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Stormwater Runoff: Keep Lake Michigan Water Safe

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While Lake Michigan is a source of recreational activities and beach days, one of its main roles is Evanston’s source of drinking water. It is important for residents to minimize discharge of pollutants from their private property because they can be picked up by stormwater.

According to the EPA, stormwater is “water from rain or melting snow.” As water travels over land or through the ground, it dissolves and picks up substances resulting from human activity. Please use the following tips to protect our primary water source and the environment.

 Where Do Contaminants Come From? 

 1 Pesticides and Herbicides: lawns and gardens

2 Inorganic Chemicals: salt used for de-icing

3 Microbial Contaminants: wildlife

Five Pollutants to Minimize

  1. Fuels and Oils: Leaking oil is picked up by stormwater and drained into local watersheds and Lake Michigan.
    1. Stop oil drips – check for oil leaks regularly and fix immediately
    2. If you have a leak or you're doing engine work, keep a cloth pan under your vehicle
    3. Recycle used motor oil by bringing it to your local auto store, many of which accept used oil. While there, try to buy recycled (re-refined) motor oil for your vehicle.
  2. Soaps/Detergents Used for Washing Vehicles and Property: Your car and house are clean, but what about the water?
    1. Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners only
    2. Minimize water usage – use a hose with low water flow
    3. Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass, to lessen the amount of water entering the sewage system
  3. Paint: Paint can be toxic to the environment if disposed incorrectly, such as in a trash bag with other household trash. Make sure to take it to the proper recycling center. 
    1. Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility – 1150 N Branch Street, Chicago (312) 744-3060
    2. Open 7 am - 12 pm on Tuesdays, 2 pm - 7 pm on Thursdays, 8 am - 3 pm on 1st Saturday of each month (except holidays)
  4. Lawn and Garden Care
    1. Lawn Care: apply fertilizers only when necessary and at the correct amount. Avoid applying fertilizer before rainy or windy days and do not over-water lawns
    2. Garden Care: plant a rain garden full of native plants, shrubs, and trees to reduce the amount of fertilizer needed; use yard waste (grass clippings and leaves) in mulch and install a rain barrel to collect water for plants
  5. Winter De-Icing Materials (Storage and Use): sodium chloride from salt drains into sewers and ends up in rivers and Lake Michigan, hurting wildlife and water quality.
    1. Use: apply only on sidewalks and driveways, minimize distance from water supplies, try using sand instead, or simply use less of the salt
    2. Storage: keep in airtight container. If the salt spills, use a broom to recollect it and make sure not to wash it away

Want More Information about Stormwater and Prevention Tips?

Visit these sites to learn more about stormwater, its effects on the health of local communities and additional prevention tips:

  1. Environmental Protection Agency: Wash Your Car the Right Way
  2. Environmental Protection Agency: In Your Yard
  3. Environmental Protection Agency: Oil Leaks
  4. Chicago Tribune: Protecting the Environment from Road Salt Runoff

Climate Change in Illinois

To learn more about the effects of climate change in Illinois, visit Climate Change in Illinois webpage by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.