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Preventing Stormwater Pollution
Release Date: April 26, 2013

Preventing Stormwater Pollution
How you can help protect water quality in your community.

What’s the big deal about Stormwater?
The Village of Rye Brook has been designated as a regulated MS4 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System under the new Phase II Stormwater Regulations.

This means that the Village of Rye Brook needs a permit under the State-wide Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) in order to discharge stormwater. Stormwater runoff is the rainwater that falls onto lawns, rooftops, roads, driveways, parking lots and other outdoor surfaces, and is not soaked up by the soil.

What happens to all of this water? Most of it flows into storm drains which often flow directly into a stream or lake, ultimately to the Long Island Sound. It can carry with it sediment, trash, oil and hydrocarbons, metals, nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, potentially harmful bacteria, and toxic substances into these water resources. This water may then become muddy, harmful to fish and wildlife, and unsafe for recreation. This is known as nonpoint source pollution. Although you may think a stormwater discharge pipe as a point source because the outflow enters a stream at a single point, contaminants in the pipe are accumulated from all over the surface of the watershed (area of land drained by a given stream or outfall pipe). Rain or snowmelt picks up pollutants and carries them downhill in pathways that flow together to one location.

Tips for Home Owners
  1. Use lawn and garden chemicals sparingly or use organic alternatives. Whatever you put on your lawn could find its way to a stream.
  2. Choose low-maintenance, native plants that require fewer chemicals and less watering.
  3. Don't dump anything into storm drains. Most lead directly into area waterways.
  4. Wash your car on the lawn or gravel, which filter the dirt and soap out of the water. Use soaps without phosphates, which remove oxygen from the water. Or go to a car wash that recycles wash water.
  5. Fix that oil leak in your car, and recycle oil and other car fluids.
  6. Clean up after your pet and dispose of the waste in the garbage or flush it down the toilet.
  7. Keep your septic system maintained to prevent leaks.
  8. Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of hosing them off.
  9. Reduce the amount of impervious surfaces around your home. Alternatives such as paving blocks, gravel, cobbles, brick and natural stone can replace asphalt and concrete in driveways, parking lots and walkways.

Home repair
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, use non-toxic, biodegradable products. Before you begin an outdoor project, locate storm drains and be sure that they are protected from any materials that the work may produce, including mortar, concrete, debris, and other substances. Paint brushes and other application tools should be cleaned indoors rather than washed outside with the hose.

Your lawn and yard
When applying pesticides do so in dry, calm weather; follow the recommended application rate on the label. When mowing, spread grass clippings back on the lawn, this returns nutrients to the soil. Otherwise sweep up yard waste rather than spraying it off the driveway with a hose. Plant debris can be used as mulch or turned into compost. Don't apply fertilizer right before rain, it will be washed out and wasted. It takes time for biochemical processes in the soil to incorporate fertilizer. Select native grasses and other plants as they tend to require less water and less fertilizer.

Test your soil - do you really need fertilizer?
Good farmers test their soil before they invest in fertilizer or manure. Find out the blend of nutrients your lawn needs. Excess fertilizer is not taken up by plants, it runs off into streams and lakes, leading to algae growth and fish kills. Fertilizer can also leach into groundwater and drinking water supplies.

Conservation planting
When soil is washed off the surface of the land and into a water body it becomes a pollutant itself. If you have planted grass seed in a bare soil area, keep it covered with a tarp or burlap until germination occurs, especially during the winter. Don't mow your lawn to the edge of a stream and maintain trees and shrubs near the edge of the bank. These plants have deeper roots more capable of holding soil in place.

Washing your vehicle
Do it on the lawn, not in the driveway. Soaps and accumulated "dirt" can harm our waterways but lawns filter out these contaminants. Better yet, go to a car wash where the dirty water can be properly discarded.

Maintaining your vehicle
Use only as much windshield washer fluid as you really need. Check periodically for leaking oil, gasoline, engine coolant, and transmission, brake, and power steering fluids. Use cat litter, sand, or other absorbent material to clean up oil or chemical spills. Don't pour used automotive liquids into storm drains - have them recycled.

Don't litter. Recycle or dispose of trash properly
This includes not only metals, plastics, paper and glass, but also hazardous materials such as batteries, paints, and other household chemicals.

Gutters and sump pumps
Collect roof runoff in rain barrels, and then utilize this water later on to water your garden. Rain barrels to which you can hook up a garden hose can be purchased or constructed. Or direct water to grassy or vegetated areas rather than down the driveway and into the street. Lawns will soak up much of the water and cleanse it of pollutants.

Pet Waste
Flush it down the toilet or dispose of it in proper receptacles. Animal waste material is rapidly absorbed by rainfall and carried into storm drains. The nutrients in it encourage the growth of pathogens and harmful bacteria in our waterways.

Swimming Pools
Before you drain your pool, test the water to make sure that chlorine is not detected. Then direct the drainage to a sanitary sewer, if possible.

Outdoor chemicals
Always store chemicals and cleaning products in a covered area where any leaks can be contained.

Septic systems
Have your septic system inspected at least every two years. A malfunctioning septic system can contaminate not only groundwater, but surface water as well. Generally, septic tanks must be pumped every 3 to 5 years at a minimum.

Don't plant trees or park vehicles over your septic absorption field - this can damage the pipes and lead to leaks.

Refrain from pouring any household chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, or antifreeze down the drain or into toilets; these substances will inhibit the action of bacteria that keep the septic tank system functioning. Additionally, avoid disposing of diapers, cat litter, coffee grounds, cigarettes, feminine hygiene products, and grease into a septic system; they will clog the system’s components.

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