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Common household projects can pollute storm water and the ocean

Updated April 6, 2020

Urban runoff pollution contaminates the ocean, closes beaches, poisons fish and sea life and clogs gutters and catch basins.

Home improvement projects contribute to the problem. When do-it-yourselfers or contractors aren't careful, toxic paints and thinners, concrete and mortar, household cleaners, pesticides and herbicides and construction debris can easily be washed into the City's storm drain system and flow straight to the ocean. These materials are also dangerous when they are allowed to seep into grass or dirt, making their way to ground water.

Residents are encouraged to take responsibility for protecting our City's storm water and to make sure that contractors are careful during home improvement projects.

Household hazardous waste

Set household toxics aside, such as cleaners, paints and thinners, automotive fluids and pesticides, and take them to a County Household Hazardous Waste Roundup. Call (888) CLEAN-LA or visit the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts website for the next date and location.


Never clean brushes or rinse paint containers into a street, gutter or storm drain. Paint out brushes as much as possible. For water-based paint, rinse the brushes in the sink. With oil-based paint, clean the brushes with thinner, then filter and reuse the thinner. When they're thoroughly dry, used brushes, empty paint cans with their lids off, rags and drop cloths can be thrown away as trash. Save extra paint and thinner for reuse, or take them to a Hazardous Waste Roundup.

Landscaping and gardening

Try using organic or non-toxic fertilizers and pesticides, and avoid fertilizing or using pesticides near ditches, gutters and storm drains. Do not blow, sweep or rake leaves into the street, gutter or storm drain, and conserve water by using drip irrigation, soaker hoses or micro-spray systems.


Make sure that any contractors working on major products keep debris away from the street and storm drains. Have them watch for materials that may have traveled away from your property. Plan any grading and excavation for dry weather, cover excavated materials with plastic tarp, and prevent erosion by planting fast-growing grasses.

Brochures available

The Public Works Department recently printed a series of brochures with specific tips for protecting storm water. The brochures focus on home repair and remodeling, painting, the food service industry, concrete and mortar application, construction, heavy equipment use and earth moving, landscaping, car maintenance, roadwork and paving, and horse ownership and the equine industry. To pick up a brochure, stop by the Public Works counter at City Hall.

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