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Did You Know?

Every year during the first full week of May, Americans across the country join together to celebrate water, our most precious natural resource, during National Drinking Water Week.

Pollution Prevention for Residents

catch basin
Catch Basin

Storm drains, also known as catch basins, are the gateway to the stormwater system beneath our streets. Boston Water and Sewer Commissionís (BWSC) stormwater system is a separate system that collects rain water and snowmelt from rooftops and pavement and discharges this runoff, without treatment, into the nearest receiving water. As stormwater runs over the ground, it picks up pollutants and debris that have been carelessly or illegally deposited onto our streets or directly into the storm drains. These pollutants include used motor oil, gasoline, antifreeze, cleaning agents, pesticides or fertilizers and paint. Debris commonly found in storm drains include pet waste, cigarette butts, yard clippings and sand. In addition, car washing and lawn watering can also contribute to pollution of the waterways. Here are some things you can do to prevent pollutants from entering the storm drains:

  • Never pour any hazardous materials into a storm drain. This includes used motor oil, gasoline, antifreeze, cleaning agents, pesticides or fertilizers and paint. For proper disposal of these items, go to the City of Bostonís Department of Public Works website.
  • Sweep up and remove litter and sand from sidewalks and driveways to prevent these materials from being carried into storm drains by stormwater runoff or snowmelt. Dispose of these materials in the trash.
  • Collect leaf litter and yard clippings and donate them to a local community garden for use as compost.
  • Use landscaping fertilizers and pesticides sparingly or not at all. Landscaping chemicals should not be applied when rain is forecasted.
  • To clean up outdoor spills, use dry methods such as sweeping, applying absorbent towels or spreading cat litter. If not hazardous, place the material in the trash. If hazardous, dispose of the material at one of the City of Bostonís drop off sites. Never hose down a spill into the storm drain.
  • If you must hose down an area, direct the runoff towards a grassy landscaped area. Detergents and chemical cleaners should not be used to wash sidewalks or driveways.
  • If you see a storm drain that is clogged with debris, report it to BWSC for cleaning (617-989-7000).
  • Reduce exposure to household chemicals by using non-toxic alternative cleaners.

The City of Boston provides for household hazardous waste drop-off days throughout the year. The City also has a paint swap shop. Check out their website for more info at

Report Illegal Dumping

The dumping of any material into a storm drain is illegal and carries a fine of up to $5,000 per day of violation! If you observe someone dumping into a storm drain, report it immediately to BWSC at 617-989-7000.