Many people mistakenly believe that the rainfall runoff from roads, driveways, and parking lots that enters storm drains is treated at a wastewater treatment plant. But most runoff into storm drains goes untreated into streams, rivers, and lakes. Waterbodies in Montgomery County are directly affected by what is carried (or dumped) into storm drains. There are many ways that you can help prevent stormwater pollution in your area.
Stormwater is regulated by law. Montgomery County is regulated by, and operates under, a State of Maryland-issued National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (MS4 permit), which prohibits polluted discharges or illicit flows into the storm drain system. DEP's code enforcement staff investigates all stormwater violations (that are reported in a timely manner).
Nothing but rain is allowed in the storm drain
The County's stormwater permit addresses a universal phenomenon that affects everyone:
Anything that leaks, or is left or thrown on the ground, on lawns, streets, homes, construction sites, and neighborhoods, that may be carried by rainfall runoff to our streams is regulated by this law. It is also illegal to introduce any polluting substance into the storm drain through deliberate dumping or pouring.
Where Does Your Water Go?
Stormwater is handled in one of the following ways:
- It receives no treatment and goes directly into local streams.
- It is channeled into large, public stormwater management facilities.
- It is diverted into facilities (usually ponds) managed by Common Ownership Communities (e.g. housing or condominium associations), businesses, schools, or parks.
All stormwater management facilities are subject to county, state, and federal regulations. To learn more about stormwater management in your area, contact the DEP Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance at 311 or email DEP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where does the water go?
Urban rainfall runoff flows into storm drains and directly into local streams or stormwater management facilities such as this pond.
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How Does Stormwater Pollute?
Stormwater runoff from roads, driveways, rooftops, and parking lots is not treated at a wastewater treatment plant. Stormwater pollutes in various ways:
- Urban pollutants are conveyed directly into local waterbodies, e.g:
- Sediment from exposed soil and from stream banks themselves
- Excess pesticides/nutrients applied on landscaping, gardens, and golf courses
- Trash and debris left on roads
- Oil, auto fluids, and soapy water from car washing
- Pet waste that has been left on the ground
- Salt from winter weather road treatments
- "Flash floods" are caused by stormwater moving at very high speeds in the hard, smooth surfaces of concrete pipes within urban storm drains.
- Periodic, fast-flowing stormwater damages the banks and the base of the stream channel because it is highly erosive. Insects, larvae, fish, salamanders, and amphibians are directly impacted by high volumes of this moving water and indirectly impacted when stream habitat features are destroyed (such as pools, riffles and rock features).
- Uncontrolled stormwater runoff negatively affects both the biological integrity and health of County watersheds and downstream watersheds all the way to the Bay.
- From the California Stormwater Quality Association, “Slow the Flow – Make Your Landscape Act More Like a Sponge” provides information regarding stormwater runoff. Although the emphasis is California, this video educates viewers to issues such as water conservation, water runoff, pervious concrete, rain barrels and rain gardens.
This link is to a video about Volkswagen's initiative called "The Fun Theory" which proposes that it is possible to encourage people to change their behavior by making it fun and easy for them. This particular clip covers an experiment done in Stockholm where they created a set of Piano Stairs in the underground train system to encourage people to take the stairs rather than using the escalator.
- This is a compilation of videos from San Diego. Although California-specific, the public service announcements emphasize stormwater pollution prevention tips such as why it is important to pick up after your pet. Available in Spanish.
- Radio ads done by the Only Rain Down the Storm Drain Program by Northern Virginia Clean Water Partners, focuses on ways which local residents can reduce their adverse impact on watersheds through stormwater runoff. The clips cover issues such as over fertilization, improper disposal of motor oil, and household chemicals. Available in Spanish.
What You Can Do to Help Reduce Stormwater Pollution
There are many ways in which you can have a direct effect on the quality of the water that enters the streams and waterways in Montgomery County.
Learn how you can help stop stormwater pollution in your area.
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Stormwater Pollution Law
Montgomery County is regulated under Phase I of the EPA NPDES program and operates under a State of Maryland-issued permit (MS4 permit) that governs stormwater discharges from the Countys stormwater management system.
Learn more about the regulatory requirements and implementation of Montgomery County's stormwater permit. The permit is enforced through the County's Water Quality Ordinance (Chapter 19, Article 4 of the Montgomery County Code).
Report improper storage and handling of hazardous material to DEP.
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Unless the state has issued a specific permit, the following are explicitly prohibited:
- Handling pollutants in a way that lets them drain into the storm drain system
Discharging pollutants from a storage system or other container into the storm drain system or directly into the state's streams, river, and lakes
- Connecting any apparatus discharging a pollutant, in any amount, to any part of the waters of the state (including streams, river, and lakes)
Stormwater Management in Montgomery County
Learn more about Montgomery County's stormwater management programs:
Report Stormwater Pollution!
Polluting storm drains is against the law! If you see or suspect a violation of the County's stormwater permit, such as people washing or pouring oil, paint, or other liquids into a storm drain or otherwise deliberately introducing pollutants down a storm drain, use DEP's online form, call 311, or email DEP at email@example.com to report it!
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