Preventing Pollution

Planting_Kim Gridley photographer_6 copySimple actions can help reduce pollution in our local waters. The main idea is to stop pollutants from reaching impervious surfaces on the ground, where the next rainstorm could carry them into a storm drain and into a nearby creek, lake, or Puget Sound.

You can help by:

  • Maintaining your car and driving it less. Maintain your vehicle by making sure all fluid leaks are fixed. If you do your own maintenance, recycle used motor oil, antifreeze, and other fluids. Vehicle exhaust contains many contaminants that end up on the road and ultimately in stormwater. Driving less and driving a low emission vehicle will reduce the amount of harmful pollution.
  • Washing vehicles. Wash your car or boat at a commercial carwash where water is collected and treated. If you wash vehicles at home, do it over a part of the lawn that allows water to soak into the soil, not on the pavement—and use a mild, phosphate-free soap. Never wash your vehicle over your septic system or drainfield, which could harm your septic system.
  • Disposing of fluids properly. Never dump fluids including solvents, paint, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or other harmful fluids or chemicals into a storm drain or ditch. These eventually drain to a stream, wetland, beach, or groundwater.
  • Reducing fertilizer and pesticide usage. Minimize or eliminate your use of fertilizers and pesticides. Avoid fertilizing before a rainstorm. See Guideline 3 for more information.
  • Maintaining your septic system. If you have a septic system, have regular inspections and pumping to avoid system failure. A failing septic system allows sewage to seep to the surface of your yard where children and pets can get into it and rain runoff could carry it to local waterways.
  • Disposing of pet waste. Pick up pet waste, bag it, and dispose of it in the garbage. Keep animals and livestock out of streams, Pick up and store manure in a covered area, making sure it does not wash into nearby waterways.
  • Reducing rooftop runoff. Direct your downspouts to a place where water can soak in to the ground, and not to a driveway or the storm drain in your street.
  • Educating yourself and your family. Learn about your local watershed. Consider volunteering for stream restoration or other local volunteer projects. You will learn a lot about where your water comes from, where it goes, and how healthy it is.

Good stormwater management not only prevents damage to property and people from flooding, but it also protects the quality of our water. Stormwater management is done by most cities and towns at a large scale, but you can do a lot on your own property to help out. These home-based Low Impact Development (LID) techniques include rain gardens, permeable pavement, rainwater catchment, and soil amendments for better absorption.

LID can be applied to new development or an existing home and can be successful in many different situations from urban to rural. Some techniques are simple and others require some engineering. All require a good understanding of how water flows to and from your home and land.

LID DOESN’T BELONG EVERYWHERE: There are certain situations when Low Impact Development practices are not advised or recommended. While infiltration of rainwater into the soils is usually desirable, directing water to some locations can create problems with septic system drainfields, may flood crawlspaces, or de-stabilize slopes and bluffs. Check out the Washington Department of Ecology’s “Managing Drainage on Coastal Bluffs” publication and seek professional advice regarding drainage methods if needed. Refer to Guideline 5 for more information about reducing erosion and landslides.