Did you ever see a rainbow in a parking lot after it’s rained? These little reminders that oil and water don’t mix show up on paved areas as a result of vehicle leaks. Their size may seem small, but their impact can be huge. If just one drop of oil dripped from each of the 740,000 vehicles registered in Jefferson County, it would result in 64 quarts of oil capable of polluting 16 million gallons of water! That’s why fixing even small leaks and properly cleaning up spills can make a big difference in our local water quality. But cars aren’t the only culprits. Lawn equipment and recreational vehicles also can be sources of sneaky leaks. Regular maintenance and proper cleanup can reduce the effects of these problems. If you change your own oil and fluids, make sure you carefully collect and take them to one of the many local businesses which accept these for recycling, and properly clean up any drips or spills. Using a hose to clean the driveway carries oil and fluids into the storm drainage system which empties into local waterways. A better solution is to sprinkle some absorbent material like cat litter on the area, let it soak up the drips, sweep it up, and dispose of it in the trash.
Washing vehicles and lawn equipment on paved areas produces a stream of detergents, oils, grease, fluids, and brake dust comprised of toxic heavy metals which – you guessed it – flows right into the nearest storm drain. Consider washing vehicles and equipment on grassy areas to allow wash water and the substances it carries to soak into the ground rather than run off. Another alternative is to take vehicles to a commercial car wash, since these facilities are required to treat wash water before it is released.
Making stormwater friendly choices like these can go a long way toward keeping our waterways safe and clean!