Storm water is everybody’s business!
When it rains, water is naturally absorbed into the ground, adding to Oahu’s water supply. This is a good thing. But when it rains so much or so fast that the ground cannot absorb it all (like a kitchen sponge full of water), the excess rainwater flows over the surface of the ground until it finds its way to the ocean through streams and the storm drain system. That rain water is called “storm water runoff.”
Storm water runoff itself does not usually harm the environment. However, impervious surfaces that do not allow the water to go into the ground, like driveways, sidewalks, and streets, can increase the amount and intensity of storm water runoff. The water flows across these surfaces instead of soaking into the ground and can cause flooding and erosion problems. In addition, these impervious surfaces often accumulate urban pollutants faster than natural areas. The typical urban pollutants include oil, grease, trace metals, excessive nutrients, and other dangerous chemicals. Storm water runoff washes these pollutants off the impervious surfaces and carries them into our storm drains, streams and the ocean, where they affect water quality.
Do you spend a lot of time at home? Did you know that staying home doing chores and housework can have an impact on water pollution?
When we use cleaning chemicals outside, rain can wash it down into the storm drain. You may not use a lot of chemicals by yourself, but 500,000 residents using petroleum-based cleaners, ammonia, and other chemicals can cause a problem when it starts to rain. Since storm drains flow directly into the ocean, those chemicals we use at home can end up polluting our ocean. Even things we do inside our home, like cooking and using the bathroom can lead to storm water pollution. Click on the button below to download A Resident’s Guide to Understanding Storm Water, or browse the following tips.Download
Never dump used cooking oil or grease down your kitchen drain. It can clog our sewer lines, causing breaks, which then cause sewage to flow into the ocean.
Be sure to regularly check your septic tank if you have one. Septic systems can release harmful bacteria and viruses into the soil. When it rains, the water can pick it up and send it straight into the ocean.
Properly dispose of household products that contain chemicals, such as insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil and other auto fluids. Don’t pour them on the ground, into roadway gutters, or into storm drains.
Don’t store paint outside of the house. The cans can easily rust and leak. Instead, avoid the urge to stock-up on excess paint. It will save you money and help prevent water pollution.
Don’t use water to clean your garage and driveway. When you use cleaners to get the oil and gunk off your driveway, garage, or carport floor, wipe it up. If you hose it down your driveway, you’re sending the cleaner chemical and oils straight into the storm drain where it goes right to the ocean.
When you use chemicals on your lawn or on your plants, rain can wash it down into the storm drain. You may not use a lot of chemicals, but 500,000 residents fertilizing their lawn on Saturday can cause a problem when it rains on Sunday morning. Since storm drains flow directly into the ocean, the chemicals that we use on our lawn can end up polluting our ocean.
Here are some home gardening tips to prevent storm water pollution:
Use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers only as needed. This will save you money and help reduce the chances of rain washing it down the storm drain.
After mowing your lawn, pick up the grass clippings and throw them in the trash so the rain does not send them into the storm drain. Fertilizers and grass clippings can cause algae blooms, which use up all the oxygen in the water. This harms fish, coral and stream life because they cannot survive in water with low oxygen levels.
Use rain barrels to collect rainwater from rooftops in mosquito-proof containers. The water can be used later on lawn or garden areas. This also prevents gravel and oil from your roof from getting into the storm drain system.
When you’re planning out your garden, design areas with native plants to provide natural places for rainwater to collect and soak into the ground. Rain from the rooftop or paved areas can be diverted into these areas rather than into storm drains.
Use native grass or plants along the edge of roadways or streams. When it rains, these plants work well to trap any excess chemicals or dirt in the rainwater as it flows across driveways and streets, ensuring that less of these harmful substances are flushed into our ocean.
Car Care Tips
When you allow your car wash water to flow down your driveway and into the street, that dirty water could flow into a storm drain! And we all know that storm drains flow directly into the ocean. Untreated!
So, if the wash water contains detergent and gunk from your car or truck, guess what you can expect to find floating around in the ocean? Not only does it pollute the water, but the of black stuff that washes off your car can contain compounds of harmful heavy metals like lead and mercury. These flow into our streams and oceans, affecting aquatic life. Heavy metals concentrated in fish like tuna are particularly harmful to pregnant women and infants.
Here are some car care tips to prevent storm water pollution:
Do not dump automotive fluids (e.g., antifreeze, brake fluid) into storm drains or let it run down the street where the rain could wash it down the storm drain. That would have the same result as dumping the materials directly into our oceans!
If your car is leaking fluids, try to get it fixed as soon as possible to prevent excessive leakage on the streets and in your driveway, where rain can wash it down the storm drains.
Give your old auto batteries to the dealer when purchasing new ones or take them to the City Convenience Center nearest you. Batteries contain strong harmful chemicals that could hurt children who might touch or play with them. Old or damaged batteries can easily leak these harmful chemicals onto the ground to be washed into the ocean after a storm.
When changing oil, use an oil change box to absorb all of the dirty oil and throw it away in the trash.
No oil change box? Just pour it into a plastic bag with plenty of absorbent material to soak it up, then seal the bag and toss it in with the rest of your trash. Motor oil contains many harmful metals that damage our reefs and favorite swimming areas.
Don’t want to mess with the used oil? Consider having your oil changed at a service station.
Consider taking your car to a commercial car wash that treats or recycles its waste water, or wash your car on grass so the water is filtered into the ground.
When the contractor comes to dig up the backyard to build that extension you always wanted, it’s possible that dirt, silt, oils and chemicals could become exposed. When it rains, the water carries these pollutants into the storm drains and out to the ocean where it can harm our reefs and pollute our waters.
Here are some construction tips to prevent storm water pollution:
If possible, work with your contractor to reduce the amount of dirt that is excavated. It will save you money and prevent the dirt from polluting the ocean.
If you plan to have landscaping, try to get the landscaping contractor in as soon as possible to prevent dirt from being exposed to the rain for too long.
Ask your contractor about putting in permeable pavement wherever possible. This will allow more rainwater to soak into the ground and recharge our aquifers rather than draining into our streams and oceans.
If you decide to do-it-yourself rather than hire a contractor, educate yourself on the types of permits that are required. Best management practices (BMPs) should be used to prevent or treat the water that flows out of your yard and into the storm drains.
Large agricultural areas provide lots of space to raise livestock. But many large areas also include streams. Livestock or wild animals that walk in streams can contaminate the water with bacteria, making it unsafe for human contact. In addition, when it rains, large agricultural lots often times drain out to roadways, where water laden with dirt, fertilizers, and other chemicals can enter storm drains and flow directly to the ocean.
Click on the button below to download An Agricultural/Landscaping Guide to Understanding Storm Water, or browse the following tips to prevent storm water pollution.
If you own livestock, keep them away from stream banks and provide a source of water away from natural waterways.
Store and apply manure and other fertilizers away from streams. When mowing or harvesting, properly dispose of vegetative material. Fertilizers and vegetative material can cause algae blooms, which use up all the oxygen in the water. This harms fish, coral and stream life because they cannot survive in water with low oxygen levels.
Plant vegetation along stream banks, preferably native species, creating a thick buffer to help prevent livestock and wild animals from easily getting into the stream. Also, when it rains, native plants work well to trap any excess fertilizers, chemicals or dirt in the rainwater as it flows across the fields, ensuring that less of these harmful substances are flushed into our ocean.
Rotate animal grazing to prevent soil erosion in fields. Erosion results in the loss of nutrient-rich soil that is needed for crops to grow. When it rains, the water carries any loose soil and dirt into the streams where it can cause flooding.
Apply fertilizers and pesticides according to label instructions to save money and minimize pollution from excess chemicals washing out into streams and the ocean.
Household Hazardous Waste
Some of the products you use at home are potentially hazardous. Safe handling and proper disposal of these materials will protect you, your family and our environment.
The following materials require special handling and should be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection event.
Swimming Pool Chemicals
Drop-off of household hazardous waste is only by appointment, and is only for residents, not businesses. Call 768-3201 to schedule an appointment. Please prepare an inventory list of your items which include the material you wish to dispose of and its container size (i.e., acetone/two quarts). Requests for appointments must be made no later than one week prior to each event.
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events for 2020:
March 7, 2020
May 2, 2020
September 5, 2020
November 7, 2020
Please visit the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services website to learn more at http://www.opala.org/solid_waste/Household_Hazardous_Waste.html#guide