Frequently Asked Questions

What is Storm Water?

The runoff  that flows into the County’s  streets and storm drains from rain, sleet or hail   is called STORM WATER. Storm water NEVER goes to a wastewater treatment plant to be cleaned. It flows directly from the County’s storm drain system into our local waterways, carrying with it pollutants from yards, streets, gutters, driveways and other impermeable surfaces.   Storm water that does not seep into the ground where it falls is collected by the storm drain  system in order to prevent flooding and standing water which can create  other problems. The storm drain  system has many outlets and not all storm water ends up in the same place. Some storm water is collected in underground dry wells (rockwells) where it will seep back into the ground. Other storm water is collected in grassy  basins and allowed to seep back into the ground. The rest of the storm water in our County is channeled to the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers or  Dry Creek

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What is Storm Water pollution?

Storm water runoff becomes polluted when it  flows over  surfaces, such as yards, sidewalks, streets, gutters or parking lots. Storm water  can also be polluted when someone intentionally dumps materials, like oil,paint, or car wash water  into the storm drain system. Polluted storm water flows without treatment directly to the County’s creeks and rivers, where it can be harmful to aquatic life.  Preventing the introduction of pollutants into the storm drain  system helps ensure the safety of our drinking water, of our children playing in grassy storm basins, and the fish and other wildlife that live in and around our rivers. There are many types of pollution that are easily contained before they become a problem. Some of these are:

  • Pet waste can contribute harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses to our waterways.  Please clean up after your pet.
  • Vehicle fluids such as oil, gasoline and antifreeze are serious contributors to storm water pollution.  Please recycle oil.  You can find a list of recycling centers at ca.gov.  Dispose of other chemicals at a Hazardous Waste Collection Center, at http://www.stancounty.com/er.  When storing lcontainers of these fluids, please keep them in good condition  and check periodically for leaks.
  • Old paint, solvents, batteries, and other chemicals should be disposed of at a Hazardous Waste Collection Center.
  • Debris and surface dirt should be swept up and deposited in a trash bin instead of washing it into the street.
  • Yard waste and grass clippings can be composted or placed in the gray trash bin.
  • Construction debris.  When using concrete or other building materials, do not wash out into the street or gutter.  Concrete wash out can clog the County’s storm drain  system causing flooding as well as storm water pollution.
  • Landscape irrigation runoff carries pollutants such as animal waste, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers across sidewalks and into gutters where it enters the County’s storm drain system. Landscape irrigation runoff can be  easily prevented by adjusting sprinklers and timing watering cycles.

Storm water runoff  is the number one source of pollution in our nation's urban waters today. Storm drains were designed to collect only RAINWATER to prevent flooding during storms. That's why we must all remember...ONLY RAIN DOWN THE DRAIN!!!

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What are catch basins or storm drain inlets?

Catch basins and storm drain inlets are  receptacles located at the entry to the storm drain system whose sole function is to catch surface water runoff from rainfall and deliver it to the storm drain system..

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Are sanitary sewers and storm drains the same thing?

No. Storm drains and sanitary sewers have two distinct functions. Storm drains are intended to collect and transport runoff from rainfall. Storm drain systems do not remove pollutants from storm water runoff before it is discharged into streams and rivers.  Sanitary sewers collect wastewater from indoor plumbing such as toilets, sinks, showers and washing machines and and take it to a sewage treatment plant. The treatment plant removes many pollutants from wastewater before it is discharged to the river.

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Do drain inlets and catch basins get cleaned?

Yes. Stanislaus County Public Works crews maintain many miles of storm drain system pipelines, catch basins and drywells (rockwells)..

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Why doesn't the County clean  all of the storm drain inlets right before a storm?

There are too many inlets, catch basins, and drywells for County crews to clean in such a short period of time. This is why the County depends upon residents and business owners to prevent pollution in storm water runoff by following the guidelines listed above.  The storm drain system is  cleaned and maintained on a year-round schedule,

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Why doesn't the County install filters or screens in front of drain inlets?

During a rainstorm, trash can quickly be swept into drain inlets. Heavy accumulation of trash can clog the grate, thus preventing proper drainage and potentially creating a flood hazard. The Stanislaus County Public Works Dept.  is evaluating new technologies in the form of filtration or screening devices to help manage and control storm water pollution and enhance water quality . The County has installed  Continuous Deflection Separator (CDS) systems in the Town of Keyes and also in the Hillsborough Estates subdivision  in Oakdale,near the Stanislaus River to help manage the problem of trash in storm water runoff.

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What types of pollutants are commonly found in  storm water runoff ?

,Paint and other household cleaning products, car washing liquids and soaps, metals, oil & grease, sediment, lawn clippings, , pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, human and animal feces, automotive fluids and  trash  are but a few examples of the pollutants typically found in  storm water runoff.

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What is the County doing about illegal dumping?

The County’s Storm Water Ordinance (Title 14 Chapter 14) makes it illegal to knowingly dump or discharge anything but clean storm water, with certain exceptions, into the storm drain system. The County can impose fines on violators when they are caught.

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What can I do if I observe someone dumping their used motor oil into a catch basin?

Dumping used motor oil into any part of the County’s storm drain system is illegal. One gallon of motor oil can pollute up to 250,000 gallons of water. To report the problem 24 hours/day, 365 days/year, call 209-525-4130. All Stanislaus County residents can recycle their used,  motor oil free of charge at the County’s Hazardous Waste Facility.

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What should I do if I observe  someone throwing trash into a catch basin?

Storm drain catch basins are designed for catching rain water only. Dumping trash or other pollutants into  the storm drain system is illegal and is a violation of the Federal Clean Water Act  as well as the County’s Storm Water Ordinance Title 14 Chapter14. If a neighbor is disposing of trash in the storm drain system, they may not understand that the system is directly connected to our creeks and rivers. If you have an amicable relationship with your neighbor, it may be just a matter of informing and making them aware of the potential environmental impact of their actions. To report any  illegal dumping into the County’s storm drain system, please call Stanislaus County Public Works at 209-525-4130 24 hours/day, 365 days/year..

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I have some paint/thinners/chemicals/batteries at home that need to be disposed of. Where can I take these?

Paints, paint thinners, chemicals and batteries are  household hazardous waste that needs proper disposa If you are a resident or business owner living within Stanislaus County, you can take your household hazardous waste materials to a Household Hazardous Waste collection event.. You can also take your items to the Stanislaus County Hazardous Waste Facility from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm most Fridays & Saturdays. This facility is located at 1710 Morgan Road, Modesto.  Call (209) 525-6700 or (800) 449-4840 for drop off times, locations, or for more information.

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What is the fine/penalty for illegal dumping?

Fines and penalties are based upon type and amount of illegally discharged material. Each violation can be based on, but not limited to, a cost recovery fine and/or an enforcement fine. An ordinance  has been added to  Stanislaus County Code relating to Storm Water Management and Discharge Control (Title 14 Chapter 14. The purpose of this ordinance is to protect and promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Stanislaus County by controlling non-storm water discharges to the storm water drainage system and protecting it from spills, dumping, or disposal of material other than storm water, and by reducing pollutants in urban storm water discharges to the maximum extent possible. Further details can be found in the Storm Water Management & Discharge Control - Ordinance document.

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How can I be environmentally responsible when washing my car?

The best place to wash your car is always at a full or self-service car wash facility that recycles the washwater.  If your car must be washed at your residence, prevent the runoff of any polluted water by washing over a lawn or gravel area that will allow the washwater to infiltrate into the soil . Do not allow the washwater to flow across driveways or sidewalks and into gutters and catch basins.  Use biodegradable soaps  and  as little water as possible. Shut off water from your hose while washing your car, or use a trigger nozzle to stop the flow.

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Yard clippings and leaves are natural, so they don't cause any problems, right?

Landscape waste and lawn clippings that are  swept or blown into catch basins can clog the County’s storm drain system, causing flooding and creating  a potential breeding ground for rodents and mosquitoes. Additionally, when grass and leaves decompose, they encourage excessive growth of algae which depletesoxygen supply in our rivers and streams, and can negatively affect fish and wildlife, .

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Household Hazardous Waste

Stanislaus County maintains a permanent collection facility for Household Hazardous Waste. It is located 1710 Morgan Road, Modesto. It is open most Fridays and Saturdays from 8:00 am until 12:00 pm. They will accept paint, oil, antifreeze, pool chemicals, pesticides, household cleaners, transmission fluid, solvents, varnishes and medical waste. There is no charge for disposal. Never mix any chemicals. Make sure that all liquids are in sealed containers. Transport materials in the trunk of your car or bed of your pick-up truck....not in the cab. Do not transport more than 15 gallons of hazardous waste at one time. For further information you may contact Stanislaus County Hazardous Waste Facility at 209-525-6700.

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Notice to Construction Permittees

Discharges associated with construction activity are a potential source of pollutants in storm water runoff. The most common pollutant associated with construction activity is sediment. Sediment and other construction related wastes can degrade water quality in creeks, rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. In 2010, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a statewide General Permit for storm water discharges associated with construction activity that disturb one or more acre of land. The General Permit is intended to ensure that construction activity does not impact water quality

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