Storm drains are the metal grates found on urban and suburban streets, often located at corners and on the sides of curbs and gutters. They help prevent flooding by draining rainwater and melted snow from streets and other paved surfaces.
Is a storm drain system the same thing as a sanitary sewer system?
Sanitary sewer systems and storm drain systems are not the same. The water that goes down a sink or toilet in your home or business flows through a sanitary sewer system to a wastewater treatment plant where it is treated and cleaned. Water that flows down a driveway or street and into a gutter goes into a storm drain which goes directly to a natural body of water, untreated.
While storm drains are designed to divert water from streets, they become dangerous water polluters when harmful substances from lawns and streets flow through them. During a rainfall, water runs down streets and through yards, picking up substances along the way. This “runoff” often contains elements that pollute our waterways, can harm wildlife, and degrade water quality.
Some common contaminants in stormwater include lawn chemicals, pet waste, household chemicals like paint, and soaps used for washing cars. Products advertised as “nontoxic” or “biodegradable” are not typically safe for our waterways either — even small amounts of dirt entering storm drains can affect the water quality. These small amounts of pollution can add up to a big problem. Each storm drain contaminant can have harmful effects on wildlife, recreation and forestry.
To help prevent storm water pollution follow these simple tips:
- Use lawn chemicals safely. Always follow label instructions and never apply before rain or watering the lawn, unless directed.
- Pick up after your pets. When walking your pet, remember to bring extra bags to pick up and dispose of waste properly.
- Recycle used oil. Never place used motor oil in the trash or pour down storm drains. Visit the Mid-American Regional Council (MARC) website to find the nearest oil recycling center.
- Sweep driveways and sidewalks clean. Remove debris and residue that could end up in a storm drain from concrete and paved areas around your house
- Wash your car the right way. Either wash your car at a car wash that filters the wastewater, or wash your car in a grassy area. Avoid washing your car on a driveway or in the street.
- Don’t dump. Never discard trash or yard waste down storm drains or in the street.
- Storm drain marking. Join or start a group that attaches markers or paints stencils with anti-dumping messages on storm drains to remind citizens where the water flows.
What is a watershed?
A watershed is an area of land that drains to a common point, such as a nearby creek, stream, river or lake. Every small watershed drains to a larger watershed that eventually flows to the ocean. Watersheds support a wide variety of plants and wildlife and provide many outdoor recreation opportunities. Protecting the health of our watersheds preserves and enhances the quality of life for Gardner area residents.
What is stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff is water from rain or melting snow. It flows across rooftops, paved streets, sidewalks, parking lots, bare soil, and lawns into storm drains. As it flows, runoff collects and transports soil, pet waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizer, oil, grease, litter, and other pollutants. This water drains directly into nearby creeks, streams, and rivers without being treated. Polluted storm water contaminates local waterways. It can harm plants, fish, and wildlife in addition to degrading the quality of water.
The city's storm drainage system collects water during rainstorms and carries it away from buildings and streets. The Street Maintenance division keeps a list of drainage problems that have been reported by residents and responds as the work schedule allows.
The concrete structures that receive water from the curb and channel it into underground storm pipes or into drainage ditches, called catch basins, are cleaned out on a routine basis. Additionally, box culvert structures are inspected and cleaned to ensure that storm water flows easily through the system.
To report storm drainage problems:
- Submit a Service Request
- Contact our Public Works Department from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, 913.856.0914.