Pollutants left on the ground or washed or blown into the street throughout our City can quickly enter storm drains, which flow into our creeks and ocean untreated. Learn how these common pollutants can harm water quality, and what you can do to help protect our environment!
Motor oil and other auto fluids enter storm water through a variety of mechanisms and sources, including automotive sources, leakages/spills, parking lots, driveways, and illegal or improper disposal. Some of the hydrocarbons that are found in oil and grease are toxic to aquatic organisms and produce unsightly sheens, even at low concentrations. Some also present bioaccumulation risks.
How to Help: Practice good car care and repair leaks right away. Dispose of motor oil responsibly by taking it to a certified Used Oil Collection Center. Visit Less Is More to learn more about proper disposal of auto fluids.
While confetti eggs or cascarones have long been a tradition at Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta, we are now seeing large bags of confetti being dumped on our sidewalks, streets, and parks during Summer Solstice, Fourth of July, Fiesta, and Holiday parades and celebrations.
In addition to paper confetti, the volume of shiny metallic confetti, sequins, and glitter is increasing. These are all made of plastic, which is not biodegradable, and are often mistaken for food and consumed by birds, fish, and other wildlife.
How to Help: While you’re celebrating in Santa Barbara, we encourage you to choose paper confetti and use it sparingly! If you are a vendor making cascarones to sell at community events, please only use paper confetti (or leaves!), and do not add glitter, plastic, or foam decorations on the outside of the eggs.
Are you a vendor making cascarones to sell?
Want to help spread the word about confetti litter?
Download and share confetti outreach materials.
Many products used in home improvement and construction projects (paint, mortar, concrete, solvents, and thinners) are hazardous both to you and the environment if not used, stored, and disposed of properly.
How to Help: Ensure paint and construction products are properly stored away from rain and wind. Visit Less Is More to learn more about proper disposal of paint, chemicals, and construction materials.
When improperly applied, or applied prior to rain, fertilizers can wash into our creeks, increasing nutrient concentrations. High nutrient concentrations may cause accelerated or excessive growth of algae and eutrophication in creeks, estuaries, and other water bodies.
How to Help: Limit your use of fertilizers, and follow instructions carefully. Visit Less Is More to learn more about proper disposal of household chemicals.
When it rains, microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5mm) on the ground can wash into our storm drains, creeks, and ocean. Microplastics are also produced when larger plastic items break down into smaller pieces in the environment. Plastics are not biodegradable, and can leach potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. Microplastics are often ingested by wildlife and can make their way up the food chain, potentially exposing humans to risk as well.
How to Help: Limit your use of plastics, particularly single-use plastics and plastic packaging. When possible, choose clothing made from organic materials such as cotton, wool, hemp, or other natural fibers. Learn more about how microfibers are generated by washing and drying your clothes, wash clothes less often, and air dry clothing when possible. Buy plastic-free cosmetics and toiletries, and make sure they don't contain microbeads. Remove and/or replace plastic and synthetic items such as toys, rope, patio cushions, and tarps from outside areas when they start to degrade or break into smaller pieces.
Landscaped and built areas are potential sources of pesticides entering storm water. Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides. Some pesticides are toxic to aquatic organisms, even at low concentrations, and can bioaccumulate.
How to Help: Limit your use of pesticides and herbicides, and always follow instructions carefully, and do not apply products when rain is in the forecast. Find information about less toxic products and organic pest control techniques at Our Water Our World. Visit Less Is More to learn more about proper disposal of household chemicals.
When pet waste washes into our creeks and ocean, it can contribute to high nutrient concentrations, which may cause accelerated or excessive growth of algae and eutrophication in creeks, estuaries, and other water bodies. In addition, high concentrations of ammonia are toxic to fish and invertebrates.
How to Help: Be a responsible pet owner and Close the Poop Loop! Pick up after your pet and place waste in a trash can every time. Clean up waste in your yard, especially before it rains.
Trash can be washed into our creeks and ocean by storm water (rain) or runoff from human activities, or it can be blown into our creeks and ocean by the wind. Sometimes, trash pollution in the creeks comes from illegal dumping. When trash such as cigarette butts, straws, cups, and other debris enter our creeks and ocean, it can pose a threat to the health and safety of humans and animals.
Trash can be mistakenly eaten by fish, birds, and other animals living in our creeks and beaches. Trash pollution leaches toxic chemicals into the water and can break down into smaller pieces that can stay in the environment for decades (microplastics). Trash can also trap animals, which can kill them or seriously injure them.
How to Help: Always properly dispose of trash and recyclables, and secure your trash can lid to prevent trash from being released into the environment. Pick up litter when you see it, join in volunteer clean-ups, and report illegal dumping in our community.
When yard waste is blown or washed into the street, it can quickly enter our storm drains and creeks. Yard waste can increase nutrient concentrations in water, and may cause accelerated or excessive growth of algae and eutrophication in creeks, estuaries, and other water bodies.
How to Help: Collect yard debris and dispose of it in your green waste bin rather than sweeping or blowing into the street.