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Illicit Discharge
Prevent Illegal Spills to Our Water

When you think of an “illegal spill” what comes to mind? An old gloomy factory? Strange substances leaving rusty old pipes? Believe it or not, illegal spills (or “illicit discharges”) are not exclusive to industrial sources. In fact, illicit discharge is fairly common and may be going on in your neighborhood right now.

By definition, an illicit discharge is an unlawful act of disposing (or dumping, spilling, emitting or other discharge) of any substance other than stormwater into the streets, gutters, ditches and ponds that make up our stormwater drainage system, or directly into streams or lakes themselves.

What we do at home affects our local water resources because our storm drains and ditches are connected to nearby lakes, rivers and streams. Even some fairly common activities could be considered illicit discharge, such as dumping leaves, grass clippings, motor oil, paint or other household hazard wastes into a storm drain, allowing discharge from failing septic systems, and improper disposal of sewage from boating or camping. The result is untreated garbage and filth that contribute high levels of pollutants, like heavy metals, toxins, oil and grease, solvents, nutrients, viruses, and bacteria to our lakes and streams . . . which is why we all need to be aware of what goes into our storm drains.

What can you do about illicit discharges?  Be a good storm drain steward and consider the following tips to prevent illicit discharges in your neighborhood:

  • Take a moment to sweep or rake leaves and grass clippings out of the street in front of your house. When washed into nearby lakes, rivers and streams via storm drains or ditches, the leaves and clippings become a major source of phosphorus, the nutrient that propels algae blooms in the summer. Dispose of leaves and grass clippings by composting them in your yard or bring them to our local compost facility.

  • Please remember to scoop your poop! Pet waste contains bacteria that can harm people. Pet owners can improve water quality by throwing their (bagged) pet waste into a trash can.

  • Dispose of old or unwanted lawn and household chemicals properly. Bring your household hazardous waste (paint, motor oil, etc.) to the local household hazardous waste facility. Call ahead for drop-off locations and times.

  • If you own a car, make sure to maintain it so it does not leak oil or other fluids. Be sure to wash your car on the grass or visit a car wash so the dirt and soap does not flow down the driveway and into the nearest storm drain.

If you see anyone discharging any substance other than stormwater into roadside ditches and storm drains, please report it to your local City staff by calling the Illicit Discharge Hotline at 763-706-3720. City Staff will check this frequently and follow up with any observed locations.  For potentially hazardous materials and petroleum spills, call 9-1-1 FIRST when there is an immediate threat to life or property. If there is a potential public safety or environmental threat, call the Minnesota Duty Officer Program at 651-649-5451 or 1-800-422-0798.

Contact Columbia Heights
590 40th Ave. NE
Columbia Heights, MN 55421
Ph: (763) 706-3600
Fx: (763) 706-3601
info@ci.columbia-heights.mn.us
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