Help Keep Our Waterways Clean

Housatonic River

Help Keep Our Waterways Clean

Derby is located in the Housatonic River Watershed meaning its ponds, streams, wetlands, and other waterways drain directly into the Housatonic River.  The water that passes through the city’s storm drain system – clean or not - also ends up in the river.

Did you know?

Nearly everyone thinks water pollution is caused by industry.  In the past, most of it was.  But today, the #1 threat to rivers and ponds is untreated stormwater runoff.  Much of this untreated, polluted runoff reaches our local waterways through storm drains.  Eventually it reaches the Housatonic River.

What are storm drains?

Storm drains are found on city and suburban streets along the curb.  They are on the side of major roads, bridges and highways as well as in parking lots.  Storm drains are holes or openings, usually with a grate over them, leading to underground pipes that carry water, usually to a stream or pond and channel the runoff into a nearby water body.

What is runoff?

When rain falls or snow or ice melt, it either soaks into the ground or evaporates.  When the water meets hard surfaces like roofs or paved parking lots, streets, and driveways, it flows as runoff, traveling down streets and gutters into storm drains – which carry it into nearby rivers and ponds.

How does runoff become polluted?

As water flows down streets and across parking lots and lawns it picks up pollutants such as –

  • Yard trash like pet wastes, grass clippings, and leaves;
  • Fluids that leak from cars and trucks like oil, gas, and antifreeze;
  • Litter of all kinds, including plastic bags, waste paper, bottles, and cans;
  • Fertilizers and pesticides; and
  • Sand, salt, and soil from roads, unpaved driveways, or construction sites.
How does polluted runoff harm rivers and ponds?

Runoff is not treated .  It carries pollution directly into storm drains and rivers and ponds.  Hundreds of thousands of storm drains throughout the Housatonic River watershed, including those in Derby, carry thousands of gallons of runoff with motor oil, gasoline, pet waste, pesticides, fertilizers, paints, and detergents straight into our rivers, ponds and wetlands.  Some people even dump trash and pollutants right into storm drains!  The contaminants destroy the water’s ecosystem, killing fish, frogs and plant life and making the water unsafe for us as well.

Easy Ways You Can Help Keep Our Waterways Clean
  • Use less fertilizer on your lawn

You can use less fertilizer, reduce pollution, and still keep your lawn healthy and green.  Many lawns need as little as one-half of the fertilizer recommended on fertilizer bags.  Too much fertilizer makes your lawn susceptible to diseases and pests, too.

  • Use fewer toxic pesticides less often

All pesticides, even natural ones, are poisons.  Some that seem safe to use in your home can be lethal in the environment.  For example, rotenone is a natural pesticide that is extremely toxic to fish.  Use pesticides sparingly.  Prepare and use only the amount that is absolutely necessary.  Follow label directions exactly.

  • Compost yard waste

Grass clippings, leaves and garden trimmings can block storm drains.  They use up oxygen from water, leaving less for fish and other aquatic life.  Instead, compost grass clippings, leaves and pulled garden weeds – or bring them to the Derby Transfer Station. Derby Public Works will even pick up brush and leaves at your curb.

  • Don’t litter

Garbage that washes down storm drains fouls our waterways and can harm or kill wildlife.  Some litter, such as plastics, break down so slowly they can remain in the river or pond for centuries.

  • Properly dispose of pet waste

Pet waste is raw sewage.  Dispose of it far from all water sources and storm drains, preferably with household trash.

  • Recycle used motor oil and antifreeze

Promptly repair fluid leaks in cars, trucks and other motorized equipment. Take used motor oil to the Derby Transfer Station for proper disposal – free of charge for Derby residents.

  • Take hazardous household materials to authorized collection sites

Derby residents can dispose of fluorescent bulbs, car tires, lead-acid batteries, and electronics free of charge at the Derby Transfer Station.  Derby also sponsors an annual hazardous materials collection.  For additional information on how to properly dispose of leftover paint, pesticides, cleaners and other hazardous household materials click here.

  • Wash your car on the lawn and use a vegetable based liquid soap - or bring it to the car wash

Wash the car on the lawn so the water is absorbed into the soil rather than running off your driveway.  A mild vegetable based soap also benefits your lawn by washing away pollutants from the grass blades and inhibiting many lawn pests and diseases.  Or bring your car to the car wash.  Commercial car wash facilities employ clean water practices.

  • Limit sand and salt use

When it comes to using sand and salt on your driveway and steps, you shouldn’t compromise your safety – but don’t overdo it.  Salt can poison your drinking water supply and sand can fill in rivers and streams, destroying fish habitat.

  • Help keep storm drains clear of debris

Check the roadside storm drains in your neighborhood from time to time.  If you notice leaves, garbage, or other debris covering the grates, lend a hand by removing the debris and disposing of it properly – but only if you can do so safely.  If you can’t, contact Derby Public Works.   Clean grates also reduce the likelihood of flooding during heavy rains.

  • Spread the word

Most storm drain pollution is caused by the actions of uninformed people.  Share what you know and help protect our rivers and ponds.

Additional Resources

Household Alternatives to Toxic Products

Organic Lawn Care

Pollution Prevention


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