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Jefferson County,
Est. 1818
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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why should I be concerned about polluted streams?

  2. How can I support clean water efforts?

  3. How can I protect my watershed?

  4. What can I do at home to reduce stormwater pollution?

  5. What is the difference between ground water and storm water runoff?

  6. How is water from a sanitary sewer system different from storm water runoff or from a storm drain?

  7. Who can I contact for information?

  8. Who should I call to report a source of pollution or drainage problem?

  9. Is there a list of recycling centers for Jefferson County?


1.   Why should I be concerned about polluted streams?

It is against the law to discharge pollutants into (1) the storm drainage system (2) surface water and (3) groundwater. Streams serve as a natural habitat and a source of food to many animals, fish and aquatic life. Pollution will kill a stream and everything that uses it for survival. A stream filled with debris from construction sites, illegal dumping of paint, overuse of pesticides, herbicides, dumping of tires, and scrap metal, or choking with sediment from unchecked erosion, suffers. These items contaminate water, causing death or illness to aquatic life, and fish by interrupting their reproductive cycle The stream or waterway begins to fill up. The riparian corridor is destroyed. When that happens, the stream dies. Pollutants also contaminate drinking water supplies. Antifreeze, detergents, and oils actually change the chemical makeup of water causing destruction not only to fish, but also to the surrounding habitat for plants and animals. The economic loss is immeasurable.

2.   How can I support clean water efforts?

A.  Be an advocate for your water resources at local community planning efforts.

B.  Join a watershed planning group.

C.  Participate in household hazardous waste pickup days.

D.  Support community organizations and events that protect water resources such as Clean Stream

E.  Share your knowledge with neighbors.

F.  Use good pollution control practices at home.

3.  How can I protect my watershed?

The choices we make around our home will have an impact on our local streams. Some things you can do are:

A.  Dispose of grass clippings and yard waste properly by composting or bagging it for yard waste pick up.

B.  Make sure your septic system is maintained and inspected regularly. Do not dispose of household chemicals or hazardous materials through the septic drain field.

C.  Discharge pool water into a sanitary sewer system, not into a storm drain nor directly into a stream. Allow chlorinated pool water to “sit” for 10 days, then drain onto a landscaped area where it can soak into the ground.  The pH level should drop below 1.0 ml/L.   (Chlorine is a toxic chemical that is retained in fatty tissue and can cause lesions.)

D.  Wash your car in a grassy area and use mild, phosphorus-free detergents.  Use a spray nozzle that shuts off.

E.  Dispose of paints, stains, solvents, motor oil, pesticides and cleaning products by participating in household hazardous waste collection days.  Never dump these pollutants onto driveways, roadways or storm drains.

F.  Pick up and dispose of pet waste so that it is not washed off in stormwater runoff.

G.  Use good erosion control practices so sediment is not washed into streams. Plant grass or ground cover where water washes soil. Plant trees and shrubs to help absorb stormwater. Make sure storm drains are open and gutters drain into an area that absorbs water well. Put in a rain garden to retain runoff. 

H.  Leave a 50 foot forested buffer zone or riparian corridor along the headwaters of a creek or a wet weather stream.  Leave a 100 foot forested buffer zone along the creek bank of larger creeks and streams.

4.  What can I do at home to reduce stormwater pollution?

A.  Consider replacing impervious surfaces like sidewalks, decks, and driveways around your home with more previous materials or methods like mulch, turf block, pervious concrete or clean stone.

B.  If gutters, downspouts, driveways, or decks directly discharge into a waterbody, retrofit them by redirecting the runoff onto grassy areas or installing berm/swale systems.

C.  Make sure your automobile isn't leaking fluids. 

D.  Instead of washing your car at home, take it to a commercial car wash.  The drains in commercial car washes are connected to the sanitary sewer system, so rinse water doesn't wash down storm drains.  Many commercial car washes conserve water by recycling rinse water.

E.  Practice natural lawn care to reduce the use of hazardous products while saving time, water, money, and helping to preserve the environment.

F.  Instead of cleaning walkways with a hose, sweep up grass clippings, leaves, twigs and put them into a yard waste container or compost pile.  Sweep up dirt and put it back into the garden.  This way you won't accidentally wash debris into a storm drain or waterway, and you'll save water.

G.  Choose plants and trees that resist pests and disease so less pesticides are needed.  Nurseries can help you in making choices. 

H.  Avoid using weed and feed products.  Applying this product to your entire lawn is overkill for weed control.  Pull weeds by hand or with tools.  If you decide to use a weed killer, wear gloves, spot spray just the weed, and spray when it isn't windy or when rain isn't predicted.  Never use pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides near streams, lakes or wetlands.

I.  Avoid using Diazinon.  This pesticide has been found in our streams.  The EPA is phasing it out because of the potential health risk to children.

J.  Collect stormwater runoff in closed rain barrels and use it for yard and garden watering.

K.  Retain shrubby vegetation along waterfronts to prevent erosion and help stop heavy rain sheet flow.

5. What is the difference between ground water and stormwater runoff?

Ground water is rain water that has had a chance to be absorbed into the ground where it “percolates” through the ground layers. This natural cleansing process removes most of the pollutants before they enter streams.  Porous soil layers, detention areas, and forested areas help absorb rainwater and greatly eliminates a lot of damaging storm water runoff.

When groundwater has a chance to percolate through the ground layers and eventually draining into the streams as a natural process, this provides a steady flow of “clean” water to streams.

Runoff is rain water that runs over the landscape picking up any pollutants that may be on the ground surface and carries these pollutants directly into the nearest stream.

Runoff occurs when (1) there is an increase in impervious cover (rooftops, driveways, parking lots, etc.), (2) when soil is compacted by heavy construction equipment, or (3) when land is cleared by removing plants and trees that would normally help absorb rainwater.

When rainwater cannot be absorbed naturally into the ground layers, rainwater runoff enters the streams too quickly causing erosion and flooding conditions.

6. How is water from a sanitary sewer system different from storm water runoff or from a storm drain?

Sanitary sewer drains are designed to drain waste water and sewage from inside our homes. The sanitary sewer drains lead to the sanitary sewer system and ends up at a wastewater treatment plant.   Unlike stormwater runoff from yards, streets, parking lots, etc., wastewater in this system is treated before being discharged into a natural water body.

Surface water runoff also called stormwater runoff flows across the top of yards, parking lots, streets, etc. In suburban areas, stormwater runoff enters a storm drain that takes water directly to the nearest water body. Water in a storm drain is untreated so it contains pollutants picked up by stormwater runoff and runs directly to the nearest creek or lake.

7. Who can I contact for information? 

You can contact the County Stormwater Division at 636-797-6228 or your local city government offices.   Educational programs are available as well as publications that address pollution control practices.

8. Who should I call to report a source of pollution or drainage problem?

 If you are within city limits, contact your city government office. If you are in unincorporated Jefferson County, call the Stormwater Management Division at 636-797-6228. 

For emergency spill reports call 911.

To report illegal waste water or on-site septic discharges call the Code Enforcement Division at 636-797-6404 or  636-797-6342. 

Report junk, trash dumping or inoperable vehicles on private property to the Solid Waste Division at 636-797-5036.

9. Is there a list of recycling centers in Jefferson County?

Yes. Jefferson County has a Recycling Coordinator in the Solid Waste Division. For information on recycling centers call 636-797-5043. You can also visit the County Recycling website under Solid Waste.