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 http://www.extension.usu.edu/publica/gardpubs/compos01.pdf. 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”. http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/menuofbmps/edu_8.cfm
City of Seattle. “What’s the Problem With Pet Waste?”. http://www.seattle.gov/util/environmentconservation/ourwatersheds/restoreourwaters/preventpollution/petwaste/
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.

Source: http://www.muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/wasteman/wm6001.htm