III. Your Home and Stormwater: Things you can do.

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How many sources of stormwater pollution are there in the average home? Click the "start" button to see some of the answers.

Low Impact Development Design

Most practices currently used to manage stormwater tend to move the stormwater off of a site as quickly and efficiently as possible, and deal with managing the quantity or quality of the stormwater at the end of the pipe. This method has a number of disadvantages to our environment. Most importantly, by moving the stormwater off of the site, it is no longer available to replenish the groundwater. A different technique for managing stormwater, called low impact development (LID), has been pioneered by the Prince George County Planning Department. LID seeks to preserve the natural, pre-development conditions of a development by using one or more small stormwater BMPs on each individual site, rather than one large BMP at the end of the pipe.

A Sample of LID practices:
  1. Rain gardens are gardens that serve a special purpose. They are especially designed shallow depressions that are planted with wild flowers and native plants, strategically located in the landscape so that they collect the natural flow storm water, or that storm water is directed to. Not only do they manage storm water, but they add an attractive aspect to the property. Holding back the runoff in the rain garden helps to remove the nutrients that are in the storm water runoff and reduces the amount of storm water being discharged to the storm drains.
  2. A Drywell is an excavated pit filled with stone used to hold a quantity of storm water. Drywells are most typically used to capture the storm water from roof drains.
  3. Rain barrels can also be used to capture a portion of the roof runoff.
  4. Where conditions are suitable, grass swales with stone check dams should be used to move storm water. Although metal or plastic pipes are designed to move storm water quickly and efficiently, they do not provide any treatment to improve the quality of the stormwater, nor do they allow for any infiltration to occur. Grass swales help to slow the velocity of stormwater and to remove pollutants. It is also important to remember that longer grass is better at removing pollutants and slowing storm water velocity.
  5. One of the simplest techniques that can improve water quality is to disconnect impervious surfaces from directly draining into a drainage pipe. Techniques that can be used include:
    • Disconnecting roof drains and directing flows to vegetated areas.
    • Directing flows from paved areas such as driveways to stabilized vegetated areas.
    • Breaking up flow directions from large paved surfaces.
    • Encouraging sheet flow through vegetated areas.
    • Carefully locating impervious areas so that they drain to natural systems, vegetated buffers, natural resource areas, or infiltratable zones/soils.

Managing Household hazardous products

1. Proper disposal of materials

Would you drink a cup of oven cleaner? Of course not. But did you know that when you pour something down your sink's drain, that eventually it will end up in your drinking water? That's because you are in a watershed and what you dispose in it ends up in your groundwater, streams, lakes, and New York City reservoirs. That's why proper disposal of household cleaners and other products is so important. Many products found in the home contain chemicals which are potentially harmful to people, and need to be disposed of properly. Protect your private well, your public wells, and water supply of your neighbors.

Common Hazardous Products Found in the Home:
  • Cleaning products: oven cleaner, floor wax, furniture polish, drain cleaner, and spot remover.
  • Car care and maintenance: motor oil, battery acid, gasoline, car wax, engine cleaner, antifreeze, degreaser, radiator flush and rust preventative.
  • Home improvement products: paints, preservatives, strippers, brush cleaners and solvents.
  • Other products labeled toxic, flammable, or corrosive, or containing lye, phenols, petroleum distillates, or trichlorobenzene.

2. Patterson Recycling Center

The Town of Patterson offers aggressive recycling programs. Information on the curbside pickup and dropoff programs is available on the Town of Patterson Website, or by calling the Patterson Town Clerk's Office at 845-878-6500.

3. Putnam County Hazardous Waste Cleanup

For the past several years Putnam County, NYS DEC, and NYC DEP have jointly sponsored a Hazardous Waste Cleanup Day, giving Putnam County residents a place to take their household hazardous waste. For this special cleanup event Putnam County terms a household hazardous waste as any household product used for cleaning, gardening, home hobby supplies, pesticides, automotive products, and cosmetics such as nail polish remover and hair dyes, which if improperly disposed of, may result in pollution of the environment or injury to the public. In the past, disposal has been free and available to Putnam County residents only (no commercial establishment waste is accepted).

Managing your Septic System

A properly designed, constructed and maintained septic system can provide long-term effective treatment of household wastewater. However, if not maintained, your septic system may eventually fail, and release improperly treated wastewater to the surface. Repairing a failed septic system could end up costing you thousands of dollars. Protecting water quality is important. The motivating reasons for you to maintain your system is to save money on the costly repair work and protecting your health.

A typical septic system has two main components: a septic tank and a drainfield. Wastewater from your home travels through a pipe into the septic tank where solids settle out and oils and grease float to the surface. Wastewater exits the septic tank and is discharged into the drain fields. As the wastewater infiltrates through the soil microbes digest or remove most contaminants from the wastewater.

Properly operating septic systems will effectively reduce or eliminate most human or environmental threats posed by pollutants in household wastewater. However, septic systems do require periodic maintenance to ensure that they continue to function properly.

Help Your Septic System Continue to Function Properly:
  1. Inspect your system every 3 years and pump your tank as necessary (generally every 3 to 5 years).
  2. Use water efficiently. Make sure that your faucets are not leaking.
  3. Don't dispose of household hazardous wastes in sinks or toilets.
  4. Care for your drain fields. Never drive heavy equipment across the fields. Don't plant trees in within the fields.


Stormwater can become contaminated from excessive or improper use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Maintaining landscaped areas properly can help prevent fertilizers, pesticides, soil and grass clippings from polluting the watershed. Improper landscape practices can result in excess amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients, pesticides, and herbicides, from discharging to the area's surface water.

You Can Minimize or Even Eliminate the Amount of Chemicals and Other Material that Enters Storm Drains:
  1. Landscape only with plants that are native to the area, are hardy and disease resistant.
  2. Water lightly and frequently to reduce the potential for disease and insect damage. A 15 to 20 minute watering during dry weather after sunset or before sunrise is usually sufficient.
  3. Use fertilizers sparingly. Over fertilizing can actually encourage certain insects and diseases. Avoid chemical fertilizers. Read directions carefully and follow them.
  4. Place four to six inches of mulch on all landscape areas to maintain healthy plants. A healthy plant is more resistant to attacks from diseases and insects.
  5. Use compost as an alternative to fertilizer. Compost contributes organic matter and gradually releases nutrients to the soil.
  6. Minimize the use of pesticides in order to keep your lawn safe for earthworms and other "good insects". Read and follow the instructions on the label carefully, do not over apply pesticides.
  7. Store all fertilizer and pesticide containers safely to prevent spills, and dispose of the empty containers properly in the garbage.
  8. Use a mulching mower whenever possible to leave grass clippings on the grass for added nutrients. Sweep all excess clippings onto the grassy area or into your compost pile, if applicable.

One of the most important landscape features which minimize the impacts of stormwater are the trees. Trees intercept the rain falling from the sky, slowing its velocity, which in turn reduces soil erosion. Trees also retain a small amount of the rainfall on their leaves. The leaf litter on the forest floor promotes better infiltration of rainfall into the ground.

Underground Storage Tanks

Underground storage tanks, used for the storage of home heating oil or other petroleum products, poses a very serious concern for both groundwater and surface water. These storage tanks corrode over time and ultimately begin leaking petroleum into the ground. A leaking storage tanks may go unnoticed for years until contaminants appear within a drinking water source (well), or when a breakout to surface water is observed. When a leak occurs the clean-up costs potentially could run into tens of thousands of dollars.

New York State currently provides a tax credit for the removal of a residential underground petroleum storage tank and installation of its replacement. Tanks must have been removed or permanently closed on or after April 1, 2002, and a replacement tank must be installed before January 1, 2004. The credit is equal to the lesser of the cost of the removal and replacement, or $500.

Additional Sources of Information:


Test Your Knowledge Again
Now that you've had a chance to learn about the sources of stormwater pollution in and around your home, let's review some ways they can be eliminated. Click the "start" button to see some of the solutions.

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