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, outfalls and eventually the Guadalupe River, the city’s primary drinking water source. Stormwater runoff is a concern because of the pollutants it may carry. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged, untreated, into our waterbodies that we use for swimming, fishing and drinking water. Polluted runoff is one of the biggest threats to clean water.
As required by the federal Clean Water Act, the City of Victoria has an active Storm Water Management Program. 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?
Unfortunately, many things besides rainwater often end up in the storm sewer system, either accidentally or intentionally. 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. 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. Raw sewage should never be allowed to run freely into the storm sewer. 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 large 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 (clippings are excellent compost for gardens) or collect them in paper bags and place them on the curb on your scheduled trash pickup day. You can look up your collection schedule by visiting www.victoriatx.gov/service-schedule. Large amounts of yard waste, or large items such as old furniture or mattresses, 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 wastes, 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?
Under our storm sewer permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the City of Victoria is required to adopt codes prohibiting illicit discharge of contaminants into our waterways. These required codes can be found in Chapter 13, Article V of our City code, available online at www.victoriatx.gov/citycode.
To report contamination of our storm sewer system or improper disposal of yard waste, contact our stormwater team at 361-485-3186 or Code Enforcement at 361-485-3330. You may also report violations online by going to www.victoriatx.gov and clicking on “Report a Problem.”
Lucia Hernandez is the environmental compliance & customer service manager of the City of Victoria Public Works Department.