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The original item was published from 1/18/2023 10:12:45 AM to 7/25/2023 12:00:01 AM.

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Posted on: January 24, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Only rain down the drain: Keep pollutants out of our water system

Lucia_Hernandez

When it comes to our storm drainage system, a helpful phrase to remember is “Only rain down the storm drain” – that is, nothing but stormwater should enter the system. 

What is stormwater?

Federal law defines stormwater as water from rains, snow or ice that flows across the ground and paved surfaces. Stormwater that does not seep into the earth will flow down driveways and streets into gutters and then into a system of underground pipes known as the storm drain system. This system leads directly to the city’s creeks and outfalls and, eventually, the Guadalupe River, from which Victoria and other cities pump their drinking water. 

Why is it important to keep stormwater free of pollutants?

Stormwater runoff is not treated or filtered before it enters the river. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged into our waterbodies that we use for swimming, fishing and drinking water.

Although Victoria and other cities do test and decontaminate the water we pump from the river, high levels of pollution can make the water difficult to treat and can create a need for more extensive and costly treatment processes. Polluted runoff is harmful to our clean water supply and our natural waterways.

As required by the federal Clean Water Act, the City of Victoria has an active Storm Water Management Program, which residents can learn about by visiting www.victoriatx.gov/publicworks. Part of this program is aimed at educating Victoria residents about stormwater and the City’s storm drain system.

What are some common contributors to stormwater pollution?

Pollutants such as kitchen grease, motor oil, paint, antifreeze, yard debris, tires and old furniture sometimes make their way into the storm sewer or outfalls, either accidentally or intentionally. These items are considered illicit discharges and are prohibited. Large items that enter the storm sewer system can also become stuck and prevent stormwater from draining properly. 

Another common pollutant is raw sewage. When a sewer or plumbing system fails, sewage could flow into the storm drainage system and create problems such as a fish kill in an outfall that has a healthy ecosystem. 

Why shouldn’t yard trimmings and soil go into the storm drain? Doesn’t rain wash the same kind of material into the creeks and rivers anyway? 

When natural materials such as yard waste break down, oxygen is drawn from the water. In a natural setting, this debris is limited to the leaves of plants and trees bordering creeks and rivers. However, in our urban setting, yard waste, leaves and dirt on paved areas throughout the City are washed into the storm drain system. A substantial amount of organic debris can ruin the natural balance of our waterways.

How can I properly dispose of pollutants?

Blow grass clippings back onto the lawn, where they become a mulch and natural fertilizer. You can also collect clippings and leaves into a compost pile or collect them in paper bags to be picked up as yard waste. You can look up your collection schedule by visiting www.victoriatx.gov/service-schedule

Substantial amounts of yard waste or bulky trash can be scheduled for pickup by contacting Solid Waste at 361-485-3220 or visiting www.victoriatx.gov/onlineservicerequest. City of Victoria utility customers get two no-cost pickups per year. 

To dispose of hazardous waste, call Waste Management at 1-800-449-7587 to schedule a no-cost pickup. 

To report a problem with drainage or sewage, contact Public Works at 361-485-3380.

How can I report illicit discharges?

To report contamination of our storm sewer system or improper disposal of yard waste, contact Code Enforcement at 361-485-3330. You may also report violations online by visiting www.victoriatx.gov.

Lucia Hernandez is the environmental compliance & customer service manager of the City of Victoria Public Works Department.

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