Illicit Discharges

Storm Water regulations define an “illicit discharge” as “any discharge to a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) that is not composed entirely of storm water” (except exempted discharges). Common sources of non-storm water, dry weather discharges in urban areas include:

  • Apartments and homes
  • Car washes
  • Restaurants
  • Landfills
  • Gas stations
  • Manufacturing

These so-called “generating sites” may potentially discharge sanitary waste water, septic system effluent, vehicle wash water, wash down from grease traps, motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline and fuel spills, among other substances. Although these illicit discharges can enter the storm drain system in various ways, they generally result from either direct connections or indirect connections.

Studies indicate that dry weather discharges contribute significant pollutants to receiving waters. The detection and elimination of illicit discharges are important to protect and restore urban waterways.This minimum control measure of the Storm Water Management Program is designed to reduce pollutants in storm water runoff to receiving waters. It requires the development and implementation of a program to identify and eliminate sources of illicit discharge and illegal dumping.

You can learn more about illicit discharges from this fact sheet published by the EPA.

Irrigation Information

While The City of Orem does not own nor manage the irrigation canals that run through the City, some runoff from streets does go into irrigation canals. Here are some of the common questions we get from citizens regarding irrigation:

Q: There’s water running down the street but its not raining. Should I report this and if so who do I call?
A: It is fairly common for overflow from irrigation to run down City streets between the months of April and October. If you see water running down the gutter, you should report it if there is imminent danger of property damage. You can call 229-7500 during normal business hours and 229-7070 after hours to report emergency flooding situations.

Q: I am concerned about an open ditch that runs near my house. Who should I contact to get the open ditch put into a pipe?
A: Cleaning and changing pipe configurations are handled by the irrigation companies that operate in the City. To determine who to call, you can use the map below. (When using the address search, remember to include “Orem, UT”.)

Storm Water Quality Credit Package

The City of Orem is unique among Wasatch Front municipalities in terms of how storm water is managed within the City limits. Rather than a traditional storm water system which consists of piping, detention and conveyance structures, a significant portion of the City’s storm water system consists of hundreds of dry sumps which are located on both private and public property throughout the City. During storm events, much of the City’s runoff is diverted into these dry sumps and infiltrated into the ground water system. The majority of these sumps are owned privately. Generally, storm water flow into sumps is not pretreated for the removal of pollutants, nor is the storm water effluent monitored for potential contaminants.

On May 14, 1996, the Orem City Council passed an ordinance that created a Storm Sewer Utility for the City. On May 26, 1996, the City Council passed a resolution that allows the Storm Sewer Utility to give water quality credits, which reduces the monthly bill, for any non-single family resident that qualifies for the credit. To qualify for the credit, a business may install a structure or device that reduces or eliminates pollutants from its storm water runoff before it enters a dry well (sump), irrigation ditch, city storm drain, or waters of the State of Utah.

The City of Orem selected Hansen, Allen & Luce, Inc. to assist them in identifying pollutants which may potentially be present in storm water runoff, developing a list of Best Management Practices (BMPs) which could be implemented to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the storm drainage system, and to assist the City in developing a fee credit program for businesses which implement storm water pollution control measures. HA&L was subsequently authorized by the City of Orem on August 23, 1996 to complete the storm water runoff pollution and control study. The storm water credit program is the result of that effort.

The purpose of the storm water credit program is to recognize the efforts of businesses in reducing and/or eliminating storm water pollution by granting storm water quality credits, which reduces the monthly bill, for any non-single family resident that qualifies for the credit. To qualify for the credit, a business must implement source and/or treatment controls that reduce or eliminate pollutants from its storm water runoff before it enters a dry well (sump), irrigation ditch, city storm drain, or waters of the State of Utah. Storm water credits will not be granted for use of storm water sumps.

The Storm Water Quality Credit Package will be your guide to applying for and renewing storm water credit.

Storm Water Resources for Home Owners

What can I do to help keep storm water clean?

It’s the simple stuff that helps the most:

  • Do not dump chemicals, oil, and cleaning fluids down storm drains.
  • Do not litter. Keep our streets and water clean by putting trash in its place.
  • Don’t leave pet waste. Dog and cat waste causes bacteria in our storm drains.
  • Keep the storm gutters free of leaves, dirt, and debris.
  • Recycle used oil and antifreeze.
  • If you see anyone illegally dumping or discharging chemicals in gutters or strom drains, please call the storm water hotline immediately at 801-229-7577.

Car Care For Cleaner Water

Here are some suggestions to limit the impact of cars on stormwater quality
Recycle Oil – Old motor oil can be reprocessed and used again and again. Just put it in a container with a tight lid such as a plastic jug or metal can, and take it to a community oil recycling center like Orem City Public Works (1450 W 550 North).
Use Commercial Car Washes – Dirty water from the car wash is cleaned and recycled or it goes to a wastewater treatment plant where pollutants are removed. If you wash cars on a paved driveway or parking lot, the dirty water and the phosphates in the soaps end up in our lakes and streams.
Keep Your Car Tuned Up – Cars that run smoothly burn less fuel and causes less pollution. Regular tune-ups also reduce the amount of hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and other pollutants that come out of your car’s exhaust pipe.
Repair Leaks – Spots on your driveway or garage floor mean the engine, transmission or radiator in your car is leaking. Have the leak repaired right away. Then clean up the spot by using cat litter or another absorbent material to soak up the spill. Sweep up the cat litter and put it in a sealed bag in the trash for disposal.
Recycle Antifreeze – Recycle antifreeze at Orem Public Works. Used antifreeze should not be flushed down the drain because it has pollutants that may cause problems for sewage treatment plants or septic tanks. Antifreeze is also very poisonous to people and animals.
Return Used Batteries – Return your used car or truck battery to the place where you bought it. Be careful – old batteries may leak acid.
Check Tire Pressure – One of the simplest and cheapest ways to prevent pollution is to keep your tires inflated. For every pound that your tires are under-inflated, your car loses 1% in gas mileage. Under-inflated tires also wear out sooner.
Use Up Paints, Polishes and Cleaners – Paints, polishes and special cleaners for cars are usually flammable and toxic. Try to buy only what you need. To dispose of small amounts, leave the container open in a safe place away from children, pets, wildlife and flames. When the liquid is gone and the substance is hard, cap the container and put it in the trash.
Drive Less – Driving less is the best way to prevent pollution. Water quality tests show that the most polluted runoff comes from heavily traveled streets and highways.
From Car Care for Cleaner Water – University of Wisconsin Extension

Yard Care For Cleaner Water

Fertilizing The Lawn

Nearly everyone appreciates a well cared for lawn. To achieve the healthiest green lawn, many people turn to chemical fertilizers. Unfortunately, lawn fertilizers pose several risks to human health and water quality. Hazardous chemicals in fertilizers include ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, ammonium sulfate, pesticides and potassium chloride. Fertilizers can be corrosive to skin, eyes and mucous membranes and can potentially affect water quality.

Fertilizer Use – When using fertilizers, read labels carefully to ensure that you are properly protected and that you use the right amount of fertilizer for your lawn. Don’t fertilize before predicted heavy rain and be careful along lawn edges. Fertilizer left on sidewalks and driveways can easily be washed into storm water. It is suggested that slow-release fertilizer is less-hazardous. Look for bags that have the word “WIN” on them. This indicates that the fertilizer contains water insoluble nitrogen.

Leftover Fertilizer – If you have fertilizer left over, store it in a sealed and labeled plastic bag and keep it away from children, pets and water. If you don’t want to store it, it is best to find someone who can use it.

Disposal – Empty fertilizer bags that do not contain pesticides and weed killers can be disposed of in the garbage. If the fertilizer contains pesticide, please follow directions under “pesticides” on your product’s label to dispose of properly. If you can’t find any way of using up the product, you may dispose of it by placing it in a heavy duty plastic bag. Please call the North Utah County District Landfill at 225-8170 and let them know you are bringing in fertilizer. This makes sure the fertilizer is handled safely.

Reducing The Need For Fertilizer – You can reduce the amount of fertilizer you need by frequently mowing your lawn with a mulching mower to a height of three inches and leaving the clippings on the lawn. Using compost and soil amendments also reduces the need for fertilizer. A guide to composting is available in PDF format at the Utah State University extension website at Or you can call them at 370-8460 with questions about lawn and garden care.

Source – Eliminating Household Hazardous Waste. Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Boise, Idaho. 1999. Pp 12-13.

Some Thoughts on Pet Waste

Many people enjoy having pets and caring for them. But have you thought about the impact pets may have on water quality? In reality, pet waste can be a major polluter. Studies in Seattle have shown pet waste to be the main pollutant in one its main waterways. So what problems can occur when pet owners allow pet waste to be washed into storm water? There are two pollutants that come from pet waste that can cause problems for water quality: nutrients and bacteria..

Nutrients from pet waste cause a process known as eutrophication. This leads to an increase in weed and algae growth. The weeds and green water can make boating and fishing difficult or undesirable. This greening of the water can block sunlight affecting bottom-rooted plants. When nutrient levels lessen, the weeds and algae decompose using oxygen and possibly causing fish kills. Other sources of nutrient pollution include leaves and grass clippings as well as excess fertilizers.

Bacteria from pet wastes can cause a variety of symptoms from nausea to diarrhea to rash and even death in people with weakened immune systems.

City ordinance requires pet owners to clean up after pets. Violations can result in fines. So how can a pet owner take care of waste responsibly? There are a couple of options for pet waste disposal. The first option is to bag the pet waste and throw it away in the garbage. This is a legal way to dispose of pet waste. Another suggestion is to bury the waste. It is suggested that you dig a hole at least one foot deep. You can then place three to four inches of waste in the hole and cover it with at least eight inches of soil. Keep buried waste away from vegetable gardens and water sources. Don’t add pet waste to compost. It will not get hot enough to kill pathogens in pet waste. Flushing pet waste down the toilet is against City Code.

We should remember that pets don’t pollute, people do. Please clean up after your pets.

Sources –
Johnson, Carolyn. Pet Waste And Water Quality. University of Wisconsin Extension. Madison, Wisconsin, 1999.
Eggan, Dan. “Creek Pollution Pinned On Pooches”. Washington Post. June 8, 1998. p C1.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Public Education and Outreach on Storm Water Impacts”.
City of Seattle. “What’s the Problem With Pet Waste?”.
University of Wisconsin Extension. “Brown Water, Green Weeds”. Madison, Wisconsin. 2001.


Most paint has four components:

  • The resin is the main part of the paint which forms a film on the surface. It is typically a non-hazardous component like linseed, or acrylic.
  • Solvent keeps the paint a liquid until the solvent evaporates after painting. In oil-based paint, the solvent is derived from a petroleum distillate and can include hazardous ingredients like mineral spirits, toluene and xylene. The solvent in latex paint is water.
  • Pigments provide the color and covering power. The major pigments used presently are relatively nontoxic. Some highly colored pigments may contain heavy metals such as chromium, cadmium or arsenic. Older paints may contain lead.
  • Paint may also have additives. Some types of additives include stabilizers, dryers, thickeners, and preservatives. Some latex paints contain a mercury-based fungicide preservative.

Here are some tips for using paint. Avoid having leftover paint by buying only the amount you need for the job. Use up any leftover paint. If you cannot use it up, see if a friend or neighbor is willing to use it.

If paint is unusable, dispose of it properly. Never put liquid paint in the trash or pour it in a drain or storm drain. Small amounts of paint can be solidified. If you choose to solidify paint, be sure to do so in a well ventilated area. Make sure there are no possible sources of spark or fire, and wear protective gloves.

To solidify small quantities, such as an inch or two in the bottom of a can, simply remove the lid, add non-flammable absorbent and stir until all the liquid is absorbed. When the paint is solidified, place the absorbent and paint cans inside a garbage bag, seal the bag tightly and dispose of it in the trash destined for the landfill.


Storm Water Fees

What is this “Storm Sewer” fee?
In 1995, the City Council appointed a group of Orem residents, business, governmental and private individuals to an Ad Hoc Committee, entitled the Citizen’s Storm Water Advisory Committee. After eight months of review and research, the Committee recommended to the City Council that the City adopt and create a Storm Sewer Utility. On March 26, 1996, the City Council passed the ordinance creating this utility which began operation June 1, 1996. The storm sewer fee was established at that time to fund the operations of this new utility. Each year, as part of the budget process, the City Council reviews the fee charged for storm water.

What are some of the major issues that were looked at?
The committee saw water quality as a major concern. Storm water may carry with it pollutants that potentially can contaminate the City’s culinary wells, as well as irrigation canals, and springs. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently enforces strict storm water regulations for cities larger than 100,000 in population. Phase 2 of those regulations, which went into effect in March of 2003, is aimed at cities between 50-100,000. Orem’s population is estimated at 90,000 and growing.

Why did the City decide on an “impervious” surface fee?
When property is developed with buildings, pavement, compacted gravel or dirt, patios, artificial turf, etc., water is prevented from getting into the soil. These areas are termed impervious surfaces because they restrict natural infiltration. Impervious surfaces concentrate storm water flows and increase runoff from properties. Impervious surface fees seemed the fairest way to comply with the needs and issues of funding the work that needs to be done.

How is the storm sewer fee money spent?
Revenue from this fee is used for the two aspects of the storm sewer program.

First, the money goes to improve the quality of the storm water runoff before it enters our Utah Lake, Provo River, and underground aquifers. It also allows the City to enforce EPA regulations on those violating the law, and to improve our public education program. The money will also go towards developing standards and regulations to ensure water quality in the future.

Second, the money goes towards flood prevention through construction projects that improve runoff collection. It also allows the City to increase maintenance of existing and future infrastructure.

What is an “ESU”?
An ESU is an Equivalent Service Unit equal to the average impervious surface of a residential property in Orem. The Citizen’s Committee hired an engineering firm to measure all commercial and governmental properties in Orem as well as perform a statistical analysis of the average amount of impervious surface area of a typical Orem home. A single family home has an average impervious surface area of 2700 square feet. This is equal to 1 ESU.

All non-single family parcels (commercial lots, retail properties, apartments, schools, churches, government facilities) pay a multiple of this base rate according to their impervious area. For example, a business with 27,000 square feet of impervious surface is assessed 10 ESU’s. That business pays a monthly fee of $7.35 per ESU or $73.50.

Why just one flat rate for residential properties?
Most residences are very similar in their impervious areas. This was confirmed when we analyzed a sample of homes (200) in the City and found that 95% of all homes are clustered very closely in terms of impervious area.

Where can I get more information?
Call and talk to us at 229-7500. Your call will be forwarded to the individual that can best answer your questions.

Storm Water Structures

Traditional storm water systems are made up of structures used to collect runoff and convey that water to a nearby river or lake. The following elements that make up the City of Orem’s storm drainage system.

Catch Basins or Drain Inlets

These structures are where water goes from the surface to the underground pipes. The most common elements of these structures are the curbface inlet which is an opening cut into the curb with a grated inlet in the gutter. Catch basins are designed to have a depression below where the water enters the pipe. This allows for sediment to accumulate here.

Pre-Treatment Inlets or Oil/Water Separators

Pre-treatment inlets are drain inlets that are designed to separate water from some of the most common pollutants. Sediment and heavier particles settle to the bottom. Oils and other floating debris stay on the top while water from the mid section is discharged into the storm water drainage pipes or into a sump. You can use the following links to learn more about these structures.


These structures are 5-10 ft. deep concrete or corrugated metal cylinders with holes drilled into the sides. Sumps are designed to allow water to drain out into the subsurface soils. They are an effective way to disburse water.


Manholes are placed at regular intervals along storm drainage pipes to allow access for cleaning, maintenance and monitoring. They are also placed at location where two or more pipes come together. They are generally made of concrete or corrugated metal. Some manholes also have pre-treatment devices as discussed in the section about pre-treatment inlets.

Diversion Structures

There are some locations in our storm drainage system where it would be beneficial to choose which direction the water is going to flow. In these cases, we use diversion structures to affect the direction of flow. This is accomplished by opening and closing head gates. These structures can also be used to regulate the volume of flow passing the structure.


The storm water system has nearly 90 miles of underground pipes. They range in size from 12″ to 96″ in diameter and made of concrete, corrugated metal and high density polyethylene.

Channels or Ditches

The City makes use of a few ditches and channels to help aid storm drainage. The largest channel that takes Orem storm water is the Provo River on the east side of town and Lindon Hollow is the largest on the west side of town. Most of the channels and ditches in the main part of town are owned and operated by irrigation companies to supply water to orchards and gardens. These irrigation ditches usually carry very little storm water.


The end of the pipe or channel where water discharges into Utah Lake or a another water body that the City does not maintain like Provo River is called an outfall. Outfalls are important because they mark the transfer of responsibility from one governing agency to another. They also provide locations for water sampling that allow us to evaluate the quality of the runoff we discharge. If things are not they way we expect them to be, outfalls provide starting points to do investigation and find out why.

Detention Basins

Detention basins are depressed areas designed to take large amounts of water in and let the water out at a controlled rate. This allows the City to make use of smaller pipes downstream of the basins saving the City money on installation and maintenance of systems. Examples of detention basins can be found at the Skate Park at 400 North and 1200 West and Bonneville Park at 800 North 1600 West.

Drainage Swales

A swale is a vegetated, sloped depression that allows water to flow through, but at a slower pace than in other channels. the sub surface is constructed in such a way that it encourages infiltration to ground water.

Green Roofs

These specially designed roofs are meant to grow vegetation and allow water to be filtered by plants and soils before being discharged. There are not many of these in the City but we hope see some in the future.

Rain Gardens

A rain garden is a depression planted to take the runoff from a parking lot, road, driveway or roof top so that the runoff has a chance to be absorbed.

What is Storm Water?

Storm water is water that comes from a rain or snow event. It is created when rain falls or snow melts faster than the ground can absorb it. In the urban environment, many surfaces have been altered from their undeveloped state to a more hardened or impervious surface. This causes more runoff to be generated than there was prior to development. In addition to rain and snow events, our storm water system is also used to handle tail waters from flood irrigation, a watering technique used on some properties with sunken landscapes, orchards or gardens.

Why Worry About Storm Water?

Concerns about storm water generally are centered on two issues: quantity and quality.

Too much storm water runoff results in flooding. In order to deal with flooding, urban sites have traditionally relied on moving water as quickly as possible to underground pipes that discharge into lakes or rivers. An alternative approach is to direct surface water to drains that release water underground. Both of these can lead to highly concentrated flows that can negatively affect river banks or that can overtax underground discharge.

Research is now leading to the use of Low Impact Development (LID) strategies and Green Infrastructure. To learn more about these novel approaches, you can read A Guide to Low Impact Development within Utah published by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

As far as storm water quality, it is important to recognize that runoff carries whatever pollutants are found on streets, parking lots, sidewalks, rooftops and other hard surfaces to local water bodies without treatment. Storm drains do not lead to the sewer system that treats the water from inside homes and businesses. Storm water systems do not connect to the treatment plant at all.

The City has identified several pollutants of concern that can harm human health, degrade water quality, damage aquatic habitat, and seriously impair ecosystem functions.

  1. Sediment – Sediment is a common component of storm water. Sediment can aid in the transportation of pollutants such as attached oils, nutrients, chemical contamination, trace metals, and increase the risk of flooding. Sediment is also detrimental to aquatic habitat for fish and plants. Sediment is the primary component of total suspended solids (TSS), a common water quality analytical parameter.
  2. Nutrients – Nutrients are often found in storm water. These nutrients can result in excessive or accelerated growth of harmful algal blooms, reduced oxygen in the water, changes in water chemistry and pH. In addition, un-ionized ammonia (one of the nitrogen forms) can be toxic to fish. Chemicals like phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and ammonia are found in fertilizers, pet waste, grass clippings, and decaying leaves.
  3. Hydrocarbons – Oil and grease include a wide array of hydrocarbon compounds, some of which are toxic to aquatic organisms at low concentrations. Some of these pollutants are toxic to humans and wildlife at very low levels. Hydrocarbons come from vehicle and equipment fluid leaks, pesticides, equipment cleaning, and parking lots.
  4. Heavy Metals – Metals including lead, zinc, cadmium, copper, chromium and nickel are commonly found in storm water. Heavy metals can be found in vehicle brakes and equipment, parking lot runoff, batteries, paint and wood preservatives, fuels and fuel additives, pesticides, and cleaning agents.
  5. Debris/Litter/Trash – Not only does trash have the potential of blocking off inlets, it contains pathogens and many of the other pollutants already discussed. It is important to follow proper solid waste handling procedures.
  6. Pathogens – Bacteria and viruses are contaminates in storm water and can cause adverse health reactions.

It is the City’s goal to reduce or minimize the presence of these pollutants in storm water runoff. There are some common ways that the City tries to minimize the potential impact of pollutants entering storm water runoff. All of this is important because Utah Lake, the Provo River, and Powell Slough are each listed as 303(d) water body. This means it is monitored regularly by the state of Utah for the presence of pollutants. The pollutants listed in the State’s report are Phosphorous, Dissolved Solids, PCB, and Algal Blooms. This monitoring is meant to ensure that these bodies of water are safe for recreational activities and for fish and other wildlife.