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Businesses, institutions, churches and hospitals all play a roll in keeping waterways clean. Below are tips to prevent stormwater pollution from parking lots, grounds and operations. 

Snow and Ice Removal

When businesses, churches, and hospitals use road salt and other de-icers, melting snow carries those chemicals into waterways. These chemicals should be used carefully and applied them sparingly. When purchasing, read the labels on de-icing products and choose those that are not toxic to animals and plants. 

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has some guidelines on where and how to store road salt to protect our waterways.

What’s wrong with salt and de-icer in our water?

SALT in our fresh water is not good for plants, wildlife, or people. Birds can mistake salt crystals for food, eating them and getting sick. Salt can be toxic to fish and others in aquatic systems. Salt is not good for our plants, and in many wetlands salt-tolerant invasives are crowding out our native vegetation, which then affects the wildlife that lose their food sources. And of course salt in our water supplies is not good for us -- we all know that salt is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Salt includes sodium chloride, as well as calcium and magnesium chloride.
Some use SAND, and while it doesn’t carry chemicals into our waterways, it does clog catch basins and cause flooding. It can also carry other pollutants into our waterways. If used, excess sand should be swept up.
DE-ICER is a preferable alternative to both salt and sand, but it is still not perfect, and should be used smartly and sparingly. De-icers include Sodium or Potassium Acetate and Calcium Magnesium Acetate.

What can YOU do to keep your pavement safe while also keeping your water clean?

  • Shovel early and often. Remove as much snow and ice as you can, and only use de-icer on what you can’t take care of with a shovel.
  • Follow product instructions and only use as much de-icer as you need. More is not better.
  • Remove slush when de-icer has done its job.
  • For heavy snowfalls, shovel early and often to avoid the snow compacting and forming ice.
  • For wet snow or sleet and freezing rain, apply de-icer product early on to prevent snow from bonding or ice from building up.

Yard Waste Management

Get a fresh start this fall with better management of leaf litter.  Here are three great approaches:

  1. Keep leaves off of driveways and roadways where they can easily wash into storm drains and contribute to higher nutrient flows during the fall season.
  2. Use a mulching mower.  By mulching leaves into turf areas, you avoid having to rake/blow and bag and you offer a way to manage autumn leaves while providing clients with free fertilizer.  Mulched leaves recycle nutrients and reduce the overall need for applied fertilizer, which can help to reduce nutrient loading for local rivers, streams, and lakes. 
  3. Alternatively, if your client has an existing compost pile, you can recommend that they consider allowing you to add leaves to the pile.  Leaves provide a critically important element (carbon) to the composting process, making for a more soil enriching product to be used in the next growing season.  Be sure compost piles are located away from streams, lakes, or storm drains as these decomposing materials and nutrients could easily reach these water resources.

These three best practices are consistent with local efforts under the Be a Leaf Hero campaign, to improve water quality in local rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters.  Many lawn care practices can contribute to storm flows that are especially high in nutrients.  Improper use and disposal of leaves, as well as grass clippings and fertilizers, can put nitrogen and phosphorous into storm runoff that enters local waters.  These polluted flows promote the growth of algae and reduce dissolved oxygen, impacting recreational uses, such as swimming and fishing, and quality of habitat for wildlife.

Do your part and start anew with better land care practices.  For more information see: https://thinkblueconnecticutriver.org/be-a-leaf-hero/ and https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/yard-waste-management-in-massachusetts

From the municipalities collaborating on Think Blue Connecticut River and Think Blue Massachusetts.

Waste and Material Storage

Rainwater that falls in dumpsters or onto raw materials can wash into storm drains, untreated. Dumpsters should be regularly inspected and any chemicals should be stored with a tight fitting lid. For more tips, please click here

Is your dumpster or compactor creating stormwater pollution? Check out this Dumpster Maintenance Brochure for tips on doing your part to keep waterways clean. 

Parking Lots

Permeable paving can be used for parking lots allowing the rain and melting snow to soak in rather than run off. Parking lots should be designed to drain into catch basins, filter strips, and stormwater ponds rather than directly into the storm sewer system. For more information, please click here. 

Be a Leaf Hero! Keep fallen leaves out of the streets. Do not blow or rake leaves into the street. These leach nutrients into the stormwater runoff, contributing to stormwater pollution. Instead, mulch or bag yard waste collection. 

Sink and Drain Maintenance

Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) aren't just bad for your arteries and your waistline; they're bad for sewers! Sewer overflows and backups can cause health hazards, damage business interiors, and threaten the environment. Common causes for sewer backups are pipes blocked by grease that has been poured down drains. Sewer clogs result in:
  • Sewage backups into homes, streets, and waterways, polluting the environment.
  • Potential contact with disease-causing organisms.
  • Expensive cleanup, repair costs, and inconvenience.
  • Higher operating costs for the Department of Public Works, resulting in increases to sewer bills for customers.
  • Foul and unpleasant odors.
DO pour cooled oil or grease into a container; then seal and discard with your regular trash or recycle it.
DO wipe off oil and grease from pots, pans, dishes, and cooking surfaces.
DO put baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps; then empty contents into the trash or compost.
DO scrape food scraps into the trash or compost.


DON'T pour oil or grease down sink drains or into toilets.
DON'T wash fryers, pots, pans, and plates with water until oil and grease are removed.
DON'T dispose of food scraps down sink drains.



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