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When It Rains, It Drains

Understanding Storm Water
and How it can affect Your
Money, Safety, Health and the Environment.

What Happens When It Rains?

Rain is an important part of nature's water
cycle, but there are times it can do more
damage than good. Problems related to
storm water runoff can include:

Flooding caused by too much storm water
flooding over hardened surfaces such as
roads and parking lots, instead of
soaking into the ground.

Increases in spending on maintaining storm
drains and the storm sewer system that
become clogged with excessive amounts
of dirt and debris.

Decreases in sport fish population
because storm water carries sediment
and pollutants that degrade important
fish habitat.

More expensive treatment technologies to remove
harmful pollutants carried by storm water into our
drinking supplies

Closed beaches due to high levels of bacteria
carried by storm water that makes swimming

We can help rain restore its good reputation while protecting our health
and environment while saving money for ourselves and our community.
Keep reading to find out how...

What is Storm Water?

Storm water is water from precipitation that flows across the ground and pavement when it rains or when snow and ice melt. The water seeps into the ground or drains into what we call storm sewers. These are drains you see at street corners or at low points on the sides of streets. Collectively, the draining water is called storm water runoff.

Why is Storm Water "Good Rain Gone Wrong?"

Storm water becomes a problem when it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants as it flows or when it causes flooding and erosion of stream banks. Storm water travels through a system of pipes and roadside ditches that make up the storm sewer system. It eventually flows directly to a lake, stream, wetland or coastal water. All of the pollutants storm water carries along the way empty into our waters too because storm water does not get treated!

Pet waste left on the ground gets carried away
by storm water, contributing harmful bacteria,
parasites and viruses to our water.
Vehicles drip fluids (oil, grease, gasoline,
antifreeze, brake fluids, etc.) onto paved
areas where storm water runoff carries them
through our storm drains and into our water.
Chemicals used to grow and maintain
beautiful lawns and gardens, if not used
properly, can run off into the storm drains
when it rains or when we water our lawns
and gardens.
Waste from chemicals and materials used in
construction can wash into the storm sewer
system when it rains. Soil that erodes from
construction sites causes environmental
degradation, including harming fish and
shellfish populations that are important
for recreation and our economy.

Restoring Rain's Reputation
What Everyone Can Do To Help

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 like car maintenance, lawn care and dog walking are left on the ground for rain to wash away. Here are some of the most important ways to prevent storm water pollution:

Properly dispose of hazardous substances such as used oil. Cleaning supplies and paint - never pour them down any part of the storm sewer system and report anyone who does.

Use pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides properly and efficiently to prevent excess runoff.

Look for signs of soil and other pollutants, such as debris and chemicals, leaving construction sites in storm water runoff or tracked into roads by construction vehicles. Report poorly managed construction sites that could impact storm water runoff to your community.

Install innovative storm water practices on residential property, such as rain barrels or rain gardens, that capture storm water and keep it on site instead of letting it drain away into the storm sewer system.

Report any discharges from storm water outfalls during times of dry weather - a sign that there could be a problem with the storm sewer system.

Pick up after pets and dispose of their waste properly. No matter where your pets make a mess - in a backyard or at the park - storm water runoff can carry pet waste from the land to the storm sewer system to a stream.

Store materials that could pollute storm water indoors and use containers for outdoor storage that do not rust or leak to eliminate exposure of materials to storm water.

Where To Go To Continue the Information Flow

Your community is preventing storm water pollution through a storm water management program. This program addresses storm water pollution from construction, new development, illegal dumping to the storm sewer system, pollution prevention and good housekeeping practices in municipal operations. It will also continue to educate the community and get everyone involved in making sure the only thing that storm water contributes to our water is… water!

Contact the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for more information about storm water management.

Click Here for a printable PDF brochure of the information

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