City takes steps to improve surface water quality

The City of St. Augustine informed local reporters at Historic City News that they are taking considerable steps to improve the quality of surface waters by reducing the amount of pollution carried to rivers through stormwater runoff.

Stormwater is water that originates from rain and enters the City’s stormwater system. Precipitation that is not absorbed into the ground due to an impervious surface, like concrete or asphalt, is considered stormwater runoff.

The City’s stormwater system is designed to collect stormwater runoff in catch basins and storm drains and channel that water to our waterways using a network of underground pipes that make up our stormwater system. A variety of toxic pollutants are washed from the streets and parking lots into storm drains, creeks, rivers, and ultimately to the ocean. These pollutants include leaking oil, antifreeze, and gasoline from motor vehicles; copper dust, which is released from motor vehicle brake pad linings; rubber tire dust; soaps and chemicals used to wash motor vehicles; waste motor oil from vehicles, lawn mowers, and small equipment; and fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. This type of pollution is called non-point source pollution due to the fact that it comes from many unidentifiable sources making it hard to regulate and prevent.

Stormwater pollution has a significant effect on surface waters and is a major problem in cities all over the country.

How you can Help

The best way to reduce stormwater pollution is to stop it at its source. Keep your storm drains clean and free of debris. Remember that pollutants flushed down storm drains directly affects the quality of our rivers and could possibly make them unsafe for boating, fishing, swimming and other water related activities. Here are some tips to help keep our waterways clean:

-Don’t work on your car in a place where oil and grease could be washed into street gutters. Used motor oil should be contained and taken to a collection center. Most automotive shops provide this service.

-Grass clippings should be bagged and disposed of with yard waste. Dumping grass clippings down a storm drain can slow storm water flow and clog the drains.

-Do not wash dirty paint brushes under an outdoor faucet. Chances are the dirty rinse water will flow into a storm drain and into our rivers. Water-based paints can be washed in the sink and oil based paint should be cleaned with a paint thinner, filtered out, wrapped in newspaper and discarded with the trash.

-Pet droppings should not be discarded into storm drains or left in the yard. Clean up pet droppings and dispose of them in the garden, trash bins, or in the toilet.

-When washing your vehicle, park on grass or some other area that can absorb the runoff water. Washing your car on the street sends all the chemicals used to clean your car into a catch basin and directly into our water.

-Use pesticides sparingly and don’t fertilize right before it rains.

-Try to keep trash and other debris out of gutters and away from catch basins.

Report Illegal Dumping

Dumping waste down storm drains is not only bad for the environment but is illegal. If you have questions or a complaint please call the City of St. Augustine Public Works Department at 904-825-1040 or email at

What the City of St. Augustine is Doing

The City plans on expanding the public outreach program that informs the public on ways to reduce stormwater pollution and give the community opportunities to get involved in maintaining the areas waterways. Current programs include distributing stormwater education brochures at local businesses, maintaining a stormwater Web site, and giving presentations at local schools.

Outreach Programs

Storm Drain Markers

The City has placed storm drain markers to mark street storm drains. The markers are 4-inch aluminum markers that remind people that only rain goes down a drain. They have the warning “No Dumping/Drains to Waterways” and “City of St. Augustine, Florida” etched on them. Look for the markers on city streets.

For more information on storm drain markers, click here.

Adopt a Waterway

The City is implementing an “Adopt a Waterbody” program that will give groups within the community an opportunity to take a local waterway under their wing and help maintain its quality and appearance. The City is taking applications for groups and the specific waterways they wish to adopt.


If you think your favorite club or group would be interested in either activity, contact the City of St. Augustine Public Works Department at 904-825-1040.

Share your thoughts with our readers >>