The Storm Sewer System, Water Pollution, and the Public

Lorain's storm sewer system is a system of natural and manmade structures that serves to drain water from our community. The system includes roadside catch basins, underground pipes, open ditches, detention ponds, streams, creeks, and rivers. The storm sewer system in our community is separatefrom the wastewater system meaning that while water draining into the wastewater system travels to one of the City's two wastewater treatment plants for cleaning, water that enters out storm sewer system drains to our streams,  rivers, and Lake Erie with no treatment.

Once you understand how the storm sewer system works, it's easier to understand how pollution in our community can degrade water quality.  Pollution entering our storm sewer system is called storm water pollution and is often generated by our everyday activities.  Some sources of storm water pollution include:

  • Oil from our vehicles
  • Anti-freeze
  • Household cleaners and chemicals
  • Animal waste
  • Paints
  • Garbage
  • Litter
  • Cooking grease
  • Yard debris including grass clippings
  • Boat/camper sewage
  • Roadway accident spills
  • Fuel

Improper disposal of theses wastes can harm fish and native vegetation, contribute to algal blooms, and make recreational areas unsafe for swimming. Storm water pollution can also make drinking water treatment more difficult and more expensive. But there's good news: storm water pollution is easily controlled! So what can you do to prevent storm water pollution? Here are a few tips:

  • Use pesticide and fertilizer per manufacturer’s directions.
  • Repair auto leaks.
  • Clean up after your pet. Yes, Fido's poop contains bacteria and virus' that can contaminate our water!
  • Sweep up yard debris rather than hosing it down. DO NOT dump it into a nearby creek or river!
  • Properly dispose of excess paint through a household hazardous waste collection program.
  • Wash your car on the grass to allow detergent and dirt to be absorbed and filtered by the soil. Don’t forget the phosphorus free soap!


So now that we know what storm water pollution is, how about we take a look at a video that talks about some of the ways it enters our water supply. The EPA's video, After the Stormhighlights three case studies - Santa Monica Bay, the Mississippi River Basin/Gulf of Mexico, and New York City- where polluted runoff threatens watersheds highly valued for recreation, commercial fisheries and navigation, and drinking water. Key scientists, water quality experts, and citizens involved in local and national watershed protection efforts provide insight into the problems as well as solutions to today's water quality crisis.

In addition to illustrating the environmental implications of weather events, the special provides useful tips on how people can help make a difference. After the Storm explains simple things people can do to protect their local watershed-such as picking up after one's dog and recycling household hazardous wastes. It also shows how some communities and private companies are getting involved through low impact development - utilizing rain gardens and green roofs to minimize stormwater runoff.

Check out the video at


Originally produced by a grant from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, "A Fish's Wish" is a fun and interactive activity book that teaches kids about storm water pollution, polluted runoff, and how to limit water pollution. This workbook can be printed and distributed.