a bunch of old tires in your yard and don't know what to do with them? Click here to find the nearest tire recycling location and/or the date of the next tire waste amnesty event.
  • Make sure you grasscycle. You can save water, fertilizer and your back by GRASSCYCLING. Click here for more information.
  • Report illegal dumping. To report illegal dumping anytime, day or night, call Huntington Park Public Works Department at (323)584-6274.
  • Keep sanitation workers safe. When thrown in with the regular trash, household hazardous waste can injure sanitation workers. In addition, landfills are not intended or permitted for those types of wastes, which could impact groundwater. Click here to find out how to properly dispose of these materials.
  • Dont flush, even if in a rush. When flushed down a toilet, sink or drain, household hazardous waste goes through the sewage system to treatment plants not equipped to handle hazardous waste. Click here to find out how to properly dispose of these materials.
  • Buy just what you need to do the job. Give leftover materials to a friend, neighbor, business or charity that can use them up.
  • Be smart when you apply pesticides or fertilizers. Do not apply pesticides or fertilizers before it rains. Not only will you lose most of the chemicals through runoff, but you will also be harming the environment. Do not over-water after application. Read the label and do not apply more than recommended.
  • Purchase re-refined motor oil for your vehicle. Re-refined oil has been recycled and then reprocessed so it is as good or better than virgin oil. By using re-refined motor oil, you are closing the recycling loop and saving natural resources.
  • Don' do time. The illegal dumping of hazardous waste carries a minimum fine of $1,000 per day per violation up to $100,000 per day per violation and imprisonment.
Emergency Contact Info.
Clogged Storm Drain