As storm water flows over driveways, lawns and sidewalks, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and pollutants. Storm water conveyance systems, such as curbs, gutters, storm drains, channels, ditches, pipes and culverts carry runoff to a discharge point. These conveyance systems do not treat storm water. Once arriving at the discharge point, which is often a dry or wet bottom detention area, the storm water runoff is either contained or gradually released at a controlled rate. Storm water runoff eventually ends up in streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and other natural water ways.Unfortunately, storm water runoff transports a number of non-point source pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, leaves and lawn clippings, pet waste, cigarette butts, oil dripped from cars, antifreeze, litter (plastic bags), salt from driveways and roadways, and sediment from improperly managed construction sites. Water sources can then contain sediments, metals (copper, lead, zinc), nutrients (nitrates, phosphorus, ammonia), petroleum products, salt and bacteria.Consequently, storm water runoff contributes to water quality problems. Polluted runoff into water bodies can affect aquatic plant and animal life in streams and lakes (e.g. algae blooms), reduce recreational activities such as swimming and boating, and increase flooding conditions (e.g. shoreline erosion).
Algae growth in creek Clogged storm drain Fuel, oil, brake leaks Sediment (soil,sand) Shoreline erosion Most plastic bags take 500 years to biodegrade.
Most homeowners want a decent lawn, but do not want to pollute the environment in the process. Prior to fertilizing, aerate the soil with a rototiller or shovel. Also, conduct a soil test with a kit to see what nutrients are missing to help prevent over-fertilization. No mater what type of fertilizer used, over-fertilization will harm your lawn and the environment!
U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Agriculture Research Services
For further assistance and questions relating to soil testing and lawn care preparations, please click on the following link for the University of Illinois Extension - Will County Office or call them at 815-727-9296.When using a synthetic or chemical fertilizer, please select the proper fertilizer for either a new or established lawn; and read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and directions for use, such as not fertilizing before a rain storm, keeping fertilizer and spreader off of pavement and avoiding over-fertilization. If a chemical fertilizer is chosen, a homeowner can still achieve an environmentally-friendly lawn by utilizing a product with a slow release nitrogen technology, as opposed to a fertilizer with water-soluble chemicals that may require more applications and increased potential for over-fertilization and grass burning resulting in excess nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) carried away by storm water runoff.
Zero Phosphate / Slow Nitrogen Release Lawn Fertilizer
Another alternative is to use an organic fertilizer, which uses natural nutrient sources instead of a chemical fertilizer from a manufacturing plant. A main advantage of an organic fertilizer is that the natural materials must break down in order for the nutrients to be released in a form that grass roots can use. The natural materials break down at rates that correlate with the times when lawns need them the most (for example, a faster breakdown in spring / rainy periods and slower breakdown during summer / drought periods). Some other common advantages of organic fertilizers include: 1) does not cause growth spurts after feedings that lead to excess mowing, 2) less likely to lead to thatch problems than chemical fertilizers, 3) does not result in streaking that occurs at times when faster acting chemical fertilizers are not evenly applied, and 4) the naturally fertilized lawn is more drought and pest resistant and uses less water, so it needs to be irrigated less often. On the other hand, the chemically fertilized lawn is water hungry and needs constant irrigation because the grass relies on the chemical to supply the nutrients. Organic fertilizers typically do not produce as thick or green of a lawn as a chemical fertilizer, can be more expensive per bag than a chemical fertilizer, and some can have a manure smell that dissipates after a few days, but can offer a more environmentally-friendly lawn. Not all home improvement and gardening supply stores offer organic fertilizers, so please consult the phone book or internet for nurseries and stores offering them.
Urban Storm Water Retrofit Practices, Version 1
A rain garden is a landscape area, approximately 100 to 300 square feet in area and located at least 10 feet from a house, which is planted with wildflowers and other native vegetation that soak up rain water mainly from roofs, but also from the driveway and lawn areas. A rain garden is designed to slowly infiltrate and drain runoff in less than 24 hours (no mosquito breeding concerns), which results in less storm water running off into storm sewers and eventually into detention areas, streams, lakes and other water bodies, causing less flooding and stream erosion. The native plantings in the rain garden also filter and trap pollutants, which results in better water quality. Most native plants require little or no watering or fertilizing; do not need to be mowed; and also are not allergens. Overall, a rain garden allows for an attractive amenity, attracting birds, butterflies, etc. while also allowing for improvements to water quantity and water quality.For step-by-step rain garden installation instructions, please click on the link for the rain garden manual published by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin Extension
For more information on native plantings in Illinois, please click the following links from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA) / Native Plant Guide and Illinois Natural Historic Survey.
A rain barrel (see illustration below from Low Impact Development Center) stores runoff from the roof, which can be used for other watering needs, such as gardens. A typical rain barrel can hold between 50 and 80 gallons of roof runoff. A number of rain barrels are made from recycled plastic. There are many different shapes, colors and styles of rain barrels that can fit into the aesthetics of a residential lot. There are many rain barrel suppliers that can be found on the internet, or check out local home improvement stores.
For rain barrel installation and maintenance instructions, please click on the following links from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Rain Barrel Guide and The Conversation Foundation.
Different color and style of rain barrels (attempt to get one made from recycled plastic)
The Village of New Lenox has partnered with Upcycle Products and the Conservation Foundation to offer low cost Rain Barrels to the resident of New Lenox. Click Here to purchase your Rain Barrel.
As an alternative to asphalt, concrete or standard brick pavers, a homeowner or hired professional can install permeable pavers for a driveway, walkway or patio. As seen in the adjacent picture, the wide joints or openings, typically filled with gravel, allow for water to drain through and into the soil beneath. As a result, the amount of storm water runoff entering natural water ways is reduced (leading to less flooding and erosion) as is the amount of contaminants and pollutants carried by runoff (due to naturally occurring bacteria helping to digest contaminants before they reach the water table). For more information, including installation steps, finding a paver contractor and viewing different permeable paver designs and colors, please click on the following link from PaverSearch.
Driveway before (inset) and after with permeable pavers
(Masonry Construction Online)
Township-Wide Clean up Day
First Saturday in May