Storm drains are the grates found on the street by the curb. Runoff and rainwater drain into these grates, go through a network of underground tunnels and usually end up in the local water body. This water is not treated to remove pollutants before it reaches the ponds, creeks and rivers. Simple activities such as washing your car or not picking up after your dog can cause harm to aquatic life. There are many activities damaging to local waterways that you can help prevent:
- Washing cars or household items in your driveway results in soapy water entering the storm drains. Detergents enter the rivers and streams destroying the protective mucous coating on fish and leaving them more susceptible to disease.
- Hazardous wastes such as chemicals, paint chips, oils and cleaners from washing garage floors, driveways, patios and decks run into the storm drains. These toxins can be ingested by organisms and accumulate over time.
- Nitrates and phosphates from fertilizers can be washed into storm drains when overspray lands on sidewalks and driveways or are placed before a heavy rainfall. It can cause algal bloom resulting in less light and oxygen in the water for other organisms and clog the gills of fish.
- Leaks of oil and other lubricating agents from cars and other motorized machines into storm drains results in more oil in the waterways than from oil tanker spills!
- Pathogens including bacteria like E.Coli and Salmonella or viruses like Norwalk can be found in pet and livestock wastes. They can cause disease in both humans and wildlife.
- Salts from sidewalk and roadway application can raise the salinity of local water bodies. Spring runoff can raise the salinity level in areas to ocean levels. Dissolved salts are difficult and expensive to remove and can be corrosive to the piping system.
- Organic debris like grass clippings, silt and sand from roadways can increase the cloudiness of water and even change the course of a river or stream damaging habitats.
Storm drain complaints are addressed on a priority basis. If a Guelph city street is flooding please call 519-837-5628. To report damage you will require the following information:
- name of the street
- nearest building number
- name of the nearest cross-street
- description of issue