Stormwater Pollution Prevention
According to the EPA, stormwater pollution is the number one cause of water pollution in the country. Stormwater pollution occurs when rain or snowmelt flows over a surface, such as a street or a driveway, and picks up pollutants — oils, chemicals, trash, and other materials not found naturally in our waterways. These pollutants then flow into the storm sewer system, which drains untreated to our local lakes, streams, and the Cache la Poudre River. Polluted stormwater may result in significant impacts on the receiving waters that detrimentally affect both the aquatic ecosystem and quality of life in our community.
In effect, everyone in Windsor plays a role in managing stormwater pollution because we make daily choices that can impact it. Everything from littering, failing to pick up pet excrement, mismanaging dirt on construction sites, not cleaning hazardous material spills on pavement, and more, has an impact on keeping stormwater clean.
The Effects of Stormwater Pollution
Managing stormwater pollution is important because polluted stormwater runoff can have adverse effects on plants, fish, animals and people:
- Sediment clouds the water and makes it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment can also destroy aquatic habitats.
- Excess nutrients (like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus found in fertilizers and pet waste), can cause algae blooms. When algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms can’t exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels.
- Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, sometimes necessitating swim-beach closures.
- Trash — plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts — washed into waterbodies can choke, suffocate or disable aquatic life such as ducks, fish, turtles and birds.
- Household hazardous wastes — insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids — can poison aquatic life. Predatory and scavenging animals, as well as people, can become sick or die from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.
- Pollution can clogs pipes and drains, increasing the potential for flooding.
- Polluted stormwater can also find its way into sources of drinking water. This, in turn, can increase water treatment costs and adversely affect human health.
Source: EPA's Website "A Citizen’s Guide to Understanding Stormwater"
The Municipal Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit
There are two types of sewer systems in Windsor: sanitary sewer and storm sewer, also known as the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS4. It is the collection of pipes, ditches, detention ponds and other conveyances that carry stormwater runoff. Both sewer systems are maintained by the Town of Windsor Public Works Department. The difference, however, is big: while water from the sanitary sewer is sent to a treatment plan for removal of pollutants, water from the MS4 ends up in the Cache la Poudre River – untreated, along with any pollutants it picks up along the way.
In 2017, the Town of Windsor received its stormwater discharge permit from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The permit allows the Windsor to discharge the cleanest stormwater possible from its MS4 to the Cache la Poudre River. The MS4 permit program is developed and monitored by the Stormwater Program Coordinator.
MS4 Permit Compliance
In compliance with the stormwater discharge permit requirements, Windsor will implement programs to reduce stormwater pollutants. The plan for doing this is outlined in Windsor’s MS4 Program Description Document which can be requested by contacting Windsor's Stormwater Program Coordinator.
As a condition of the permit, the following five measures must be met:
- Public Education and Outreach: Educate the community to reduce water quality impacts associated with pollutants in stormwater runoff.
- Illicit Detection and Elimination: Develop, implement, and enforce a program to detect and eliminate spills, illegal dumping and other non-stormwater discharges into the town’s storm sewer system.
- Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control: Develop, implement and enforce a program to reduce discharge of pollutants in stormwater runoff from construction activities.
- Post-Construction Stormwater Management: Prevent or minimize impacts to stormwater from new development or redevelopment by ensuring that stormwater conveyance structures are maintained and operate as designed.
- Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations: Develop, implement and enforce a maintenance program to prevent or reduce pollutants in runoff from municipal operations.
Keep Stormwater Drains Free from Pollutants
Windsor needs your help! Motor oil, antifreeze, dirt/sediment, grass clippings, leaves, and paint are common pollutants that can damage our environment. Please make sure that these items are not left in the street, on the sidewalk, or elsewhere – Ideally, only runoff water would enter a storm drain.
Taking a few simple steps will go a long way to reducing pollutants in stormwater runoff:
- Direct downspouts and gutters onto your lawn and plant beds (or into rain barrels), so runoff seeps into the soil instead of picking up pollutants.
- Sweep fertilizer and soils onto the lawn so they are not easily washed into storm drains.
- Collect leaves and grass clippings instead of blowing them into the street, thus reducing nutrient pollution.
- Promptly clean up oil, gas, or other spills and leaks on your driveway. Use cat litter to absorb oil.
- Pick up pet waste to help reduce bacterial and nutrient pollution.
- Remove trash from street gutters to prevent it from falling into storm drains.
- Use swales (low areas) to hold and filter water.
- Motor oil, antifreeze, dirt/sediment, grass clippings, leaves and paint are common pollutants that can be carried away by stormwater. Do not leave these items on the street or sidewalk, and do not put them down the storm drain.
- See something, say something. If you see a spill or illegal dumping in gutters, storm drains, in or near our lakes, rivers and ditches, report it.