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Mary Zepeda: How to recognize and report illicit stormwater discharges

Mary Zepeda: How to recognize and report illicit stormwater discharges

From the What you need to know for Wednesday, October 28 series
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Do you ever wonder if it's OK to see water on the ground when you are walking around your neighborhood or in your community? Especially when it hasn’t rained in a long time?

There are allowable discharges of water in addition to rain and there are discharges that are not allowed called illicit discharges. By definition, an illicit discharge is any direct or indirect non-stormwater discharge to the storm drain system; and a non-stormwater discharge is any discharge to the storm drain system that is not composed entirely of stormwater. The key to recognizing an illicit discharge is to understand what is not considered a source of pollution to the city’s storm drain system.

If you see one of the following discharges and they are managed correctly using Best Management Practices (BMPs) with no additional sources of pollution present, then these discharges are allowable: (1) portable water line flushing; (2) landscape irrigation and lawn watering; (3) air conditioning condensation; (4) individual private vehicle washing; (5) dechlorinated swimming pool discharges; and/or (6) flows from firefighting activities. Under drought conditions, it is prohibited to wash hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks, etc., unless it’s necessary to protect the public health and safety; and vehicles must be washed at a local commercial car wash facility unless you use a hose equipped with an automatic shut-off and make sure the wastewater drains to a landscape area or unpaved surface.

Throughout the year, city staff does their part to stop and prevent illicit discharges by inspecting industrial and commercial facilities for potential pollutant discharges from cleaning, washing or rinsing activities; chemical usage; vehicles; dumpsters and wastes generated from manufacturing processes.

If there are active construction projects, city staff also inspects these sites monthly looking for potential pollutant discharges of sediment, construction debris, chemicals, wash out water from concrete trucks etc., and ensures each site is implementing BMPs to prevent stormwater pollution from running off their site.

Both cities have jointly developed BMP guides for homeowners, businesses (automotive, landscapers, mobile cleaners and restaurants, mobile pet groomers and stylists), construction industry, multi-residential dwelling owners, and a guide for special events to help eliminate illicit discharges. The cities have also provided stormwater pollution prevention materials to hotels/motels and continue to provide stormwater pollution prevention education opportunities to our local schools to teach students that “Only Rain, Down the Storm Drain” is acceptable.

When walking on a public street in the city of Buellton you may have also noticed storm drain curb markers installed on all of the storm drains with the catchy phrase “Only Rain, Down the Storm Drain.” Similarly, the city of Solvang uses the phrase “No Dumping, Drains to River” on its storm drains. The intent of these markers is to remind us that only stormwater should enter the storm drain system unless it’s one of the approved discharges.

If you see a non-stormwater discharge that may be an illicit discharge, you can report it to your city’s Pubic Work Department/Division. The person making the report should be prepared to provide the location/address of the problem; quantity, origin, color and odor of the substance; vehicle license number and/or information pertaining to the individuals involved in the discharge, if applicable; and photo documentation would be helpful. If the discharge creates any emergency situation, a person should dial 911 to notify the County Sheriff's Office or Fire Department and be prepared to provide information about the incident.

To learn more about how to recognize and report an illicit discharge, visit your city’s Stormwater Management webpage or contact your local jurisdiction:

Mary Zepeda works for MNS Engineers, Inc. as the Stormwater Program Coordinator for the City of Solvang.


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