Only rain belongs in a storm drain

By Terasa M. Lott, Water Resources Agent, Clemson Extension

You probably see them every day yet pay them no attention. I on the other hand, can’t help but notice them. Such is the curse of working in water quality. You can find them on streets and parking lots and their primary function is to alleviate flooding. What are these things I am describing, you wonder? They are storm drains and part of the storm sewer system, not to be confused with the sanitary sewer system.

Water in a sanitary sewer system is treated at a wastewater treatment plant before being released into a water body. Water that enters storm drains however, is released directly into our streams and rivers with no clean up whatsoever. It might not sound like a big deal but think about all the “stuff” that rain water picks up as it flows across the landscape. There’s oil, metals, and coolants from vehicles; fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals from gardens and homes; bacteria from pet waste and failing septic and sewer systems; soil from construction sites and bare ground; detergents from vehicle and equipment washing; and anything else that’s left on the ground.

Much of that “stuff” is invisible to the naked eye and you know the saying, “out of sight, out of mind”. But it is this type of pollution, called nonpoint source pollution, which is the leading cause of water quality problems. Next time you’re shopping in the rain, check out the storm drains in a parking lot. You’re bound to find one with rainbow colored water leading to it. Rainbows in the sky are beautiful but on pavement, they are indicators of oil and fuel leaks or spills.

I haven’t witnessed it personally but storm drains are sometimes used as a way to dispose of motor oil, paint, or household chemicals. That is essentially the same dumping the materials right into Swift Creek (or your nearest waterway). Heavens to Betsy! Only rain belongs in a storm drain!

Would you like to get involved in protecting our Pee Dee water resources? The Florence Darlington Stormwater Consortium is looking for volunteers apply storm drain markers in the City of Darlington, City of Florence, Darlington County, and Florence County. The message on the markers tells of the direct connection to waterways. Applying the markers is an easy process and all materials are provided. It would make a great community service project for a variety of groups such as boy or girl scouts, 4-H, honor society, environmental club, homeowner association, neighborhood watch, or civic group. Applying storm drain markers in your neighborhood is a great way to be a solution to stormwater pollution.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer. For more information on stormwater, visit:

Author: Duane Childers

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