Many people think that pollution in our streams, rivers and lakes only comes from industrial facilities or wastewater treatment plants. Even if all these sources of pollution were eliminated, much of the pollution would still remain.
The remaining source of pollution that is not caused by specific, identifiable sources are called non-point source pollution. Typical pollutants include litter; sediments from exposed soil, pet waste, detergents, pesticides and fertilizers from lawns and gardens, paints, oil, grease and toxic chemicals from motor vehicles, road salts, and household hazardous wastes.
When these materials are improperly used or disposed of, they can be picked up by stormwater runoff as it flows across streets, parking lots and lawns. After this stormwater runoff travels through the storm sewer system, it is discharged to receiving waters without any treatment. As a result, any pollutant that is dumped on the ground can end up in our creeks, rivers and lakes.
There are serious problems associated with polluted stormwater. The pesticides, bacteria and chemicals that may be present in polluted stormwater can pose a health risk to people. Aquatic plants and animals living in streams and rivers may become sick or die from contact with polluted stormwater. Clogged catch basins can be unsightly and can cause flooding problems.
Since stormwater is naturally channeled to or flows through underground pipes to the Mississippi River (and in some areas Sugar Creek and Rock River). There is no opportunity for treatment to remove pollution. So, each of us must be careful to minimize or eliminate substances that may inadvertently pollute our waterways when it rains.