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Pollution Prevention - Apartments & Other Multi-unit Residential Dwellings

The most important thing to know about sewers and storm drains is that they are two different systems. All outside storm drains flow directly to the nearest creek, where pollutants such as paint, oil, soap and chemicals can harm fish, wildlife and people. In contrast, all indoor drains (sinks, showers, toilets) flow directly to the sewage treatment plant. There, the water undergoes advanced treatment that removes toxic materials. Many people mistakenly believe they can discharge toxics into storm drains without harm. Apartment managers can play a key role in helping to prevent the creek damage that results and reducing the likelihood of a costly cleanup.

First, you can help educate residents and maintenance staff on the vital difference between storm drains and indoor plumbing. Second, you can follow the suggestions on the Manager Checklist below. Be part of the solution for clean water and healthy creeks throughout our community.

Manager Checklist for Routine Site Inspections

Landscaped Areas

Yard clippings and leaves are disposed of in yard waste recycling bins. In creeks, these harm fish by removing oxygen from the water.

Tenants clean up pet feces and dispose of it in the garbage. Pet waste washed into creeks can cause harmful water-borne diseases.

Irrigation system is checked to prevent overwatering. Overwatering wastes precious water and can carry harmful fertilizers and pesticides into creeks.

Gutters are watched for signs of discharge. Gutters wet from anything but water during dry weather could mean a creek polluting spill. Locate the source, if more than rain water or irrigation water, block the flow into the storm drain system and cleanup. If the substance has entered the storm drain system and a storm drain cleaning company is unable to respond, refer to our spill reporting information. If caught in time, substances can be prevented from reaching waterways.

Building Maintenance Areas

Chemicals, paints, solvents, cleaning agents, oils, fuels, pesticides and other toxic materials are stored under cover to prevent rain contact. They are also locked away and kept out of reach to children and others who may want to tamper with them. State regulations must be followed in disposing of hazardous materials, pesticides and pesticide application equipment.

Construction materials such as concrete, dry wall, dirt and paint are stored under a waterproof cover and away from storm drains or creek banks. These materials are extremely harmful to fish and their habitat.

Discuss disposal practices with builders, painters, carpet cleaners and others who work in the complex. Storm drains must never be used to dispose of paint, construction wastes or cleaning wastewater. Include appropriate language in work contracts to ensure a contractor’s responsibility to prevent illegal discharges.

Parking Areas

Automotive fluids leaked from vehicles are cleaned from pavement. Dripping oil, antifreeze and other automotive fluids can easily wash into creeks, where they are lethal to fish and wildlife. Use absorbents like kitty litter on puddles or drips, then dispose of as hazardous waste at the Household Toxics Facility.

Parking areas are swept rather than watered down to prevent runoff of harmful chemicals, oils and grease.

On-site car-washing by tenants is permitted only when soapy runoff is clearly directed to a gravel or landscaped area. All soaps, even when labeled “biodegradable,” are toxic to fish and wildlife.

Inspections and grounds cleanups are performed at least once annually using a method that does not wash materials downstream.

All storm drains on site are labeled “No Dumping – Drains to Creek.” With assistance from the County, you can educate tenants and show a manager’s commitment to preventing creek pollution through having storm drains labeled “No Dumping – Drains to Creek.” Call 565-1900 for information on obtaining labeling materials.

Spill cleanup procedures are in place and staff is trained on a regular basis on spill prevention and control. If a hazardous spill occurs, call a recommended cleanup service and refer to spill reporting information. If caught in time, substances can be prevented from reaching waterways.

Dumpster Areas

Dumpster lids are kept closed at all times to protect garbage scattering by animals and the wind.

Dumpsters are kept locked and in a secure area to prevent dumping by non-tenants of undesirable materials.

Pavement area around dumpster is kept clean, with all waste deposited in dumpster.

Dumpster does not leak and has drain hole plug in place. If you detect a leak or missing drain hole plug in the dumpster, contact your local waste collection agency. They should replace leaking dumpsters or provide drain hole plugs.

After Evictions

Evicted tenants can sometimes pose problems which result in damage to our creeks and costly cleanups for property managers and owners. Use the checklist below to help assure an orderly, trouble free transition.

Inspect premises with an interior and exterior walk-through.

Change locks on the doors to prevent potential vandalism.

Inspect parking and storage areas of the evicted tenant.

Inspect dumpster and storm drain area nearest the tenant’s unit.

Remove garbage left by the tenant. Be especially watchful for hazardous materials such as paints, oils and solvents. Store these materials in a covered and secure area until they can be properly disposed of.

Questions?

Call the ECO-DESK hotline at 565-DESK (3375) or visit the Sonoma County Waste Management Agencywebsite for information on disposal and recycling issues. The ECO-DESK or website can provide information on the disposal of Household Toxics.

What the Law Says

Apartment managers should let residents know in the rental contract that dumping or discharging contaminants into storm drains or creeks is against the law. Both the property owner and the offending discharger may be subject to prosecution and fines of up to $25,000 per day, per violation.

Although every effort is made to provide complete and accurate information on this website, users are advised to contact appropriate Permit Sonoma staff before making project decisions. This may involve contacting more than one section within Permit Sonoma(e.g. Building, Plan Check, Zoning, Well & Septic, etc.) since each section implements specific codes or ordinances which may affect your project.
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