Illegal Pollutant Discharges into Storm Drains Increase in 2017
Stormwater pollution refers to urban water runoff that picks up pollutants as it flows through the storm drain system – a network of channels, gutters and pipes that collect rain and snowmelt. Eventually, the runoff empties untreated directly into local rivers and lakes. Pollutants in stormwater runoff, such as litter, pet waste, motor oil, paint, anti-freeze, pesticides, fertilizers, and toxic household chemicals, can have serious effects. They can contaminate local drinking water supplies and harm the local environment and wildlife. Trash and debris accumulated in catch basins may create foul odors and attract pests. Flooding may also occur due to blocked storm drains during heavy rain events. Effective stormwater management reduces pollution, blocked drains and flooding. To track stormwater quality management in the Santa Ana River watershed, this indictor shows reports of illegal discharges of pollutants into surface waterways and storm drains. Also measured are enforcement actions and facility inspections.
How is San Bernardino County Doing?
There was an increase in the number of illegal discharge, dumping and spill event reports in the Santa Ana River watershed in San Bernardino County in 2016/17:
- There were 548 illegal discharge reports in 2016/17, the highest in 10 years.
- While the number of reports varies from year to year, this year marks a 60% increase in reports over the past 10 years.
- There were 142 illegal discharges requiring enforcement action, such as a notice of violation or fine. This equates to 26% of all illegal discharges reported.
- San Bernardino Areawide Stormwater Program members conducted 3,714 inspections of industrial and commercial facilities and construction sites in 2016/17. Of this total, 1,468 inspections (or 40%) resulted in deficiencies requiring corrective action.
Increases in reports of illegal discharges can be attributed to population growth and greater public awareness that leads to more incident reporting, while decreases can be attributed to fewer severe weather events leading to debris blockage as well as improved public compliance with posted signs and laws related to dumping. The County’s Stormwater Program attributes the recent increases to population growth, the initiation of the “Where Water Meets the Community” public outreach campaign in 2016/17, and the increase in outreach events aimed at engaging county residents to protect water quality, the environment, and their communities.
San Bernardino County Stormwater Program has conducted public education and outreach activities on water pollution prevention since 1994. Over the years, the Program noticed that the community was not engaging with the long-running stormwater pollution prevention message. A survey of county residents revealed that community-centered messages around protecting water resources resonated more with residents, such as “It is the right thing to do,” “I care for the environment,” and “I want to keep my community clean.”
Thus, in fiscal year 2016/17, the Program underwent a rebranding effort to streamline its multiple education campaigns into one comprehensive brand, “Where Water Meets Community.” The new brand creates a fresh voice to motivate county residents to adopt stormwater pollution prevention behaviors. The Program redesigned its website, updated the messaging, created new public education materials, and produced an animated video – all available in English and Spanish. The Program’s rebranding effort was awarded the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) Outstanding News, Information, Outreach, and Media Project at its recent 2018 conference.