Pollution Prevention

Storm drains are designed to carry only rainwater. They flow directly to creeks and rivers and into Monterey Bay without any type of treatment. When painting materials, paving and construction materials, and household wastes enter storm drains, they pollute waterways and are toxic to aquatic life. These tips will help you reduce pollution from your home activities and protect our environment.


Painting General Home Maintenance Concrete, Masonry and  Asphalt
Gardening and Landscaping Pool and Spa Pet Waste
Vehicle Repair and Washing Preventing Plumbing & Sewer Overflows





  • Oil-based paints, paint thinners, and cleaning solvents must be disposed of as hazardous wastes. These wastes are accepted free of charge to those living in the City limits by the City of Watsonville’s Waste & Recycling Drop-off.
  • County residents can take dispose of their gazardous wasted at the Santa Cruz County’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Please call (831) 454-2606 for recycling and disposal information.
  • Consider using latex or water-based paints as an easier alternative.
  • If using latex paints, the brush or roller may be rinsed in the sink.
  • If using oil-based paints, the brush or roller must be cleaned in a bucket. All cleaning fluids and rinses, such as paint thinner or water must be collected in the bucket and disposed of as a hazardous waste.
  • Never rinse paint brushes or paint containers in the street or storm drain.
  • Pour leftover paint from the roller pan back into the paint can. Spray the paint in spray guns and hoses back into the paint can.
  • Before cleaning brushes and rollers, brush excess paint onto newspaper or cardboard.
  • Reuse paint thinners by filtering or letting the paint residue settle out. Dispose of thinners as household hazardous waste. Never pour them on the ground or into storm drains.

General Home Maintenance

Some common household wastes, such as motor oil, antifreeze, oil-based paints, pesticides, and herbicides are hazardous wastes! They must be disposed of properly–they cannot be poured down the sink, toilet, on the ground, or into the storm drain.

  • Do not plumb the drain from your dishwasher or washing machine to outside areas because soaps and detergents are pollutants.
  • Dispose of soapy water, such as water from window or carpet cleaning into the sink or toilet. If you hire a cleaning service, ask where they discharge the wastewater. Be sure that they do not discharge it into a storm drain.
  • Keep garbage can lids secure and recyclable items in bins. Loose trash is often blown into the street, clogging gutters and polluting our waterways. Sweep walkways and driveways instead of hosing them off. If you must use water to clean them, sweep first and don’t use any soap or cleaners.
  • Pick up pet waste and dispose in the garbage.

Concrete, Masonry and Asphalt

  • Paving and construction materials, if allowed to reach the street via wind or rain, clog gutters, storm drains, and creeks.
  • Use a tarp under mixers or on areas used for mixing.
  • Be sure to cover and store open cement and plaster bags, loose materials, and debris so that wind or rain will not carry them into the street or storm drain.
  • Sweep instead of hosing down when cleaning up.
  • Dispose of small amounts of excess dry concrete, grout, and mortar in the trash.
  • Collect and reuse excess gravel and sand, or give them away to neighbor.
  • Rinse off mixers, tools, and other equipment in a dirt area where the water can soak into the ground and won’t go into the street or storm drain.
  • Be sure that any contractors you hire abide by municipal codes and these pollution prevention tips.

Gardening & Landscaping

Eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides, if possible. Try using “natural” alternatives first! Visit Our Water Our World’s website where you can find fact sheets designed to assist you in finding non-toxic and less-toxic solutions for managing pests in and around the home.

  • Use pesticides and herbicides only if there is an actual problem, not as a preventative measure.
  • Try not to buy large containers or pesticides unless they will be completely used up.
  • Use the minimum amount of pesticides or herbicides necessary for the job, and be sure to read the label on the bottle.
  • Do not mix or prepare pesticides or herbicides near a storm drain.
  • Be careful not to over-apply pesticides or apply them before it rains. Rain can carry pesticides into our streets and storm drain inlets.
  • Don’t dump leftover pesticides or herbicides into a street or storm drain! Also, do not dump them down the sink since they are hazardous and the City’s wastewater treatment plant was not designed to treat them. So, either give leftovers to a neighbor or dispose of them as a household hazardous waste.
  • For information on pesticide or herbicide disposal, call the City’s Customer Service at 768-3133.
  • Collect lawn and garden clippings, prunings, and tree trimmings. Compost, put them in your GREENCYCLE cart, or drop them off at the City’s Waste Drop-off Center.
  • Do not blow or rake leaves into the street.
  • Do not over-water plants. Runoff water can carry soil, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides into the storm drain.
  • Try planting native species in your yard. They will generally grow better and require less water and less pesticides or herbicides.
  • If you hire someone to landscape your yard or maintain your garden, make sure that they follow these pollution prevention tips.

Pool and Spa Maintenance

Never discharge swimming pool or spa water o the street, gutter, or storm drain!

  • Discharge swimming pool and spa water into the sanitary sewer, preferably via a sewer “clean out” on your property. If you don’t have a clean out, the water may be pumped into an appropriate drain in your house.
  • Swimming pool and spa water may be slowly drained to landscaping or lawns as long as the water does not run off into the street or storm drain. Prior to draining, allow enough time since the last addition of chlorine to ensure that the chlorine has been “off-gassed” or broken down.
  • Do not clean pool or spa filters in the street, over a catch basin or near any other type of storm drain.

Pet Waste

It may not be apparent to you, especially if you don’t live next to a body of water, how your pet’s waste affects the water quality of lakes, streams and waterways in our area. To understand the connection, it’s helpful to know something about storm drains and how they work.

Pet waste in your yard, on the sidewalk, or in the gutter can easily end up in the storm drain, and therefore, our waterways. Animal fecal matter in the water can cause a number of problems. Fecal matter contains nutrients, which cause weeds and algae to grow more rapidly than normal. This robs the water of oxygen needed to support fish and other aquatic life. Pet waste can also contain pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasitic worms which can transmit disease to humans. When high levels of bacteria are found in a body of water, fishing and shellfish harvesting are restricted because of the threat these pathogens pose for humans.

 Proper Pet Waste Disposal

  1. When walking your dog, bring plastic bags with you. Use a bag to pick up the dog waste. Tie bag closed and place in trash.
  2. At home, double bag dog waste and kitty litter. Tie securely and place in garbage. Long-handled “pooper scoopers” are available at pet stores and make it easy to pick up after your dog without stooping over.

Other Helpful Tips

  1. Watch what you feed your pet..what comes in must come out…The type of food you give your pet will affect the quality and quantity of pet waste you must deal with. The easier food is to digest, the more completely it will be digested, resulting in smaller stools that will decompose more quickly.
  2. Control where your pet relieves himself –  Make sure that if your pet deposits fecal matter on public property, that you clean up and properly dispose of it. Many people believe that an animal won’t soil its own territory and their pets won’t use the backyard. This really isn’t true. You can make your yard more appealing to your pet by tilling a small section of the ground, thus reserving that spot solely for your pet’s needs.
  3. Do not compost pet waste  – The disease-causing organisms in pet waste are very sturdy and not killed by backyard composting.
  4. Do not flush pet waste down the toilet – Septic systems and municipal wastewater treatment plants are not designed to treat dog or cat waste.

Vehicle Repair & Washing

 Home Auto Repair

If possible, take your vehicle to a repair shop that uses environmentally sound practices. Seek out a repair shop that is certified through the Monterey Bay Green Business Program or the City of Santa Cruz Clean Ocean Business Program 

  • Keep your car maintained to prevent leaks of oil, antifreeze, and other fluids. Check your car regularly for leaks.
  • Fix leaks as soon as possible. Automotive fluids end up in driveways, streets, and parking lots.
  • When working on your car, use drip pans to catch drips and spills.
  • Parts that have been removed from your vehicle should be stored in the garage or under a covering and in a drip-proof container.
  • Clean up drips and spills immediate using dry absorbents such as rags or kitty litter.
  • Don’t drain or pour oil, antifreeze, radiator rinse water, or other automotive fluids into the street or storm drain or onto the ground. These are toxic to fish and wildlife.
  • Recycle used motor oil, oil filters, and antifreeze. Waste motor oil and filters can be recycled at the curbside.

Vehicle Washing

If possible, wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash that recycles water. This simple action will reduce runoff and conserve water.

  • Use minimal amounts of soap and water if you must wash your vehicle.
  • Use a hose shut-off nozzle to conserve water and reduce runoff.
  • Wash your vehicle in an area that does not drain into the street or a storm drain; for example, a gravel driveway, lawn, dirt or grassy area, or on pavement that slopes towards vegetated area.
  • Make sure that engine, brake, or wheel cleaners and their rinse waters won’t flow to a street or storm drain. It is better to wipe these products off with a rag or paper towel instead of rinsing with water.
  • After washing, pour the bucket of soapy water into a sink or toilet, not into the street or gutter.
  • Even biodegradable soap is toxic to many types of aquatic life.

Preventing Plumbing Problems & Sewer Overflows

Know and Maintain your Sewer System

Leaking or broken sewer laterals are a problem in many urbanized areas of Santa Cruz County. Sewer laterals connect your home drains to the public sewer system. Broken or leaking laterals contribute to groundwater pollution, high bacteria counts at creeks and beaches, and often allow storm water to infiltrate to the sanitary sewer system. This can cause major sewage spills, public health issues and beach closures. It’s important to do your part to keep residential sewer laterals in proper working order. These tips will  help you prevent sewer overflows.

  • It is the property owner’s responsibility to maintain residential sewer laterals, not just to the curbside, but all the way to the connection with the main line.
  • Typically, most homeowners must clear a blockage out of their sewer lateral every 2 to 3 years. Plan to have a professional plumber clear your lateral using mechanical means at least every 2 years to avoid having unpleasant sewer backups in your home or yard.
  • Learn the location and flow direction of all sewer lines and clean-outs on your property.
  • Avoid the use of chemical products to clear your line. These can damage your sewer line and are not usually effective.
  • Replace faulty laterals before they fail. Sewer lateral failure can result in raw sewage entering waterways and a costly cleanup bill.

Prevent Blockages

  • Kitchen grease is a leading cause of blockages in residential sewer lines. Never pour grease down the drain. Use a coffee can with a lid to collect cooking grease, freeze it, and dispose of it in the trash.
  • Solids flushed down the sewer can also cause overflows. Know what can and can’t be flushed down the sewer. Products are often advertised as flushable, even though they are not. Hair, dental floss, birth control of any kind, food waste, medications, gloves, rags and clothing, wipes, and diapers are all things that have damaged sewer laterals and lines.  See the Drain Etiquette Brochure from the Santa Cruz County Sanitation District to learn more on Drain Etiquette.
  • Tree roots are another common source of clogs. Do not plant tall hedges or trees in the vicinity of sewer lines. Roots can also cause serious structural damage to sewer pipes.
  • Once roots infiltrate a house lateral sewer line, it’s only a matter of time before they cause a blockage. One of the best ways to prevent this is to schedule regular cleaning of your sewer lateral by a professional plumbing service. Augers, root saws, and high-pressure flushers are the most common methods of removing roots from sewer pipes.
  • Root-killing compounds containing copper cause serious water pollution problems and are not recommended.

What to Do in Case of a Blockage or Sewage Overflow

  • If sewage is actively flowing onto the street or into a storm drain call 911
  • A professional plumbing service can inspect and clear your lateral sewer lines.
  • If your lateral sewer line is completely clogged with grease and must be flushed into a public line, notify the local sewer agency so that they can remove the grease from their lines as well.

Inspect and Replace Laterals at Time of Resale

  • Several cities around the Monterey Bay have adopted ordinances that require homeowners to inspect lateral sewer lines when the home is being sold and replace the lateral if it is defective. If you are buying a home, it is always a good idea to have the sewer inspected prior to close of escrow. This ensures that the repair or replacement costs can be negotiated prior to purchase of the home.

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Questions? Call Customer Service at 831-768-3133.