Frequently Used Terms – Storm Water Polution

September 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm 1 comment

The next time it rains, look at a street gutter or roadside ditch. The rain, rather than seeping into the soil, flows quickly off roads and roofs. It picks up oil, grease, heavy metals, and trash from roads, sediment from construction sites and pesticides and fertilizers from lawns. It rushes through storm drains and, when discharged to a stream, erodes the natural system. What started as a friendly rain, is now a serious polluter.

Best Management Practices (BMPs): Good housekeeping solutions that include the proper handling, storage, and disposal of toxic materials to prevent stormwater pollution.

Catch basin: Curbside opening that collects rainwater from streets and serves as an entry point to the storm drain system.

First flush: The first big rain after an extended dry period (usually summer) that flushes out the accumulated pollutants in the storm drain system and carries them straight to the ocean.

Flood control channel: The open portion (often concrete-lined) of the storm drain system. Gutter: The edge of a street (below the curb) designed to drain water runoff from streets, driveways, parking lots, etc. into catch basins. Household hazardous waste: Common everyday products people use in and around their homes—including paint, paint thinner, herbicides, and pesticides—that, due to their chemical nature, can be hazardous if not properly disposed.

Illegal discharge: Any disposal into the storm drain system for which a person or business does not have a permit. Illicit connection: Any connection to the storm drain system that is not permitted: or any legitimate connection that is used for illegal discharge. Nonpoint source pollution: Pollution that does not come from a single, identifiable source. Includes materials that wash from roofs, streets, yards, driveways, sidewalks and other land areas. Collectively, this is the largest source of stormwater pollution.

Outfall: A flow of water from one drainage system into a larger system, or into a body of water like a lake, bay, or the ocean. Point source pollution: Pollution from a single identifiable source such as a factory or a sewage-treatment plant. Most of this pollution is highly regulated at the state and local levels. Runoff: Water that comes off the land into lakes, rivers, and streams when it rains. Source control: Action to prevent pollution where it originates.

Storm drain system: A vast network of underground pipes and open channels, designed for flood control, that discharges straight to rivers, lakes and streams.

Stormwater: Rainwater that enters the storm drain system and empties into lakes, rivers, streams or the ocean.

Stormwater pollution: Water from rain, irrigation, garden hoses or other activities that picks up pollutants (cigarette butts, trash, automotive fluids, used oil, paint, fertilizers and pesticides, lawn and garden clippings and pet waste) from streets, parking lots, driveways and yards and carries them through the storm drain system and straight to waterways. Watershed: An area of land that drains water or runoff to a single point.

Source: Clean Water Campaign


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Walter Brown  |  April 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I found your blog while researching waste water run-off issues. I am particularly concerned about oil contaminated waste water run-off in our open storm water drainage systems that are discharged by rivers and streams into our bays and estuaries. A company in North Carolina has developed an effective way to clean oil spills in a safe and environmentally friendly way. You may find it interesting that a new product called BacKrete uses naturally occurring, living bacteria to clean oil spills. Check out for information. Businesses and residents that care enough to properly clean oil stained concrete driveways, parking lots and drive-throughs are part of the solution to minimizing toxic storm water run-off from finding its way into our rivers and streams.


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