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 it can be picked up by stormwater. Stormwater, according to the EPA, is “water from rain or melting snow.” As water travels over land or through the ground, it dissolves substances resulting from human activity.  Please use the following tips to safe guard our source water and 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 doesn’t stay in your driveway or in the street, it 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 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, buy recycled (re-refined) motor oil for your vehicle.
  2. Soaps/Detergents Used for Washing Vehicles and Property: Your car and house is 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.  Chicago – 1150 N Branch Street, (312)744-7672.
    2. Open 7am,-12pm on Tuesdays, 2pm-7pm on Thursdays, 8am-3pm on 1st Saturday of each month (except holidays)
  4. Lawn and Garden Care:
    1. Lawn Care: don’t apply fertilizer before rainy and/or windy days, apply fertilizers only when necessary and at the correct amount 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 watering plants
  5. Winter De-Icing Materials (Storage and Use): Sodium chloride from the salt drains into sewers and into rivers and Lake Michigan, hurting wildlife and the quality of the water.
    1.  Use: Apply only on sidewalks and driveways, minimize distance from water supplies, try using sand instead, or simply using less of the salt
    2. Storage: Keep in air-tight container, if it spills use a broom to recollect the salt, making sure to not wash the salt 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