Storm Drains and You

Storm drain in Burlingame that is free of debris.

Storm drain in Burlingame that is free of debris.

Have you ever wondered about the grates and holes in the ground at the curb and why they are there? They are on every street and nearly every intersection and curbside and come in all shapes and sizes.

Those grates or inlets are called storm drains. They are found almost everywhere, even on freeways. Storm drains exist to help drain rainwater off the streets to prevent flooding. Imagine when it rains, the water has to go somewhere.

The storm drain system is different than the sanitary sewer system that exists in the San Mateo County. The water that flows from our sinks, showers and toilets go through a sewer drain that ends up at nearby waste water treatment plants. After a thorough treatment process, this water is then discharged into the San Francisco Bay or Ocean.

Rain flows into a storm drain in Montara.

Rain flows into a storm drain in Montara.

Water from storm drains on the other hand is not treated, meaning anything from the streets can flow into a storm drain and eventually into the Bay or Ocean.

When it rains, pollutants can be picked up, such as litter, pet waste, motor oil, residue from a car wash, lawn and garden chemicals and much more and flow directly into these storm drains. These pollutants can negatively impact our local fish, wildlife and even us.

There’s a lot you can do to avoid polluting our storm drains. Below are just a few tips:

  • Avoid dumping anything into the storm drain directly such as pesticides, motor oil, and paint. Dispose of unwanted chemicals properly. Visit http://www.smchealth.org/hhw to find out how and where.
  • Avoid washing your car outside. Car washing chemicals can end up in the storm drains. Instead, go to a commercial car wash where they recycle the water they use.
  • Pick up after your pet. Pet waste is toxic and should not be left on the grass or ground.
  • Don’t litter. There’s no guarantee that someone will pick up after you. Help nature out by doing your part.
  • Keep storm drains free of debris, such as leaves that can clog up drains during a storm.

Next time you pass a storm drain, remember everything does indeed “flows to bay or ocean.”

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