The Threat of Polluted Storm Water Run-off

Part of our quarterly Storm Water Series by Todd Sattison, WPC Program Coordinator

Storm water runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks and streets prevent storm water from naturally soaking into the ground. And in those cases, storm water can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants and flow into a municipal storm sewer system or discharge directly to a lake, stream, river or wetland. That causes a problem for our local bodies of water because anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the water bodies that we use for swimming, fishing and other recreational activities.

One of the main pollutants found in storm water runoff is pet waste. The good news is that pet owners can take simple steps to prevent contamination of storm water runoff by pet waste.

Preventing Pet Waste Contamination

Pet waste can be a major source of bacteria and excess nutrients in local waters. That’s why it’s important when walking your pet, to remember to pick up the waste and dispose of it properly.

Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method. Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local water bodies.

Decaying pet waste consumes oxygen and sometimes releases ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia can damage the health of fish and other aquatic life. Additionally, pet waste carries bacteria, viruses and parasites that can threaten the health of wildlife. Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication), and cloudy and green, eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy.

Information contained in this educational article was obtained from the USEPA storm water web site www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater. For additional information regarding your local storm water issues, please contact Todd Sattison, Program Coordinator at the City of Auburn Water Pollution Control, 2010 South Wayne St. Auburn IN 46706. (260-925-1714)