What is stormwater pollution?
Water from rain and melting snow that flows over lawns, parking lots and streets are examples of stormwater runoff. This water, which travels along gutters, into catch basins and through storm drain pipes and ditches is discharged into local waterbodies without being treated. Along the way, the stormwater picks up trash and toxins and other pollutants. This polluted stormwater that enters our waterways can kill fish and other wildlife, destroy wildlife habitats, contaminate drinking water sources and force the closing of beaches due to health threats to swimmers.
Human activity is largely responsible for the stormwater pollution. Everything that we put on the ground or into the storm drain can end up in our water. Each of us has a responsibility to make sure these contaminants stay out of our water.
Visit the NJ DEP website to view a short clip about the dangers of stormwater pollution.
View Highland Park's Stormwater Management Ordinance.
What can you do to prevent it?
There are a number of everyday activities that can affect water quality. Help reduce the amount of pollution that flows into our waterways by changing your behaviors:
- Adjust your methods with gardening and lawn care
- Remember to pick up after your pet
- Consider taking your car to a green automotive repair shop
- Purchase green products for your home
How can I reduce runoff?
There are inexpensive ways to control excess runoff created by patios, driveways, sidewalks and roofs. Landscaping and careful grading can be used to control runoff, reduce its speed and increase the time over which it is released. The following suggestions can be implemented to decrease surface runoff:
- Install gravel trenches along driveways or patios to collect stormwater and filter it into the soil.
- Plant sod on bare patches in your lawn as soon as possible to avoid erosion.
- Grade all areas away from your house at a gentle slope.
- Use a grass swale, which is a man-made depression, to move water from one area to another.
- Plant shrubs and trees to promote infiltration.
What is an impervious surface?
An impervious surface is one that does not allow water through to seep into the ground. Examples include concrete sidewalks and asphalt. There are alternatives to these items that are pervious. Some other examples of attractive alternatives to concreate are listed below:
- Wood or recycled material decks, usually installed for their functional good looks, can serve as a form of porous pavement. Decking allows rainwater to soak into the ground beneath it, and the space between the planks provides ample room for precipitation to drain directly onto the soil surface. As long as minimal air space is maintained between the soil surface and the decking, wood rot can be minimized.
- Using bricks, interlocking pavers or flat stones (flagstone, bluestone or granite), you can construct an attractive, durable walkway. If placed on well-drained soil or on a sand or gravel bed, these modular pavers allow rainwater infiltration. Avoid using chemicals to control weeds growing in the joints between the pavers; Corsican mint or moss can crowd out weeds and add beauty to the paved area.
- Pre-cast concrete lattice pavers also rest on a bed of sand and gravel and allow rain to soak slowly into the ground.
- Dutch drains, which are containers of gravel with holes used to infiltrate water from rooftops directly into the ground, carry water from rain spouts into the soil, where it gradually filters into the ground.
Where does stormwater go?
Stormwater flows directly into our rivers, lakes, streams and oceans. Drains are frequently located in parking lots and along the curbs of roadways. Some of the larger pieces of trash are prevented from entering the drain by a catch basin but smaller items can still get through. The water and these smaller items make their way through pipes which lead to an outfall where the stormwater enters a larger body of water. In some areas, the water may end up in a stormwater management basin. These basins control the flow and improve the quality of stormwater, depending on how they’re designed.
Why has stormwater runoff become such a problem?
Urbanization and increasing commercial and residential developments have had a great impact on local water resources. With new developments come more impervious surfaces which increase the rate of stormwater runoff. This means a greater volume of water carrying pollution into surface waters and less of it being soaked into the ground. Less water soaking into the ground can lower ground water levels, which can dry up streams and hurt stream ecosystems and can reduce the supply of well water.