Stormwater Pollution: Help Protect Our Local Waters

Every day activities have the potential to pollute our local waterways. There is a lot that each citizen can do to prevent pollution from reaching our waterways. Continue reading to see what you can do to help!


Sediment is the #1 pollutant found in North Carolina surface waters (lakes, rivers, streams). Sediment enters waterways when bare areas of ground erode and wash away with the rain. This can occur because of construction activities, bare areas in your own yard, or when large rain events wash away previously stable ground.  You can help by making sure your own yard does not have bare areas and by channeling your downspouts into landscaped or grassy areas.

Effects: Excessive sediment blocks sunlight needed by aquatic plants and animals, increases water temperature and impairs feeding, vision, and breathing capabilities of these animals.
Sediment in Creek
Covered Catch Basin

Responsible Lawn Care

Pesticides & Fertilizers

  • Use fertilizer and pesticides sparingly.
  • Keep fertilizer off paved surfaces. Sweep back into the grass if it spreads to pavement.
  • Do not fertilize before a rainstorm. This could wash material into storm drains.
Effects: Improper use of chemicals can impair water quality when it runs off into surface water. Test your soil to determine lawn nutrient needs and proper application rates.

Yard Waste

  • Do not rake, sweep, blow, or place any debris into the storm drainage system (catch basins, grate inlets, etc.).
  • Property owners should keep all ditches, drains, swales, and other drainage ways on their property free from obstructions, which can impede the flow of water.
Effects: Yard waste (grass, branches, leaves, pine straw, etc.), can clog storm drains and other drainage ways causing flooding and property damamge.

Proper Disposal of Trash & Chemicals

Pet Waste

  • Pet owners should always pick up after their pets when walking them in public places. 
  • Even in your own yard it is best to picked up, bag, and throw away pet waste to prevent the spread of pollution.
Effects: Pet waste contains a large amount of bacteria that can be harmful to humans and animals if it reaches our waters. 

Fats, Oils & Grease

Generated from kitchens, machinery and vehicles, and carried by stormwater when disposed of improperly. When fats, oils, and grease get into the sewer system, they stick to the inside of pipes. Over time, FOG will build up in the pipe and create a blockage, which can cause a sanitary sewer overflow.

: The untreated sewage from these overflows can contaminate our waters, causing serious water quality and human health issues.
Lenny Grabs a Dog Waste Bag

Hazardous Waste Disposal

To learn more about household hazardous waste disposal options in High Point, please click HERE

Automotive Care & Maintenance

Automotive Maintenance

  • Remove the oil from your vehicle into the appropriate container (drip pans) and be sure not to spill any on the ground.
  • Do not mix used motor oil with any other substance, like anti-freeze, solvents or paint.
  • Recycle your oil by taking it to a service station or other locations that collect used chemical materials.
Effects: If disposed improperly, used motor oil can contaminate our water supply. One quart of motor oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water. It should never be dumped into a storm drain.

Automotive Washing

  • Wash your vehicle in the grass. The wash water will be treated by the soil, and the grass will benefit from the water.
  • An alternative is to wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash facility. By doing this, dirty wash water can enter the sanitary sewer system where it can be treated before being released back into the local streams
Effects: When vehicles are washed in driveways and parking lots, the dirty wash water finds its way into the drainage system and ultimately back into local waterways (streams, lakes, rivers, etc.). Wash water contains pollutants such as: oils and grease, phosphates (from the soap), and heavy metals, all of which have negative effects on water quality.
Proper Car Washing

Septic Tank Maintenance

Most citizens in High Point are connected to the public sanitary sewer which takes waste water from your home, to one of the two wastewater treatment plants operated by the City.  However, there are still many homes that use a privately owned septic tank system. Proper care and maintenance are crucial for long-term, effective treatment of your household wastewater.  Septic tank failures can lead to contaminated surface waters. 

Dos and Don'ts of Septic Tank Maintenance:

System DosSystem Don't
Inspect your septic tank annually and have the tank pumped when needed.Do not flush solid wastes down toilets or sinks such as floss, feminine hygiene products, cat litter, cigarette butts and yes, even "flushable" wipes!

Direct water from downspouts and roofs away from the drainfield.

Don't use septic tank additives as some of these chemicals can contaminate ground and surface waters. 
Keep cars and trucks off of the tank and drainfield areas.Avoid using a garbage disposal. Throw away solid food in the trash and wipe grease out of pans with a paper towel before cleaning.
Install risers for easier access (if your system does not already have them).Do not put strong chemicals and hazardous cleaning products down your sink drains or toilets. These will harm the important bacteria in the system and contaminate ground and surface waters. 
Reduce water usage and be mindful or overloading the system by avoiding multiple activities at the same time.  For example, do not run a load of laundry at the same time as the dishwasher. Do not landscape or construct any hard surfaces over the system. Avoid planting trees/shrubs near the system. Grass is the best cover for the septic tank and drainfield. 

For additional information about your septic tank, maintenance, permitting, and rules and regulations, please visit the Environmental Health page for your county of residence:

Davidson County Environmental Health

Forsyth County Division of Environmental Health, Water/Wastewater Section

Guilford County Environmental Health, On-Site Wastewater

Randolph County Public Health

Pool Maintenance and Draining

Swimming pools are treated with water conditioners, chlorine, bromine, algaecides, biocides, stabilizers, salts and other chemicals. These substances are harmful to fish and other aquatic life. It is important that pool water is free of harmful chemicals before being drained. Please consider these steps before draining your pool:

  • Allow your pool to sit untreated for at least a week before draining.
  • Use a test kit to verify levels of pH, chlorine or bromine.  pH should be between 6.5 and 8.0, and total residual chlorine or bromine should be less than 1.0 mg/l (ppm).
  • When the water is free of chemicals, drain to a landscaped area, your lawn, or into the woods. Do not drain directly into a storm drain or surface water.
  • Drain your pool slowly over multiple days to prevent erosion and allow vegetation to absorb the water.
  • Swimming pools should not be drained to the sanitary sewer.
Saltwater pool systems require special care: Salt can accumulate in groundwater and soils over time. Discharge away from streams and drainage ditches. Consider creating a landscaped area with salt-tolerant plants for draining.  

Lenny the Lifeguard Logo
​Protecting Our Local Water is Everyone's Responsibility! 

Visit our volunteer page to learn more about ways that you can help through stream or street cleanups and storm drain marking.  

Do you have a group, HOA, and/or business who wants to learn more about protecting our water? Use our speaker request form to receive more information on how your group can help!