FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Through on-going contacts with the public, Stormwater Management Program
many questions regarding stormwater pollution, as well as on the County's
Stormwater Program in general. The following are some of the most
frequently asked questions:
Q: What is a catch basin or storm drain?
A: A catch basin or storm drain is a curbside drain with the sole
function of collecting rainwater from our properties and streets and
sending it to local
waterways, via underground pipes. Storm drains are
also found in parking lots and serve the same purpose. In county
and city areas, stormwater never goes to a sewer treatment plant to be
cleaned, but flows directly into our creeks, sloughs, and rivers.
Q: Are sewers and storm drains the same things?
A: In San Joaquin County, sewers
and storm drains are two completely different drainage systems.
Sewers carry wastewater from such things as washing machines, sinks,
toilets, and showers to a treatment plant to be cleaned prior to being
discharged into the San Joaquin River. The storm drain system
collects rainwater, and anything else dumped into it, and carries it all
directly to our local waterways without any treatment.
Q: Who maintains the County's storm drain system?
A: In most areas, the
San Joaquin County Public Works Utilities Maintenance maintains both
the sewer system and the storm drain system.
Sanitary sewers in urbanized areas of Stockton may be maintained by
City of Stockton or Country Club Sanitary District.
Q: Do catch basins and storm drains get cleaned out?
A: Yes. The County regularly performs maintenance activities
includes cleaning the storm drain system. In addition, the
County crews are always available to respond to emergency situations where
clogged drains result from flooding.
Q: Why doesn't the County clean out all of the storm drains before a
A: County crews clean out clogged catch basins throughout the year
as part of on-going maintenance. Unfortunately, there are
many catch basins and not enough resources. Residents can reduce
flooding in their neighborhoods by keeping materials out of the storm drain
system or clean debris around a catch basin when performing landscape
Q: Why doesn't the County install filters or screens in front of catch
A: It sounds like a good idea, but during a rainstorm, debris (e.g.
leaves, sticks, trash) is quickly swept to the catch basin and any screen
or filtration device placed in front of the catch basin would clog the
grate, resulting in flooding.
Q: Why isn't a net/fence/barrier installed at the end of the storm
drain channel to catch all of the trash?
A: Unfortunately, nets only catch larger pieces of the trash —
all of the pollutants like pet waste, used oil, pesticides, fertilizers,
etc., flow through the net and straight into our waterways.
Q: Why doesn't the County build a stormwater treatment facility?
A: Such a facility would be extremely expensive to build and
maintain, and these costs would need to be passed on to property owners.
Q: What kinds of pollutants are found in the storm drain system?
A: Paint thinner and paint products, motor oil, pesticides, trash,
paper, human and animal feces, antifreeze, leaves, grass clippings,
cooking oil, shopping carts, tires, dirty diapers, and dead animals are
but a few of the pollutants found in the system.
Q: When was the storm system built? Why?
A: The storm drain system is built as the land is developed.
This is done to insure that as new development occurs, proper drainage is
Q: What is the County of San Joaquin doing about illegal dumping?
A: The County will investigate all reports of illegal dumping into the storm drain system. To report dumping, please call the
1-866-755-4955. Each call is treated with
Anyone caught dumping can be cited and fined. The guilty party may
also be responsible for cleaning up the material and the
storm drain system.
Q: I see people dumping their used oil into storm drains all the time. What can I do?
A: Dumping used oil is illegal. One quart of motor oil can
pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water. To report the problem,
call the hotline at
Used oil should be taken to a nearby gas station or auto parts dealer that
accepts used oil. Not only will used motor oil be kept out the
stormwater system, the oil will be processed and used again as
re-refined oil. In addition, anyone bringing used motor oil to a
recycling center will be paid a refund. To find the nearest dealer
who will accept used oil, contact the San Joaquin County Solid Waste
Q: What should I do if I see a neighbor throwing trash into a storm
A: The storm drain system is for the sole purpose of collecting
rainwater overflow. Dumping trash, pollutants and debris in the
catch basins is illegal and is a federal violation of the Clean Water Act
of 1972, as well as San Joaquin County Ordinance. A
neighbor may not understand that the catch basin directly connects to the San
Joaquin River and other waterways. It may be just a matter of making
them aware of its environmental impact. County staff would be more
than happy to provide information to your neighbor.
Q: How can I properly dispose of left-over paints, thinners, chemicals,
car batteries, etc.?
Household Hazardous Waste facility at 877-747-9699 for available
dates and times.
wash my own car. How can I be environmentally responsible?
A: One option is to have vehicles cleaned at a commercial car wash
where wastewater flows through sand and oil traps them into the sanitary
sewer system. When washing your car at home, pull it up on the lawn
or graveled area where water will leach into the ground instead of flowing
into the gutter and storm drains. Always use biodegradable soaps when washing
a vehicle and conserve as much water as possible. Shut off water
while washing your car, then rinse. Remember not to leave your car
on the lawn. We would highly recommend going to a full or self service car
wash because the water used is recycled.
Q: Yard clippings and leaves are natural, so they don't cause any
A: Wrong. Grass, leaves and yard clippings that are
repeatedly swept into catch basins can clog the drain, causing flooding
and becoming a potential breeding ground for rodents and insects.
Additionally, when this material reaches our waterways, it decomposes and
robs the surrounding water of oxygen that is needed for aquatic life.
there a fine/penalty for illegal dumping?
A: Yes. The fine will vary depending on which local or state
agency assesses the fine.
Q: What kinds of
educational programs or informational materials does the County offer
A: The community
outreach efforts of the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program consist
of three main areas:
Industrial/Commercial: Educate facility and business owners/operators
about stormwater regulations and how stormwater pollution can be
Construction: Provide outreach to the construction community about
proper BMP implementation and compliance with County requirements and
all applicable Permit conditions.
Residential/Community: Through education and outreach
opportunities, promote change in behavior and encourage
communities to reduce pollutants to the storm drain systems.
Community Education presentations raise awareness to our role and
impacts to the watershed all around us. We focus on storm water
pollution prevention with students in both public and private schools.
The 45-minute program includes a short video, an overview of the water
cycle, information on water conservation and a discussion on how
students can help their families reduce stormwater pollution. Each
student receives an activity booklet to reinforce the stormwater message
while having fun. There is no charge to the class for the program.
Churches, and Citizen Groups are also welcome to contact us.
At the high school level, the City of Stockton and San Joaquin County
have partnered for stream clean-up projects. In the classroom, students
are instructed on the importance of water. The students then take the
lessons out into the natural environment and a nearby waterway to learn
more about unnatural objects in the water, how it got there and its
effect on the ecosystem. You may also contact the County for more
information about the annual environmental video contest, where students
are encouraged to write essays, create slogans, posters, and film short
videos as part of their expanded knowledge of the importance of water.
The program culminates in a four-hour weekend stream clean up that
coincides with California Coastal Cleanup Day in September, to rid
waterways of trash and educate the public about proper disposal of items
such as tires and shopping carts. The City, County and other partnering
agencies provide the supplies for the clean-up effort, our citizens
provide the support. California Coastal Cleanup takes place annually
and attendance is open to the public. Walk-ons welcome. Or call ahead
with a group.
more information on these and other outreach programs, please contact
the Stormwater Management Program at (209) 468-3055.
Q: I have often seen stencils over the catch basins. How do I get
a stencil for a catch basin near me?
A: The storm drain stencils are part of the outreach efforts of the
Stormwater Management Program. Local youth groups, civic
organizations, school clubs, and other interested groups are welcome to
take part in this community service effort. Materials will be
provided for the project by the County. The County will work with
the group in deciding locations for the stenciling project.
For more information on these and other outreach programs, please contact
the Stormwater Management Program at (209) 468-3055, or e-mail
PO Box 1810 / 1810 East Hazelton
Avenue, Stockton, California 95201 |
Phone (209) 468 - 3055