Common Illicit Discharge Issues

 
pipeClick on the common potential pollution sources below to learn why they are a problem and what you can do to prevent these illicit discharges.

Car Careoil can

Why is it a Problem? 
Motor oil, gasoline, antifreeze, and other car fluids are all harmful to the environment and human health.  Cars, boats, lawnmowers, and other vehicles and equipment can develop leaks if not maintained.  When maintaining your own vehicles and equipment, it is easy to spill oil and fluids if you are not careful. 

What’s the Solution?

Keep your car in good repair to prevent leaks.  Watch for leaking fluids – this can be as simple as checking your driveway for puddles and discolored spots.  When pouring fluids, use a funnel to reduce spills.  When draining fluids, catch fluids in a container instead of draining them onto the ground.  Clean up all leaks and spills using absorbent material such as kitty litter, then sweep with a broom.  Never wash away spilled fluids with water.  Take used motor oil to collection stations, usually available at recycling centers and auto repair shops.  Never dispose of oil or car fluids down storm drains.

Tips for Businesses
  • Do not clean work areas with water if that water would run into storm drains.  Use absorbent materials to clean up spills, and sweep the area with a broom. 
  • Do not discharge water from radiator flushing onto the ground or into storm sewers.
  • If vehicles are to be stored long-term, drain gasoline, oil, and fluids first.
  • Check vehicles stored outdoors for leaks.
  • Dispose of used motor oil, other fluids, and their containers properly.
    ....back to list

Car Washing

Why is it a Problem? 
Soaps and detergents used to wash cars frequently contain phosphates.  Too much phosphate in ponds and streams can lead to algal blooms and fish kills.  Also, wash water from cars may contain heavy metals, oil and gasoline residue, and other gunk.  As the wash water runs down the storm drain, it carries all these pollutants into natural waterways.

What’s the Solution?
Residential car washing is usually exempt from illicit discharge laws.  However, to prevent pollution, we recommend you wash your car on the lawn instead of the driveway.  As the water filters through the grass and soil, some of the soaps and pollutants are removed.  Use environmentally friendly soaps containing low or no phosphates.  Or better yet, take your car to a commercial car wash.  These businesses are required to send wash water to waste water treatment plants instead of down the storm drain.

Charity Car Washes
While fun ways to raise money for a cause, charity car washes  can contribute phosphates to streams and rivers.  Consider other ways to raise money that do not pollute the environment.  Or, ask you local car wash businesses to support your cause by offering discount coupons for your organization to sell.  If you do decide to hold a car wash, wash cars on the grass, use low-phosphate soaps, and divert wash water away from storm drains whenever possible.

Tips for Businesses
Commercial car washes may not discharge waste water to storm sewers.  This is a violation of the illegal discharge law, and will result in a fine.  Support local charities by offering coupons in place of traditional car washes.   ....back to list

Litter and Illegal Dumping

Why is it a Problem? 
Litter and illegal dumping are harmful to the environment and degrade the beauty of our community.  This can decrease revenue from tourism, fishing, and outdoor recreation.  Wildlife can mistake litter for food, and choke or be poisoned when they try to eat it.  Electronics and appliances may contain heavy metals or harmful chemicals that leak out when exposed to rain and the elements.  Debris can also clog storm drain systems, leading to flooding.

What’s the Solution?

Littering and dumping are illegal and will result in a fine!  Reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible, and follow all local requirements for garbage and solid waste.  Click here for recycling and safe disposal options near you. 

Tips for Businesses
Keep dumpsters closed and watch for leaks.  Make sure all waste is placed in the dumpster, not just next to it.  Recycle as much as possible.  Many areas have special recycling and hazardous materials pickup options for businesses.  Click here for information for your community!    ....back to list

Cleaning Products, Chemicals, Paint, etc.Paint in stream

Why is it a Problem? 
Many products that we frequently use in our homes and businesses are harmful to the environment.  These products, collectively called household hazardous waste, include cleaning products, soaps, paint, batteries, pesticides, personal care products, medications, car care fluids, and other chemicals.   If you wouldn’t drink it, it shouldn’t go into our waterways.

Right: Paint in a stream in Sumter County

What’s the Solution?
Only rain down the storm drain!  Never pour out extra products onto the ground, onto the street, or into storm drains.  Many of these products are not safe to pour down the sink either.  Even empty containers may not be safe to throw in the garbage.  For cleaners and chemicals, use the minimum amount that will do the job, and consider environmentally friendly products whenever possible.  Contact your local public works office for more information on safe disposal of household hazardous waste and drop-off locations.

Tips for Businesses

Train staff in the correct handling and disposal of household hazardous wastes.  Never pour out mop water onto the ground or down a storm drain.  Dispose of extra paints, cleaning products, pesticides, chemicals, and their empty containers correctly.  Use environmentally friendly cleaners, such as vinegar and baking soda as alternatives to harsh chemicals.  In some areas certain types of businesses are eligible for special pickups of waste products.  Click here for resources in your area.     ....back to list

Pesticides, Herbicides and Fertilizers

Why is it a Problem? 
Pesticides and herbicides are poisons used to control unwanted insects, animals, or weeds, and are therefore toxic to many living things in the environment, and often a risk for human health as well.  Fertilizers contain nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) that help your lawn and garden grow.  However, if too much fertilizer is applied, the extra amount will wash of during the next rain.  Once in streams and rivers, these nutrients encourage growth of weeds, and can result in unsightly algae blooms and fish kills.

What’s the Solution?

When using herbicides and pesticides, make sure you have correctly identified the pest and chosen a product intended for that pest.  Read the label carefully and follow all instructions regarding mixing, diluting, how much to apply, method of application, and how to dispose of extra product and empty containers.  Test your soil before applying fertilizer to see which nutrients (if any) are missing.  Not all soils or plants require fertilizer.  Clemson Extension offers inexpensive soil testing as well as help diagnosing plant problems – click here for more information.  Apply only as much fertilizer as necessary.  Never apply fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides when rain is forecasted.

Tips for Businesses:

  • Make sure certification and training is current for all employees who handle and apply pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
  • Cleanup spills using absorbent materials, not water.
  • Mixing and pouring areas should not drain to storm drains.
  • Never dispose of extra chemicals or rinse water down a storm drain.
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Leaves and Yard Waste

Why is it a Problem? 
Leaves and yard waste can clog storm drains.  This causes flooding, which can make driving dangerous and damage property.   Also, when leaves rot in a storm drain, they release nutrients, just like fertilizers, resulting in algal blooms and fish kills.

What’s the Solution?
Keep leaves, grass, and other yard waste away from storm drains.  Compost yard waste, and leave grass clippings on the lawn as natural fertilizer.  If you do put your yard waste on the curb for collection, bag it or place it in a container to keep it from washing into storm drains in case of rain.  And please don’t use a leaf blower to blow grass and leaves into the street!     ....back to list

Septic Systems and Sewage

Why is it a Problem? 
Sewage contains bacteria that can cause illness.  Sewage also contains nutrients that lead to algae blooms and fish kills.  Septic tanks can leak if not properly maintained, and sewer pipes can leak or rupture due to clogs, damage, or other reasons.

What’s the Solution?
Don’t let fats, oil, grease, paint, food scraps, or other materials that may clog pipes go down the drain.  Homes with septic tanks should NOT have a garbage disposal.  If you have a septic tank, have it inspected and pumped every 3 to 5 years.  Know where your septic tank leach field is, and never park or drive over it.  If you smell or see signs of a sewer leak, report it to your local utility.  If you have a camper or RV, always empty it’s sanitary tank to a proper location, never down a storm drain.  A storm drain is not a sanitary sewer!

Tips for Businesses

Businesses have sewer connections too.  Watch out for leaks and report them to your utility.    ....back to list

Pet Wastepet waste

Why is it a Problem? 
Pet waste contains bacteria that can be harmful to human health.  A dog’s waste contains 2 ½ times as much bacteria as a human’s.

What’s the Solution?

Pick up pet waste every time, in the yard and on walks.  Dispose of pet waste in the household garbage, down a toilet, or build a pet waste digester in your yard.

Tips for businesses
If visitors to your business location bring their pets, provide pet waste stations with bags and disposal.  This will keep your grounds attractive and healthy for visitors.  Apartment complexes are especially encouraged to provide pet waste stations for their residents.    ....back to list

Fats, Oils, and Grease

Why is it a Problem? 
Fat, oil, and grease from cooking can clog sewage pipes, leading to sewer line breaks and human waste and bacteria entering our streams and rivers.  Fat, oil, and grease can also be harmful to wildlife and damage sensitive habitats like wetlands.

What’s the Solution?

Avoid letting fat, oil, and grease go down the drain, and never pour these into storm drains or on the ground.  Pour or wipe cooled cooking oil and grease into the garbage, instead of down the sink.  Avoid cooking foods in ways that require or generate a lot of oil and grease.  Some communities are introducing used cooking oil recycling programs.  The oil can be used to create a type of bio-fuel.  Click here for resources in your area.

Tips for Businesses
Restaurants and food preparation businesses should install grease traps and interceptors, and these should be cleaned and maintained regularly.  Always pour or wipe grease and oil into the garbage rather that letting it go down the sink.  Outdoor Dumpsters and grease and oil storage containers should be covered and located as far away from storm drains as possible.  Inspect dumpsters and outdoor storage containers for leaks and spills.  Make sure all employees understand the importance of keeping grease out of the drains.  More information for restaurant owners.    ....back to list

Swimming Poolspool

Why is it a Problem? 
Swimming pools contain chlorine and other chemicals used to control algae, bacteria, and other organisms harmful to human health.  Chlorine is toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

What’s the Solution?
Swimming pool discharges are generally not considered illegal, but the water must be dechlorinated first.  There are two options for dechlorinating your pool:

1. Dechlorinate your pool naturally: sunlight and evaporation will naturally remove chlorine from the swimming pool in 10 days or less. 
2. Or use chemical additives to dechlorinate your pool if it is necessary for the water to be dechlorinated more quickly.  This option is much less healthy for the environment. 

Whichever option you choose, test your water to be sure dechlorination is complete.  Requirements vary by community, but generally chlorine levels should be below 0.1 mg/L before you discharge the water.  Chlorine test kits can be purchased from swimming pool supply stores.  DHEC requires these kits at all public pools.  Check the pH.  Ideally, the pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.  A pH of less than 5 and greater than 8.5 can be harmful to aquatic life.  To minimize erosion, don’t discharge water onto bare or loose soil.  Drain the pool as slowly as is practical.    ....back to list

Washing Machine Discharges

Why is it a Problem?
Laundry detergent contains phosphates which can cause algae blooms in streams and ponds.  Although the drains from washing machines should connect into your sanitary sewer pipes (the same place the water from your toilet goes), in older homes the discharge pipe may empty to a nearby storm sewer, ditch or stream.

What is the solution?
Check your plumbing, especially if you have an older home!  Make sure all drain pipes from washing machines and dishwashers connect to sanitary sewer pipes.  If they don't, find a plumber to reroute the drain pipes.  Unpermitted connections to storm sewers are illegal in nearly all areas.

Medications

Why is it a Problem?
Previously, people were advised to flush unused medications down the toilet.  Recently, scientists have found that these medications might not be removed by waste water treatment plants.  Consequently, medications flushed down the toilet may contaminate drinking water or affect fish and wildlife.   For more information from the Environmental Protection Agency, visit www.epa.gov/ppcp.

What’s the Solution?
Do not flush medications down the toilet.   Instead, crush or dissolve them with water, and mix them with an unpalatable material like kitty litter or sawdust to keep curious wildlife or children from ingesting them.  Dispose of them in the garbage.  Some communities offer drop-off locations for unused medications.  Click here for resources in your area.

Tips for Businesses
If your business is a pharmacy or drug store, provide your customers with information on the safe disposal of unused medications.  Also consider offering safe drop-offs for unused medications.    ....back to list