Stormwater Pollution Prevention

Starfish Wearing Sunglasses on the Beach   The Ocean Begins at Your Door

Nonpoint Source Pollution and What You Can Do to Help!

Even if you live miles away from the Pacific Ocean, you may be polluting it without knowing it!
Motor oil, paint products, pet wastes, fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals we use in our homes and gardens are washed day after day into neighborhood gutters and storm drains with irrigation and rainwater. These pollutants flow through the storm drain system into local creeks and empty directly into the ocean, where they harm wildlife and fisheries and pollute recreation areas. The pollutants originating from our homes and a variety of other sources contribute to NONPOINT SOURCE POLLUTION, a growing problem for the ocean and beaches of Southern California.

What is Nonpoint Source Pollution?
Nonpoint source pollution includes materials and chemicals which are washed into the storm drain system from a variety of sources. Unlike water pollutants that come from single-point sources, such as factories or sewage treatment plants, nonpoint source pollutants are washed into storm drains by irrigation, rainwater and other means from streets, neighborhoods, farmlands, construction sites and parking lots. Because storm drains are separate from our household sewer system, these polluted waters flow directly into the ocean without treatment.

Nonpoint Source Pollutants
Did you ever consider what happens to the oil on roads and highways that make driving so dangerous after the first rainfall? Or what happens to contaminants in the air from car exhaust, detergents from washing your car, leaves and lawn clippings left in the gutter, or the trash and grime that ends up on parking lots and exposed surfaces? These are the kinds of pollutants that flow into the storm drain system.

Some of the Major Pollutants:

  • Oil and grease from automotive leaks and spills or improper disposal of used oil and automotive products into storm drains.
  • Metals found in vehicle exhaust, weathered paint, metal platings, tires and motor  oil.
  • Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers from lawns, gardens, farms and improper disposal.
  • Soil erosion from lawns, hillsides, and construction activities.
  • Biological contaminants from litter, organic matter, and animal wastes.

What You Can Do
You can help minimize nonpoint source pollution by following some of the suggestions below. Most people don’t realize they are contributing to nonpoint source pollution. So spread the word and get your neighbors and co-workers involved!

Household and Home Maintenance

  • Buy household products, such as kitchen and bathroom cleaners, that are less toxic. Use items containing the words "biodegradable" or "non-toxic" on the product label rather than "danger" or "poison". Use small quantities and purchase only the amount you need. 
  • Properly use and store all toxic products, including cleaners, solvents and paints. 
  • Rinse paint brushes in the sink. Filter and reuse paint thinner or brush cleaners.  Your local paint and hardware stores offer filters for this purpose. You can dispose of unwanted, left-over paint at one of many retail paint stores that participate in the state PaintCare Program.  Program information and store locations are available online at www.paintcare.org 
  • Take unwanted household hazardous waste (HHW) and containers to a local HHW collection facility for disposal.
  • Recycle reusable materials. Throw litter into trashcans and keep cans tightly covered to prevent foraging by animal scavengers.
  • Control erosion on your property to prevent dirt and debris from entering storm drains. Planting certain plants can effectively and inexpensively fight erosion problems, as can building simple retaining structures.

Lawn and Garden

  • Use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers carefully and sparingly in accordance with label instructions.  Do not apply if rain is forecast and dispose of unwanted materials at a local HHW collection facility.
  • Use a broom rather than the water hose to clean up lawn and garden clippings. Compost leaves, grass and kitchen waste to create beneficial soil amendments. 
  • Use a grass catcher attachment or better yet, a mulching mower. Leaving grass-clippings on your lawn reduces the amount of water and fertilizer needed to keep your grass healthy. And it saves the time and effort of dealing with the clippings. Regular mowers can be fitted with inexpensive mulching blades.
  • Divert rainspouts and garden hoses from paved surfaces onto grass to allow filtration through the soil.
  • Water only your yard and garden – not pavement. Turn off the sprinklers off for several minutes if water is running off onto pavement and turn back on after the ground has absorbed the water. Water early in the morning when less water is lost to wind and evaporation.
  • Pick up animal wastes and dispose of in garbage cans.

Automotive

  • Take used motor oil, antifreeze, batteries and other automotive products to a local HHW collection facility. Ventura County also has state Certified Used Oil Collection Centers which accept oil and filters, and by state law these centers must pay you $0.40/gallon for the used oil you recycle IF YOU REQUEST IT.  To locate a Certified Used Oil Collection Center near you click here.
  • Have your car inspected and maintained regularly to reduce leakage of oil, antifreeze and other fluids. Always use drip pans to avoid spills.  Even a simple sheet of cardboard on the ground can prevent vehicle leaks from getting on parking surfaces. Use kitty litter or other absorbent material to clean spills from paved surfaces. Depending on the substance, dispose of absorbents in the garbage can or at a local HHW collection facility.
  • Rather than washing your car at home, take your car to a carwash where they have a water collection system that treats the rinse water to remove toxics. Don’t wash cars anywhere near a storm drain, and don’t use soaps because they cannot biodegrade quickly enough.

Visit the Ventura Countywide Stormwater Quality Management Program website for more information.