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201 4th Street SE, Room 108
Rochester, MN  55904

Phone:  507-328-2440

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Pollution Prevention

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Anything you put on the land can become a source of stormwater pollution.

Stormwater pollution takes many forms and is one of the major threats to water quality in the United States. 

 This includes

  • Animal Waste
  • Litter
  • Vehicle leaks
  • Driveway and Road Sealant
  • Chlorinated water from swimming pools or spas
  • Runoff from roof downspouts
  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Lawn & Garden chemicals
  • Deicing Salt
  • Encroaching on drainage easements
  • Dumping anything (besides stormwater) down storm drains

We all have the opportunity to make minor behavior changes that will result in less potential pollution of our valuable water resources.

Follow these links to learn about how to become a steward of our water!

Animal Waste 

Pet waste is not a fertilizer, rather it is filled with harmful nutrients and bacteria that can be toxic to people, pets, and wildlife. Improperly disposed of animal waste can be carried in stormwater to nearby lakes and streams where it will cause significant water pollution.

Another source of unnatural levels of fecal matter in Rochester's waterways comes from Canada Geese. The popular practice of feeding the geese at Silver Lake is highly discouraged. Geese are not meant to eat corn or bread and these human foods can cause health issues for the animals. Feeding the geese also leads to more geese and more goose poop in the lake, plus a greater chance of disease spreading through the flock. One goose will produce three pounds of waste each day, adding fecal coliform bacteria and excess nutrient pollution to our surface waters.

Decomposing animal waste harms aquatic environments by:

  • consuming oxygen from the water which can suffocate aquatic life
  • releasing ammonia into the water
  • introducing pathogens such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia, Salmonella, and E.coli
  • increasing nutrients that promote weed growth
  • causing algae blooms, some of which can be toxic to people and pets

Simple actions to prevent animal waste from contaminating our lakes and streams include:

  • picking up after your pet and dispose of waste in the trash
  • carrying poop bags when out on walks
  • not feeding wildlife

Downspouts

Did you know that an estimated 40% of household water use in the summer is for lawn and garden maintenance? Take advantage of the water running off the roof by turning your downspouts towards vegetated areas. Use a gutter extension to redirect the water and make it long enough to reach your desired outfall location. Adding a diffuser to the end of the downspout or placing splash rocks at the bottom will help dissipate the energy and prevent erosion. Not only will this simple action send water to areas that need it most, it will prevent stormwater from rushing across pollutant covered hard surfaces en route to area waterways.

Learn how to make your own downspout diffuser!

Encroachments

When people conduct unauthorized activities on private property, it is called trespassing. When people conduct unauthorized activities on public land or in legally platted drainage easements, it is called encroachment. Sometimes people do not know they have a drainage easement on their property or understand why it needs to be kept free of obstructions. Sometimes people knowingly disturb the intended function of public land and easements by such unacceptable practices as: building structures, storing vehicles, dumping yard waste, planting trees and gardens, or removing vegetation. In rare instances, activities that do not change the intended function of the land can be allowed, however, people that wish to change or utilize public property or drainage easements must first apply for a revocable permit. 

For more information on the revocable permit process, contact Mark Baker at 507-328-2427.

Vehicles

Cars, boats, lawn mowers, RVs...all vehicles have the potential to introduce pollutants into the environment. Just one quart of oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of water. Whatever fluids leak from a vehicle will be washed away during the next rainfall or snowmelt. Similarly, washing your car at home can lead to soapy, nutrient filled water flowing down the street and into the storm drain.

When working with vehicles remember to:

  • Fix leaks as quickly as possible. Place cardboard or a drip pan under your vehicle to catch drips until you can have it serviced.
  • Use kitty litter to absorb small amounts of spilled fluids. Sweep up the litter and dispose of it in the trash.
  • Should you change the oil yourself, be sure to take the used oil to the Olmsted County Hazardous Waste Facility.
  • Opt for a trip to the car wash rather than a do-it-yourself job at home. Car wash facilities send the used water to the Water Reclamation Plant for treatment.
  • If you do wash your car at home, use biodegradable soap and wash on the lawn to prevent soapy runoff reaching the storm drain.
  • Ensure proper storage of vehicles over winter months.
  • Use a small trash bag in the car so that you don't accidentally litter.

Litter

Litter detracts from the aesthetics of a landscape, as well as, poses a threat to wildlife and human health. While some intentionally litter, the majority of litter is unintentional.

Simple behavioral changes can help keep our landscapes free of litter:

  • Do not litter.
  • Pick up litter when you see it.
  • Bag and tie all trash bags before putting them into the bin for curbside pick up.
  • Put out curb side receptacles as close to the scheduled pick up as possible.
  • Toss cigarette butts into an appropriate receptacle. Use a pocket receptacle if you frequently find yourself without a proper cigarette butt receptacle.
  • Cover vehicle loads to prevent items from blowing out.

You can Help Make Rochester A Litter Bit Better! Every April thousands of volunteers pick a place, pick a date and pick up litter from around Rochester. This annual city-wide clean-up event has removed over 130 tons of litter from the community.

Swimming Pools

Water from swimming pools and spas (hot tubs) contains organic matter, has low pH levels, and contains high levels of chlorine, bromine, and copper. Discharging chlorinated or untreated pool/spa water into the storm sewer system is harmful to fish and other aquatic life and is prohibited under Rochester City ordinances 76.03.

So what do you do when you need to discharge your pool or spa? Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

  • Can pool or spa water be discharged to the storm sewer system? 
    Yes, only if the water has been de-chlorinated (less than 0.1 mg/L), has a pH range of 7-8, consists only of water, and is discharged in a way that does not cause nuisance conditions or erosion problems.
  • How can I get rid of chlorine?
    Chlorine will naturally dissipate and pool water will become de-chlorinated over time. De-chlorinating chemicals from pool suppliers can also be used to rid the pool of chlorine.
  • How do I tell the pH and chlorine levels of the water?
    Chlorine and pH test kits are available to test concentration levels in pools.
  • Can pool or spa water be discharged to the sanitary sewer system?                      Residual chlorine is typically not a problem for the Rochester Water Reclamation Plant. Residential and small pool and spa owners may discharge to the sanitary sewer. Owners of large pools must obtain permission from the Rochester Water Reclamation Plant (281-6190) before discharging from large pools to the sanitary sewer.
  • Can I discharge my pool or spa water in my yard? 
    Yes so long as tests show that the water is de-chlorinated, has a pH of 7-8, and is free of all other debris. The water should be directed over a vegetated surface so that it can soak into the ground. It should not flow onto any other person’s property or create nuisance conditions such as erosion or prolonged ponding. 
  • What do I do with filter and backwash waste? 
    Waste from pool filters and backwash systems are not allowed in the storm sewer system. Backwash water needs to be disposed of in the sanitary sewer and pool filters disposed of as solid waste.

Driveway & Road Sealants

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) occur naturally in coal and gasoline and are present in products such as asphalt sealants. Some PAHs are listed as possible or probable human carcinogens and also cause a wide variety of problems in aquatic environments. In urban areas like Rochester, a common source of PAHs is from driveways and roads coated in coal-tar sealant. When PAHs degrade, they are transported from our driveways and roads into the environment by stormwater runoff.  What can you do? Unsealed driveways and parking lots are the most water friendly option. Read labels and avoid coal-tar sealants as they release 65 times more PAH into the environment than uncoated parking lots. If you must seal-coat a surface, choose a product that is asphalt based.

For more information on PAHs visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency web page: Seal Coating Without a Nasty Chemical