Earth Day 2019: Stop The Dangerous, Illicit Discharge in Our Stormsewers

Earth Day 2019: Stop The Dangerous, Illicit Discharge in Our Stormsewers

  • The Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources and Kane County Connects are “Counting Down to Earth Day” with a series of articles on “Going Green” in 2019. This article was contributed by Anne Wilford with the Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources.

What belongs in our storm sewers?

The answer is rain and snow melt. Anything else in our storm sewers is considered an illicit discharge.

Illicit discharge can come from spills, illegal connections, dumping of any kind, sediment caused by erosion, oils and other chemicals and waste that enter the storm sewer system or a body of water.

So, is this a problem that just industries and businesses should be concerned about? The answer to that question is no: Human activities are responsible for illicit discharges into our storm sewers, too.

Here are a few statistics:

Flourescent Bulbs

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs contains on average around 5mg of Mercury.

Stanford University has a study which indicates that 5 mg of Mercury is enough to contaminate 6,000 gallons of water beyond potable limits.

Dog Waste

Studies show that 24 percent of the bacteria that pollutes our urban and suburban waterways comes from dog waste.

The University of Washington, College of the Environment, shares this quote on their website:

“There are about 7 million dogs in the United States. On average, a dog excretes between 0.5 and 0.75 pounds of waste per day. One gram of dog waste contains about 23 million coliform bacteria, nearly twice the amount found in the equivalent amount of human waste. It is estimated that only about 60 percent of dog owners consistently pick up their pet’s poo — that leaves a heck of a lot of poo and pathogens lying around to get washed into our waters in the next rainstorm!”

Cigarette Butts

Cigarette butts contain chemicals such as nicotine, cadmium, lead, arsenic and zinc.

If those cigarette butts don’t make it into the trash these harmful chemicals can leach into the water and soil and the butts can make their way into our storm sewers and waterways. It can take years for discarded cigarette butts to break down.

What You Can Do

If you are wondering what you can do to minimize the illicit discharge you are contributing to, here are some suggestions. (Be sure to click on these links. The information they contain is eye-opening.)

The water that goes into our storm sewers doesn’t go through a wastewater treatment plant and many of the pollutants from the illicit discharge will end up in our rivers and creeks.

Let’s keep our waterways clean, for recreation, drinking water and the local wildlife.

Please remember, “Just Rain (and Snowmelt) Down the Drain.”

Read The Countdown to Earth Day Series!