Storm Drains are NOT Sewers

Each year, millions of gallons of water run into the Town’s storm drains and flow untreated into our surrounding waterways. Unfortunately, some people seem to confuse storm drains with sewers. It is important that everyone knows the difference.

Water inside our homes and businesses from sinks, bathtubs, washing machines, and toilets flows from your pipes into the sanitary sewer system. This water is channeled to a wastewater-treatment facility where it is treated or cleaned before being released to the ocean.

Water outside our homes and businesses is carried by the storm drain system, into underground pipes and open ditches and, untreated or cleaned, is discharged into our local waterways and eventually flowing into the ocean.storm_drain_versus_sewer

The storm drain system is designed to quickly carry rainwater or runoff away from hard impermeable surfaces like our driveways, streets, parking lots, and roofs to prevent flooding. As runoff flows into the storm drain system, it can pick up common pollutants such as trash, pet waste, yard debris, fertilizers, pesticides, paints/home solvents, engine oil, and detergents. Since water in the storm drain system is not treated, these pollutants can contain harmful bacteria, cause ecological problems, and be toxic to human, plant and aquatic life.

Water in the storm drain system travels through underground pipes, open ditches, and flood control channels designed to carry water and “channel” it to the ocean. This means the actions you take to prevent runoff pollution at your home or business make a big difference. It is important to prevent pollutants from entering the storm drain so we can protect and enjoy our beautiful waterways, beaches, and ocean.

There are a variety of simple actions you can take to prevent pollution from entering our storm drain system.

  • Trash: When trash enters our waterways, it can create water flow problems and contaminate aquatic habitats. Secure lids on trash and recycling bins to prevent debris from blowing away. Be particularly mindful of throwing away plastic wrappers, as this is the most common item found on beaches. Remember to reduce, reuse or recycle products whenever possible.
  • Pet waste: Picking up after your pet is not just polite, it helps prevent runoff pollution! Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that pollutes our waterways. Always pick up after your pet and dispose of pet waste in a covered trash bin.
  • Yard debris: It’s important to prevent yard debris from entering storm drains as it can clog inlets and obstruct water flow, leading to flooding and erosion. It can also harbor and transport other pollutants. Instead of blowing or rinsing debris off impermeable surfaces like your driveway or street, collect all debris and properly dispose of them or, better yet, compost it.
  • Fertilizers: If improperly applied, fertilizers can enter our waterways and cause algae blooms. Do not use fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorous from May 15 through October 31 and never use when it is windy or within 48 hours of a forecasted rain event. Pesticides: When pesticides enter our waterways, they can be dangerous to human health and aquatic life. Use only the recommended amount and never use when it is windy or within 48 hours of a forecasted rain event. Instead of reaching for pesticides that may contain pollution-causing chemicals, use least-toxic alternatives or Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which focuses on the long-term prevention of pests through a combination of techniques.
  • Paints and home solvents: Paints and home solvents, including many common household cleaners, contain chemicals that are toxic to humans and aquatic life. They should never be put in storm drains, sewers or septic systems. Instead, dispose of these materials free of charge at the Miami-Dade Home Chemical Collection Site. Call the Miami-Dade Home Collection Site at 305-597-1768 for directions.
  • Engine oil: If engine oil enters our waterways, aquatic animals and plants can be negatively affected. Prevent oil and other toxic substances from entering our storm drains by properly maintaining your car. Make repairs immediately, check frequently for leaks, and clean affected areas using absorbents (like kitty litter).
  • Detergents: If phosphorus from detergents enters our waterways, it can cause ecological problems, including fish kills. If you are using detergents for outdoor cleaning projects such as washing cars, do not allow wash water to reach the storm drain system. Instead, visit your local car wash or wash your car on permeable surfaces like your lawn which allows water to infiltrate instead of running off your property.

As with any crime – if you see something, say something! You can report illegal dumping and other environmental complaints to the Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) complaint desk at 305-372-6955 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or by emailing