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Environmental Services
Best Practices to Reduce Storm Water Runoff

Recommended Best Management Strategies You can Practice at Home!

There are several things you can do to reduce the amount of pollutants that are carried into our streams and rivers through storm water runoff. These simple techniques are easily implemented during daily activities and can make a huge impact on reducing water pollution.
Car Washing and Vehicle Maintenance
Use commercial car washes when possible, since the wastewater is regulated/treated.   
Washing your car and degreasing auto parts at home can send detergents and other contaminants through the storm drain system. Dumping automotive fluids into storm drains has the same result as dumping the materials directly into a water body. 
If you wash or repair your vehicle at home, consider the following practices:
  • Use Phosphate free soaps and detergents.
  • Wash vehicle on grassy areas or in an area so that water, detergents, and dirt can be filtered through the soil.
  • Repair and prevent leaks from oil and other auto fluids by using oil pans/other systems of collection.
  • Use rags and absorbent materials instead of water to clean up accidental spills of vehicle fluids.
  • Visit environmentally responsible repair shops which properly dispose of used car parts and fluids.
  • Dispose of used oil and old batteries at proper disposal locations or the County Landfill.
Landscaping and Lawn Maintenance
Excess fertilizers and pesticides applied to lawns and gardens wash off and pollute streams. In addition, yard clippings and leaves can wash into storm drains and contribute nutrients and organic matter to streams.
  • Avoid the overwatering of your lawn
  • Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly and use only recommended amounts when needed. Use organic mulch,  safer pest control methods and organic slow release fertilizers when possible.
  • Make sure excess fertilizer and pesticides are swept from impervious surfaces to prevent them from washing away during storm events.
  • Trim grass to no less than 3 inches, this allows proper root growth to help prevent sediment runoff
  • Compost or mulch yard waste, do not leave it in the street or sweep into storm drains.
  • Cover piles of dirt or mulch being used in landscaping projects to prevent materials from washing into storm drain.
  • Minimize areas of grass/turf, if possible plant areas with native and low maintenance plantings.
  • Consider using sustainable practices in landscaping such as permeable pavement, rain barrels, rain gardens, and vegetated filter strips
Pet Waste
Surprisingly, pet waste can be a major contributor of bacteria and excessive nutrients to local waters. Some urban areas have found pet waste to contribute up to 50% of the total bacteria content in streams.
Remember to pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly. Bagging, then flushing or placing pet wastes in the trash is the best disposal method.
Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risk by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into storm drains, and eventually local water bodies.
Septic Systems
Leaking and poorly maintained septic systems release nutrients and pathogens (bacteria and viruses) that can be picked up by storm water and discharged into nearby water bodies. Pathogens can cause public health problems and environmental concerns. Do not dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets as it can damage your septic system. Note: Prince William County requires the pumping of septic systems every 5 years.
Trash and Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste Disposal
Proper storage and disposal of trash, recycling, and household hazardous wastes prevents these items from making their way into the storm drain system as storm water runoff, or washing directly entering the County’s water bodies.
Floating trash and debris have become significant pollutants, especially in waterways and oceans where large amounts of trash and plastic debris can concentrate in small areas. Floating trash detracts from the aesthetics of a landscape. It poses a threat to wildlife and human health (e.g., choking hazards to wildlife and bacteria to humans).
Many products found in homes contain chemicals potentially harmful to both people and the environment. Chemical products such as oven cleaners, paint removers, bug killers, solvents, and drain cleaners are just a few common hazardous products in the home.  Using alternative products instead of toxic substances drastically reduces the presence of toxics in storm water and receiving waters. Common toxic substances found in the home are cleaners, automotive products, and pesticides. Properly store and dispose of unused Household hazardous wastes at the County Landfill.
Take steps to prevent trash from making its way into storm system:
  • Store waste in proper containers in locations not subjected to storm water runoff                         
  • Ensure the trash is covered
  • Clean up remaining liquids and residues since they can still be washed away during rain events and create pollution
Swimming Pool Discharges
If not disposed of properly, the chlorine, bromine, algaecides, cleaning chemicals, and lack of dissolved oxygen in pool water can kill fish and other aquatic life in streams. In addition, releasing large volumes of water quickly can cause stream bank erosion.
According to county ordinance, only de-chlorinated, pH neutral, chemical-free, clean water may be slowly discharged to the storm drain system. Here are simple measures that can be taken to further protect the environment, and prevent damage due to the release of large volumes of water.
Use removal agents or allow untreated water to sit for approximately 10 days to allow the chlorine or bromine to dissipate. Use a pool test kit to ensure that there aren't any detectable levels of chlorine or bromine before emptying the pool water.  Check the pH to ensure it is at an acceptable level (7- neutral).
Discharge water into heavily vegetated area and control the rate of the water flow to help minimize erosion.
​Learn more tips about pollution prevention!


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