Illicit Discharges

Informational Guide

Nature has ingenious systems for the management and delivery of water in all its phases: precipitation, evaporation, absorption by plants, wetlands, flows to rivers and lakes, and infiltration that recharges groundwater and aquifers. This natural environment has been disrupted by human development and interaction. The impervious surfaces placed by humans, shed water that causes stormwater runoff. These surfaces range from building rooftops to parking lots. 

Approximately 30 to 95% of rainfall flows across a typical human development and is referred to as stormwater or urban runoff. Stormwater captures heat and pollutants across the urban environment, collecting heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, oils, pharmaceuticals, Phosphorous, nitrogen, trash, and sediment. Polluted stormwater degrades our lakes, rivers, wetlands, and other waterways, in whole stormwater pollution directly affects our available drinking water.

  • Nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen cause increase growth of algae which takes up existing oxygen.
  • Toxic substances from motor vehicles and over fertilization threatens water quality and kills fish and other aquatic life.
  • Bacteria from animal wastes and improper connections to storm sewer systems can make lakes and waterways unsafe for wading, swimming, and fishing/fish consumption.
  • Eroded soils cause cloudiness and increased turbidity which interferes with the habitat of fish and aquatic plant life.

Common pollutants found in storm sewers and waterways

  1. Animal waste
  2. Litter
  3. Motor oil
  4. Yard clippings
  5. Fertilizers and pesticides
  6. Soapy car wash water
  7. Eroded sediment from exposure 
  8. Household cooking grease


Car Washing

Many soaps contain chemicals that are harmful to fish and degrade water quality. When you wash your car in the your driveway, the soap together with dirt, grime, grease, and oil washes from your car and down into the nearby storm drain. Which discharges directly to lakes, rivers, and streams.

Some soaps may contain phosphates, which can cause increased algae growth in local waters. Algae looks bad, smells bad, and is bad for water quality. As algae decays, they use all available oxygen in the water that fish need to survive.

Scoop the Poop

Pet waste can carry harmful bacteria, parasites, or viruses. It can make people, especially children, very sick. It can also be dangerous to wildlife and other dogs. Rodents are very attracted to pet waste left in your yard. That is why it is important to pick up after your pet. When you leave pet waste on the ground, rain and snow melt carry it to nearby storm drains where it reaches the nearest waterbody, most likely untreated. Which is the same water we drink. Once there, it can elevate bacteria levels and contaminate our waterbodies. Decaying pet waste also consumes oxygen and releases ammonia. Low oxygen levels and high ammonia can damage the health of fish and other aquatic life. Similarly, nutrients in pet waste may increase algae and weed growth in our water, which consume oxygen as they decompose, further harming aquatic life.