What is stormwater pollution and how does it impact the Chesapeake Bay?
Stormwater is the rain or snowmelt that flows off a roof, driveway, parking lot, paved walkway or any other hard surface on a property. All stormwater runoff ends up in nearby creeks, streams, rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay without prior treatment. Since stormwater comes into contact with litter, gasoline, oils, brake pad dust from our cars, pesticides, waste from our pets and many other toxins along its journey, stormwater is a significant source of pollution to our waterways.
That means that the plastic bag, candy wrapper, cigarette butts, automotive fluids, pet waste, or yard chemicals you saw on the ground can be washed by stormwater runoff into storm drains and right into our local waterways. By keeping your yard, streets and storm drains clean, you can prevent the trash, chemicals, and bacteria from going down the drain and popping back up in our waterways and beaches.
In fact, all of Anne Arundel County's waterways are considered "impaired" because of excessive levels of contaminants, largely a result of untreated stormwater runoff. Stopping polluted runoff will help to make our rivers and the Bay safer for swimming and recreation.
How can you minimize stormwater pollution from your home?
All of the creeks, streams and rivers in Anne Arundel County discharge directly into the Chesapeake Bay. That means the daily activities that occur in our County have a direct impact on the health of the Bay. Below are simple things you can do around your home and in your yard to help reduce the flow of stormwater pollution to the Bay.
Collecting rainwater is a simple way to help reduce stormwater runoff and lessen demands on our water supply. Rainwater is great for irrigating gardens or watering indoor plants. Rain barrels can be installed by both homeowners and tenants, as long as tenants get their landlord’s permission. Click here for resources to help you get started
Plant a rain garden.
Direct the rainwater from your roof, driveway, and walkways to a garden containing native, drought-resistant plants. A rain garden absorbs rainwater and breaks down pollutants naturally instead of allowing polluted water to flow to the Bay. Click here for more on rain gardens and how to build one
Install a patio, sidewalk, or driveway that absorbs rainwater.
New paving materials allow rain to soak in rather than run off. Click here for more on paving that absorbs rainwater
Practice Bay-friendly car maintenance.
Don’t wash your car in a driveway or on the street, which sends harmful chemicals into storm drains to end up in the Bay. Instead, take your car to a car wash facility where the water is diverted to a wastewater treatment plant. Also, check your car regularly for leaks – oil and gas residues left on the road will eventually be flushed into the Bay. If you change your own oil or antifreeze be sure to recycle them at one of the County Recycling Centers
.Car Maintenance Tip Card
Don’t pour hazardous products into street gutters or storm drains.
Once they enter the storm drain system, hazardous chemicals end up in the Bay, harming fish, birds, and other wildlife. Always take toxic household and yard products to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day. Click here from more information and schedule
.HHW Tip Card
Limit your use of pesticides and fertilizers.
These chemicals will be washed off your lawn and ultimately into the Bay. Pesticides can harm aquatic life such as fish and amphibians, and fertilizer releases phosphorus into our waterways, which can cause algal blooms that deplete oxygen and block sunlight in the water. If you do fertilize your lawn be sure to follow label instructions precisely and familiarize yourself with Maryland's Lawn Fertilizer Law
. Lawn Care Tip Card
Make sure your trash doesn’t end up in the Bay.
Dispose of litter responsibly. Check your trash and recycle containers to be sure they’re firmly closed so that items don't blow out and go down the storm drain. Better yet, limit your use of disposable items to help reduce waste. For more information on source reduction click here.
Smoker? Put your cigarette butts in the trash. Don’t drop cigarette butts on the sidewalk or throw them into gutters or storm drains or out your car window, where they’ll be washed into the Bay. Cigarette filters are made of plastic that does not break down in the environment. They release toxic chemicals, including arsenic and lead, and also get trapped the digestive tracts of animals, birds, and many Bay creatures.
Pick up after your pet.
When our pets leave those little surprises, rain can wash pet waste into our storm drains that pollute our waterways. Pet waste is full of bacteria and poses health risks to other pets and curious children. Please scoop the poop!Pet Waste Tip Card
Maintain your septic system.
If you have an on-site septic system on your property, be sure you keep it maintained and functioning properly to prevent sewage overflows. Sewage that overflows onto the ground surface pollutes nearby streams and eventually can reach the Bay. Repairs to failing septic systems help protect the health of County residents and the quality of surface and groundwater. Click here for tips on how to maintain your septic system
Be a responsible boater.
If you own a boat be sure to keep your engine well tuned to prevent fuel and oil leaks. While out on the water keep your trash on board. Never throw cigarette butts, fishing line, or any other garbage into the rivers or Bay. Take advantage of shore-side facilities to recycle plastic, glass, metal, and paper. For more responsible boating tips click here