The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) requires communities around the country to address stormwater quality, and hence the pollution of our nation’s waterbodies. Carmel is one of nearly 200 of these required communities in the state of Indiana required to develop and maintain a stormwater quality program. This program is extremely important to the sustainability of our community. In fact, the EPA now considers stormwater pollution to be one of the most significant sources of contamination in our nation's waters.
Storm water and why it is a concern
Anytime it rains, water falls onto many different surfaces, and depending on the surface, it either enters the ground, or runs off to another location. For instance, if rain falls on grass, a portion soaks into the ground, but if it lands on a paved parking lot, it runs off the lot to another location. Within Carmel, much of the stormwater runs off of driveways, parking lots, and streets, where it picks up oil, grease, sediments, and many other pollutants that are harmful to the environment.
What many people do not realize is this stormwater that washes down our streets, flows into storm drains and then flows directly to our ponds, creeks, and rivers. When this stormwater flow becomes polluted with eroded soils, automotive fluids, trash, and lawn chemicals, it affects our ability to use our water bodies for drinking and recreational purposes and it degrades fish and other aquatic habitats.
The only way to lessen this pollution is to reduce the amount of pollutants washed away by storm water.
What is Storm Water Pollution?
Any toxic discharge that enters into the storm water sewer system , as storm water flows (or snow melts), it picks up debris, chemicals - such as fertilizers and pesticides - dirt, cigarette butts and other pollutants . This discharge enters a storm sewer system and is discharged to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water.
Courtesy Erich Roeckner, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
City of Carmel Stormwater Program Information
Storm Water Fact Sheets
Improving Storm Water Quality
Residents can help alleviate stormwater pollution in several ways:
- Practice dry cleanup methods when cleaning your driveway or sidewalk. By using a broom instead of a hose, debris will be prevented from entering storm drain inlets and eventually streams. Also, use cat litter to soak up leaked oil, which can be then thrown away in the trash once dry.
- Have your soil tested. A soil test is an inexpensive and informative way to determine the quality of your soil. The laboratory will test soil pH, nutrient content, and percentage of organic matter. From these results, you can determine exactly what nutrients your lawn and garden need, which will help minimize the use of chemicals which can runoff into streams.
- Use phosphorus-free lawn fertilizers. Phosphorus runoff from lawns is washed into streams and lakes, where it encourages algae growth. But only newly-seeded lawns or phosphorus-deficient soils (as indicated by testing) require phosphorus. When buying lawn fertilizer, look for the three numbers on the bag and choose products where the middle number is zero. This indicates that the fertilizer does not contain phosphorus (the other numbers indicated the amount of nitrogen and potassium, respectively).
- When painting, do not rinse brushes off in the lawn or dump extras into storm drains. Instead, rinse brushes and rollers off in a sink or tub, and drop your extra paint off at the household hazardous waste facility for reuse.
- Clean up immediately after your pets and throw the waste into the trash or in the toilet. Otherwise, disease causing pathogens in the waste can be transferred directly into streams.
- Dispose of lawn waste in compost piles and use a mulching mower. Never place leaves or other lawn debris in waterways because it will cause a decrease in oxygen in waterways, killing fish.
- Reduce the amount of paved area and increase the amount of vegetated area in your yard. Use native plants in your landscaping to reduce the need for watering during dry periods. Consider directing downspouts away from paved surfaces onto lawns and other measures to increase infiltration and reduce polluted runoff.
- Do not wash cars, RVs, or boats at home because the detergent laden water runs into storm drains and then into creeks. Remember, soap destroys dirt and organisms, it will do the same in creeks. Instead, go to a full or self serve car wash because the water used there is cleaned in a waste water treatment plant.
- Report any illegal dumping into storm drainage inlets, such as soil running off of construction sites into drains, or falling septic systems.
- Adopt a storm drain in your neighborhood by yourself or with neighbors, and take turns cleaning away debris from it after storm events.
- Do not drain your swimming pool, spa water, or filter backflush water directly into a storm drain. Direct this water into the sanitary sewer or allow it to overland flow to a storm inlet after it has been dechlorinated.
Clear Choices, Clean Water
In 2010, with the support of the City of Carmel and other storm water education organizations, the Upper White River Watershed Alliance began the Clear Choices, Clean Water Campaign. Clear Choices, Clean Water is a campaign to increase awareness about choices we make and the impact they have on our streams and lakes. Water quality friendly lawn care includes practices such as using phosphorus-free fertilizer, landscaping with native plants, managing yard and pet wastes, and properly maintaining septic systems. By educating individuals on these important actions and giving them the tools they need to make these essential changes in their own yards, we will empower them to do their part for water quality. Individuals can make their impact on improving storm water quality known by taking a Clear Choice pledge at: www.clearchoicescleanwater.org
Spilling, dumping, or discharging chemicals, dirt, debris, oil or other non-stormwater substances into ditches, creeks, streams, curb drains, storm drains, or the river is a violation of federal, state, and local regulations. Allowing sediment or chemicals to wash off a construction site is also a violation. If you have witnessed an act that you feel is a violation of clean water regulations, anywhere within the city limits, please report the activity to the City of Carmel Engineering Department at 317-571-2441.
If calling after regular City Hall business hours (M-F, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and the problem requires immediate attention, please call IDEM’s 24-hour hotline at 1-888-233-7745 or call 911.
- "Before the Storm" video: Mike McBride, Carmel City Engineer, and Kent Ward, Hamilton County Surveyor, helped DNR to produce a storm drain marking video, explaining ways in which people can get involved to help protect our water. If you would like to view this video, click here.
- Hoosier Riverwatch
- River Clean-Up, contact the Carmel Engineering Department for more information
This January 2012, the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, with support from the City of Carmel Storm Water Program, is offering a highly informative, low cost pond management series to Home Owner’s Association (HOA) representatives and other interested parties.
Most HOAs are aware of the costs to maintain the traditional aesthetics of subdivision ponds, but many are not aware of the other important functions, and the long-term costs associated with maintenance. Local professionals will share information crucial to managing ponds ecologically for improved water quality, storm water management, recreation, fish, wildlife, and aesthetics.
The $40 registration covers two attendees for both sessions on all four nights. The sessions are from 6:30pm-8:30pm.
The following sessions will be offered;
- Thursday, January 19th - Detention Pond Function and Design & Watershed Basics
- Thursday, January 26th - Aquatic Weed Identification and Control & Fishery Management & Aeration
- Thursday, February 2nd - Native Plant Buffers & Wildlife Management
- Thursday, February 9th - Liability / Pond Safety & Erosion Control and Inspections
Please see the Pond Pro Workshop flyer for more information.
In the News
Protecting Storm Water Quality is a year round activity. To help prepare citizens, The Upper White River Watershed Alliance highlights positive choices that Carmel residents can make in a Springtime Choices Article
Media - Please use contact information provided here:
Director: Nancy Heck
Location: One Civic Square
Carmel, IN 46032