A Storm Drain Is Not a Garbage Disposal

From our President, Gary Swick ~

That hole in the street with the metal grate that is next to the curb is a “storm drain.” Its intended purpose is to prevent flooding in streets during storm events. It must not be used as a disposal of anything. Most manufactured now are stamped with “Dump No Waste, Drains to River.” The storm drain leads directly or indirectly (through a detention basin) to the Fox River. The contents of what goes down that drain, DO NOT receive any treatment. That means the cigarette butts, plastic wrappers, fertilizer & pesticides that runoff from our yards (as a result of precipitation), and leaves go to the Fox River as pollutants. The litter seems pretty obvious that it is inappropriate, and the chemicals (although unseen) do ecological damage. But our yard’s leaves are a pollutant too.


It is actually illegal to put anything in a storm drain. Those neighbors that are blowing and raking their leaves into the street are technically committing a criminal act. They could be subject to a littering fine, or even a more serious water quality violation. The leaves can release nutrients that feed algae and ultimately reduce vital oxygen levels in the Fox River. The leaves also can fill catch basins in the drainage system, causing flooding and expensive removal by the municipalities.

Yes, your municipality may allow homeowners to place leaves in the street for collection. That does NOT make it the best choice for leaf management. The leaves that litter your yard are your tree’s gift to you as a compostable material. You might chop them with the mower into small pieces that will decompose by next summer, use them as mulch around plants, or pile them for use as a soil amendment next growing season. If a homeowner chooses to place leaves in the street, they should try to keep them away from storm drains, and certainly not if rain is in the forecast. Treat leaf removal by vacuum just like trash removal; only put yours out right before the collection time.

Storm drains are NOT a disposal system for anything but precipitation. Please respect their purpose and the Fox River.