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Environmental Services
Recognizing Evidence of Illicit Discharges
Recognizing Evidence of Illicit Discharges
Finding these conditions in your nearby streams could indicate the presence of an illicit discharge. If any of these conditions are observed, please:
  • call our offices at 703-792-7070
  • email
When reporting please include the address of the discharge, your name and contact information for follow up (optional), a description of the observed discharge, and any information pertaining to the possible source of the pollution. Please help us control what enters streams and rivers to promote the health of the citizens and environment of Prince William County.
Appearance What to Look For​
 Oil and/or Fuels
  • Color: Rainbow sheen floating on top of water surface
  • When disturbed, sheen will swirl together
  • Odor: May have strong petroleum or gasoline smell
  • Turbidity and Floatables: Oil sheen, red, brown, black streaks
· Color: Yellow, Golden, Brown
· Odor: Stale greasy smell, petroleum, cooking grease
· Turbidity and Floatables: Material typically clumps/strings together, will most likely have other material floating within
· Color: Orange, Yellow, Red, chocolate milk
· Odor: None
· Turbidity and Floatables: Typically find deposits settled to bottom, water can be very turbid, may not be able to see bottom of stream




· Color: Grey
· Odor: Strong sewage smell, Sulfur, Fecal matter
· Turbidity and Floatables: Foam, Bubbles, fecal solids, food wastes, toilet paper, etc.
Soaps and Detergents

· Color: Milky White, Grey, Cloudy
· Odor: Fragrance like laundry detergent/soaps, or none at all
· Turbidity and Floatables: Bubbles, foam, highly turbid

Cement, Construction runoff

· Color: Grey, cloudy, milky, muddy
· Odor: None
· Turbidity and Floatables: Unlike soaps and detergents, runoff from these activities should be void of floatables such as bubbles and foam, high turbidity and sediment should be present.
· Color: Bright Green, blue, pink, etc.
· Odor: None
· Turbidity and Floatables: Bright Color, used in testing of sewer and stormsewer system, should look very unnatural
Other Wastewater
· Color: Blue, White
· Odor: Sewage, Chemical Smell
· Turbidity and Floatables: Foam or bubbles, un-natural particles
   Natural issues do not pose a concern or threat to water quality.  They are not considered illicit.  
Natural occurrence​ Appearance

· Color: Green, brown
· Texture: Fibrous, slimy, hairy
· Odor: Musty, biological smell.
· Turbidity and Floatables:
· Typical Timeframe of Occurrence: Late spring into early fall, often found in low flow areas

       · Color: Red, Rust color
· Texture: Clumpy, thick layer on surface of water
· Odor: None
· Turbidity and Floatables: Rainbow Sheen, clumpy red deposits, when disturbed rainbow sheen “shatters” instead of swirling like oil deposits
· Typical Timeframe of Occurrence: Early summer through early fall
· Color: brownish red, tea color
· Odor: none
· Turbidity and Floatables: leafy matter
· Typical Timeframe of Occurrence: Fall

· Color: Yellow
· Odor: none
· Turbidity and Floatables: dust/film
· Typical Timeframe of Occurrence: Late winter through spring into early summer, typically seen on stagnant water


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