Stormwater Public Education and Outreach
The City of Bismarck has developed a public education and outreach program to let our citizens know about the impacts of stormwater runoff and discharges and the measures we all can take to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff.
The storm water system handles water that flows down driveways and streets into a gutter where it is not treated and goes into a storm drain that flows directly to the Missouri River. In contrast, the sanitary sewer system, also known as our wastewater system, handles water that goes down a sink or toilet and flows to a wastewater treatment plant where it is treated and filtered.
On its way to our storm water system, such as during rain events or snow melt, runoff can pick up pollutants such as excess fertilizer, lawn clippings, trash, oil deposits, soils and sediments, pet waste, and other contaminants get washed into the storm sewer system. Those materials eventually make their way from the storm sewer system, untreated, into our local streams, ponds, and rivers. We should all do our part to protect our waterways and promote stewardship towards our land, water, and downstream neighbors.
Homeowner Tips to Help Control Stormwater Pollution
Many of our daily activities can impact the quality of our water bodies, however there are many simple ways we can prevent stormwater pollution.
Around the Yard
• Prevent Soil Erosion: Bare spots in yards have loose soil that can be washed away during rains or blown away in high winds, adding sediment to our local water bodies. We should control erosion by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas. Dirt and sediment are also a cause of localized flooding. Having grass or native plants is the simplest way to keep dirt out of the storm water system. Also, cleaning out pipes is a time consuming and expensive process. Please help out by getting your grass and/or other vegetation planted in bare soil areas as soon as possible.
• Grass clippings and leaves: Yard waste can also cause localized flooding when covering and/or plugging inlet grates. Grass clippings and leaves also decay in the pipes, causing unpleasant odors. Dumping grass clippings and leaves in drainage areas will also cause flooding of outfalls. Please blow cut grass back into your yard or bag it. Public help with keeping inlets clean is very much appreciated and is a benefit to our community.
• Yard fertilizer and weed preventer: Don’t overuse yard fertilizer or weed preventer, and make sure to follow the directions on the product labels. It’s important to sweep any excess product back into your yard, not only to protect our stormwater system, but also because yard fertilizer and weed preventer can stain your concrete. These chemicals being washed down the storm drains also promote algae growth in our local waterbodies which causes problems for those ecosystems.
• Make sure fertilizers are phosphorous free: Our soils have plenty of naturally occurring phosphorous, so phosphorous is usually only needed when trying to establish a new yard. Excess amounts of phosphorous contribute to algal blooms and oxygen deficiency in our water bodies.
• Pet waste and Litter: Please dispose of pet waste and litter in your garbage. Pet waste does not break down outdoors, and once it’s in the streets it will go through the storm sewer system then into our local rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. Allowing pet waste and litter to enter the storm system is no different than throwing dirt and garbage in the inlets and pipes.
• General garbage: Please pick up any garbage in your own yard and any that you see around our community. Also, limit the time your garbage cans are out on windy days to reduce the chance of the cans blowing over and dumping garbage onto streets and adjacent properties. We can all help keep our community and our stormwater systems clean.
• Concrete: The water from washing your concrete areas, such as driveways and sidewalks, contains toxic metals and needs to be filtered through sand to settle out the toxins. Concrete wash water contaminants can harm fish gills and eyes and interfere with their reproduction. Also make sure to limit your use of de-icing materials.
• Don’t dump any types of chemicals in our community’s storm drains!
• Household hazardous waste can be disposed of at the City of Bismarck Household Hazardous Waste and Electronic Recycling Center located at the landfill.
• Oil and Chemicals: Oils and chemicals should not ever be dumped into storm drains, gutters, or inlets. Instead, these materials should be recycled or taken somewhere that can dispose of them properly, such as the Household Hazardous Waste facility at the landfill. Also, make sure to have any vehicle fluid leaks repaired quickly.
• Paint: Water based paint tools can be cleaned in the sink, while oil-based paint tools need to be recycled or disposed of. Neither type should be cleaned in our gutters or inlets.
• Detergents and Cleaning Solutions: Look for eco-friendly detergents and cleaners that are low in (or have no) phosphorous. Low phosphorus products will help reduce the amount of nutrients discharged into our streams and rivers.
• Wash your vehicles on the lawn or use a commercial car wash to prevent the cleaning products you use from entering the stormwater systems.
• Other nonhazardous items can be disposed of through regular garbage collection.
Check your sump pump every spring
- Check your sump pumps often to make sure they are working properly.
- Having a backup pump is a good idea, or a 12-volt battery backup pump for power outages.
- When possible, warm weather sump discharge should go to a non-erodible surface such as the driveway, street, or directly to a storm drain; this helps us save treatment & pumping costs at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
- It isn’t always a good idea to run your sump discharge onto a lawn or any pervious surface, the water could end up being recycled into your neighbors or your own sump system.
- Wintertime sump discharge should go into the sanitary system via a floor drain or tub.
- Make sure that your septic system is properly maintained and is functioning correctly.
- Have your septic system inspected and pumped regularly.
Please divert gutters away from impervious surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks into vegetated areas to allow the water a chance to infiltrate into the soil.
Make sure you don’t over-water your greenspace, and make sure your outdoor watering covers your yard and landscaping, not the sidewalk or driveway.
The Next Step
Here are a few ways to improve stormwater conditions through actions at home:
• Native Planting: Use deep-rooted native vegetation that will add water capacity to the soil and beauty to your yard. Native plants are adapted to our weather and require little watering once established.
Take a look at this article for tips to take your landscaping to the next level of water efficiency and stormwater protection.
• Soil Amendments: Improve soil quality by aerating and adding compost to your greenspace. By doing so you will help your landscaping have deeper root growth for better soils. Also, better soil conditions allow for more storm and runoff water infiltration into the ground and keep it out of our stormwater systems.
Community involvement is a key component to the stormwater program’s success. The Report a Concern feature allows you to report a concern, express an idea, ask for help, or recommend a change pertaining to stormwater related matters.