Education and Outreach
The Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act, signed into law in 1973, requires local governments to manage stormwater pollution. As a result of this federal mandate, Lancaster County established a Stormwater Management Utility. The utility is responsible for protecting the health of our valuable waterways and for reducing flooding from storms.
What is stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff is precipitation (rain or snowmelt) that flows across the land. Stormwater may infiltrate into soil, discharge directly into a waterbody or storm drain or it evaporates back into the atmosphere.
In a natural environment, most precipitation is absorbed by trees and plants or permeates into the ground, which results in stable steam flows and good water quality. But in an urban environment, rain that falls on a rooftop, driveway, patio, roadway or lawn, runs off the surface more rapidly picking up pollutants as it goes. Pollutants such as pet waste, garbage, sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, grease and oil. This polluted stormwater runoff flows into streams or storm drains that empty into waterways like the Catawba River.
How stormwater runoff can be a problem
- Flooding. As stormwater runs off roofs, driveways, and lawns, large volumes quickly reach streams, causing them to rise and flood. When more impervious surfaces exist, flooding occurs rapidly and can be severs, resulting in damage to property and possible harm to humans and animals.
- Pollution. Stormwater running over roofs, driveways, roads, and lawns will pick up pollutants such as oil, fertilizers, pesticides, dirt/sediment, trash and animal waste. These pollutants "hitch a ride" with stormwater and flow untreated into local streams, polluting our waters.
- Stream Bank Erosion. When stormwater flows into streams at unnaturally high volumes and speeds, the power of these flows can cause severe stream bank erosion. Eroding banks can eat away at streamside property, create dangerous situations, and damage natural habitats for fish and other aquatic life. This erosion is another source of sediment pollution in streams.
- Threats to Human Health. Stormwater runoff can carry many pollutants, such as toxic metals, organic compounds, bacteria, and viruses. Polluted stormwater, especially coming from combined sewer overflows, can contaminate drinking water supplies and hamper recreational activities as well as threaten fish and other aquatic life.
Rain by nature is important for replenishing drinking water supplies, recreation and healthy wildlife habitats. It only becomes a problem when pollutants from our activities are left on the ground for rain to wash away. Here are some important ways to prevent stormwater pollution:
- Never put anything in a storm drain. Storm drains are for RAIN only. Storm drains and flood control channels carry surface runoff directly to waterways. Help make sure that runoff carries only rainwater.
- Do not litter. Litter isn't just unsightly, it is dangerous too. Litter travels by water and wind to drainage ditches, gutters and storm drains.
- Pick up after your pet. Animal waste, when left on the ground, washes down storm drains and contaminates streams and rivers. Picking up dog waste is required by law.
- Recycle your motor oil. Lancaster County has 12 staffed drop off locations that will collect and recycle used motor oil.
- Bag, compost, or recycle grass and yard debris. Soggy yard waste is a major contributor to clogged storm drains and street and neighborhood flooding. Keep grass and leaves out of the street.
- Use yard waste as mulch, as natural fertilizer, or as ground cover. Nearly 20 percent of the waste buried in landfills is grass and tree trimmings from our yards.
- Wash your car at a professional car wash or on the lawn. Your car has oils and greases that wash off and then flow in the storm drains.
- Properly dispose of hazardous substances such as used oil, cleaning supplies and paint. Never pour anything down a storm drain and report anyone who does.
- Use pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides properly. Look for fertilizers that do not contain phosphorus. Phosphorus is a threat to many South Carolina waterbodies, triggering dangerous algae blooms which harm aquatic habitats and rendering waters unsafe for swimming and fishing.
- Don't just drop your cigarette butt. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable. They are plastic and filled with harmful chemicals that can leach into soil and contaminate our waterways.
- Tell a friend how to prevent stormwater pollution.