We can all do our part to help protect our creeks, streams and rivers from household pollution just by keeping our storm drains clear of household waste.
When sprucing up your home – whether it’s with new paint, using pesticides and herbicides, cleaning up after your pet, or washing your car – it’s important that it is done right. In Sacramento County, we are surrounded by creeks, streams and rivers, and each of our storm drains lead directly to these waterways. What goes down our storm drains has a direct impact on our water, but also on the plant, aquatic and wildlife that call the waterways their home.
So, how do we protect our waterways from household waste?
Leftover paint in cans or on brushes and rollers must be disposed of properly. Never rinse oil or latex paints onto the ground or into a storm drain. When finished painting, get excess paint from paint trays and brushes back into the can by first squeezing brushes and rollers with gloved hands and then absorb more paint with paper towels or newspaper. Also, when taking a break from painting, keep the paint from drying on brushes and rollers by wrapping them in plastic so you don’t have to rinse them until the project is done.
Latex Paint Disposal: Wrap disposable rollers in paper towels/newspaper and allow to dry before disposal in the trash. If your home is connected to a municipal system, you can finish cleaning latex paint brushes directly in the sink. If you have a septic tank, use a small bucket to wash them and let it evaporate or use sand or kitty litter to soak it up faster before disposing of it in the trash. Remember, rinsing latex paint from just one brush into the gutter or storm drain can endanger stream habitat for a quarter mile downstream.
Oil-Based Paint and Paint Thinner Disposal: Oil-based paints and stains are considered a hazardous material and need solvents to clean up. Fill a metal can with a couple inches of solvent to soak the brushes and use paper towels or newspaper to absorb solvent from the paintbrushes. If the solvent is water-based, let the water evaporate or let the paint settle and pouring the solvent through a coffee filter into a glass jar to reuse solvent. Discard the remaining paint solids in a sealed plastic bag and take it to the County’s Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Center.
Leftover Cans of Paint and Paint Products Disposal: The PaintCare Program in California allows residents to recycle old paint easily and properly with convenient PaintCare drop-off sites at numerous paint retailers throughout Sacramento County. You can also drop off paint products at the County’s waste facilities – learn more.
Lawn and Landscape Maintenance
Overuse of pesticide/herbicide products is not healthy for you, your garden or the environment. Use these products sparingly, follow the instructions on the label, and avoid applying them on rainy or windy days to help prevent runoff into storm drains and our waterways.
When possible, use less-toxic or non-toxic alternatives to maintain your landscape. If you do use pesticides, they are toxic chemicals and should always be disposed of safely. Never pour unused pesticides outdoors or down storm drains, and do not pour pesticides down indoor drains such as sinks or toilets. Instead, all unused pesticides should be taken to the County’s Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Center for disposal free of charge.
Pick Up After Your Pets
Rain or irrigation water carries pet waste left on the ground into our storm drains, creeks and rivers, contributing to pollution. Pet waste contains pathogenic bacteria and other parasites. When it decays in the water, it is harmful to fish, aquatic organisms and fosters weed and algae growth.
What can you do? Clean up your yard regularly, and when you walk your dog, pick up dog waste with a plastic bag and throw it in the trash. In most parts of Sacramento County, including the incorporated cities, residents are required by ordinance or code to pick up after pets. When you “scoop the poop” not only does it improve aesthetics of your community, it reduces a detrimental source of water pollution.
Washing Your Car
Before you clean your ride, remember that pollutants from the dirty wash water, such as detergents, motor oil, gas and exhaust residue, can flow into local creeks and rivers without going through any treatment.
Try these car wash tips to make sure what washes off your vehicle doesn’t end up harming fish and other wildlife:
- Take your car to a commercial carwash. Most commercial car wash facilities recycle water or are connected to the sanitary sewer system that will treat dirty water.
- Wash your car on a grass or gravel surface to filter runoff
- Consider using environmentally-friendly products labeled non-toxic, phosphate free and biodegradable
- Conserve water by using a spray nozzle with an automatic shut off or shutting off the hose when not in use
It’s up to each one of us to make sure that we keep our water clean and healthy, today and in the future. Learn more on the County’s websites for Waste Management & Recycling and Water Resources.