Home Improvement

Impact on Environment

man working with wood AdobeStock_320684081 (2)Clean rivers and lakes are important. They provide vital fish habitat, recreation, and add to the beauty of our City. In recent years while industrial pollution has decreased, the family home continues to be a leading source of water pollution. People caring for their homes can unknowingly pollute local waterways through the improper handling and disposal of household chemicals, paint, and trash. Through inattention or carelessness, materials swept, raked, or spilled on the ground or pavement can be carried by water into our local river and lake. The gutters along our City streets lead to storm drains that flow directly to local river and lake-what you do in and around your home has a direct impact on your local waterways, usually a negative impact.

Concrete & Masonry Work

Fresh concrete, mortar and grout can wash or blow into the street gutter or storm drain, polluting our rivers and lakes. If you are planning concrete or masonry work these tips will help both you and your waterways:

  • Only mix up as much concrete or cement as you will need.
  • Cover and protect unused and left over bags.
  • Sweep up dry materials such as cement, sand, gravel, and dirt-don’t let these blow or wash away into the street.
  • Don’t wash off haze from concrete or grout with water or acid into the street or storm drain.
  • Don’t hose excess concrete into the street gutter (this includes washing off equipment, mixing containers, or the construction site).
  • Empty excess concrete into a dirt area or into a container to allow material to dry before putting it in the trash.
  • Set-up and operate small mixers on heavy tarps or drop cloths for easier clean-up of spilled material.


The burnt food residue that builds up on the grill is poisonous to animals in the rivers and lakes, even in low concentrations. Many people clean the grates and various grill components by washing them with soapy water and rinsing them till the water runs clear.  It is important to avoid cleaning off grills onto paved areas which will rinse into the gutters and pollute our natural water sources and river and lake systems. 

Job Site Clean-Up

Now that your project is done-don’t spoil it! Waste from overflowing trash cans contains toxins that can be carried to our rivers and lakes. Sweep up loose materials and place them in the trash. Some projects may require a larger trash bin. Property owners are ultimately responsible for the introduction of pollutants to the storm drain system.

Responsible Power Washing

A power-washer is often used for painting preparation or cleaning the house after remodeling. The problem is there is a lot besides water in the runoff from power or pressure washing. If the wastewater is not collected properly, all of this pollution will flow into a storm drain. Water entering a storm drain is not treated or cleaned before entering our rivers and lakes.

Always pre-clean the area by sweeping up litter, dirt, and other debris.

Typically the best option for disposing of wash water is to collect and dispose the wash water to the sanitary sewer through a sink, toilet or sewer clean out. This will ensure the wash water will be sent to the wastewater treatment plant for treatment and reuse. If hazardous materials (petroleum products, fuels, antifreeze, solvents, and pesticides) are involved, the water will need to be disposed of as hazardous waste and cannot be discharged to the sanitary sewer.

Collecting Water for Disposal

Collect water for disposal by creating a barrier with sand bags or seal the storm drain openings with rubber mats. Wastewater can be collected from its containment using a wet/dry vacuum or a sump pump.

Rinse the area to ensure any pollutants left on the pavement will be picked up.

Use rags or an absorbent material like kitty litter to remove any oil, grease, or other petroleum products leaked or staining any pavement. Collect the rags and absorbent material for disposal at the Household Toxic Facility. Discharging power washing waste water to a landscaped area may be allowed if no soaps are used. Pre-cleaning and blocking the storm drain is always required. When routing wash water to landscaping, check the slope and area to be sure you will avoid runoff into a street or gutter. If the soil is very dry, wet it down thoroughly before discharging so that wash water will soak into the soil instead of running off to the street, gutter, or storm drain. The planted area must be able to absorb all the water you divert to it.