Ways to Reduce Stream Pollution

stormwater graphic

Car Washing:

When you wash your car, all the soap, scum and oily grit runs down into the storm drains and then runs into the White Clay or Red Clay Creeks and then into the Delaware River and eventually the Ocean. This causes pollution which is unhealthy for people and fish. Please wash your car on grass, gravel instead of the street or driveway. Or better yet, take your car to a car wash where the water gets treated or recycled. 

What you can do:
  • Wash your car on a grassy area, so the ground can filter it naturally. Use soap sparingly. Try to use non-phosphate detergents.
  • Use a hose that is high pressure, low volume and has a pistol grip or trigger nozzle to save water, wash one section of the car at a time and rinse it quickly.
  • When you’re done, empty your bucket of soapy water down the sink, not in the street.
  • Best of all take your car to a commercial car wash, especially if you plan to clean the engine or the bottom of car. Most car washes reuse water several times before sending it for treatment at the wastewater treatment plant.

Lawn Care:

You fertilize the lawn, then it rains, the rain washes the fertilizer into the storm drains and then into the Red Clay and the White Clay Creeks, then into the Chrisina River which empties into the Delaware River and eventually the Ocean. This causes algae to grow which uses up all the oxygen which fish need to survive. So if you use fertilizer please use it sparingly. 

lawn careWhat you can do:
  • Use fertilizers sparingly. Lawns and many plants do not need as much fertilizer or need it as often as you might think. Test your soil to be sure. Consider using organic fertilizers because they release nutrients more slowly.
  • Don‘t fertilize before a rain storm, and don‘t fertilize your sidewalks and driveways.
  • Use commercially available compost, or make your own using your garden/yard waste. Mixing compost with your soil means your plants will need less chemical fertilizer and puts your waste to good use. Commercial compost and soil amendments may be available from your solid waste or wastewater utilities ss well as your local garden store.
  • Let your grass clippings lay! Don‘t bag the grass. Use a mulchlng lawn mower to cut one third of the blade length each week and naturally fertilize your lawn ln the process.
  • Wash your spreader equipment on a pervious or penetrable vegetated area, like the lawn, to allow for the natural absorption of excess fertilizer.
  • Maintain a buffer strip of unmowed natural vegetation bordering waterways and ponds to trap excess fertilizers and sediment from lawngardens.

Call The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary at 1-800-445-4935 Or New Garden Township at 610-268-2915

Leaking Oil:

Leaking oil goes onto your driveway or street. Rain washes the oil into the storm drain then into the White Clay and Red Clay Creek, then into the Delaware River and Ocean. Imagine the number of cars in your area and then think about how much oil goes into the streams and creeks. So please maintain your car and always recycle used motor oil. 

leaking oilWhat you can do:
  • Check your car or truck for drips and oil leaks regularly and fix them promptly. Keep your vehicle tuned to reduce oil use.
  • Use ground cloths or drip pans under your vehicle if you have leaks or are doing engine work. Clean up spills immediately and properly dispose of clean up materials.
  • Collect all used oil in containers with tight-fitting lids. Old plastic jugs are excellent for this purpose.
  • Do not mix waste oil with gasoline, solvents, or other engine fluids. This contaminates the oil which may be reused, increases the volume of the waste, and may form a more hazardous chemical.
  • Never dump motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid or other engine fluids into road gutters, down the storm drain or catch basin onto the ground, or into a ditch.
  • Recycle used motor oil. Many auto supply stores, car care centers and gas stations will accept used oil. Many communities have hazardous waste collection days where used oil can be brought in for proper disposal. Recycling just one gallon of used oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours.

On places you can take your used motor oil for recycling contact New Garden Township 610-268-295 or the Chester County Recycling Coordinator 610-273-3771.


When our pets leave those little surprises, rain washes all that pet waste and bacteria into our storm drains. This pollutes our creeks and streams. 

petsWhat you can do:
  • The Environmental Protection Agency discourages flushing pet waste. How to safely dispose of pet waste.
  • Bag your pet‘s waste and put it into a trash can.
  • Never put pet waste into a storm drain.
  • If your community does not regulate pet waste (e,g.“scooper” law), try to make it a priority of your local governing body.
  • Encourage your neighborhood to provide pet waste stations for collection and disposal of waste. Check to see if the parks in your neighborhood have them.

Call New Garden Township 610-268-2915 or visit The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (1-800-445-4935).

no dumpingStorm Drain Marking:

  • Volunteers place a permanent marker next to storm drains throughout the community that alerts the public that only rainwater should enter into the storm drains. The markers usually say something like "NO DUMPING- DRAINS TO STREAM".
  • Why Mark Storm Drains? Clean water is our nation’s most precious resource. Throughout the White Clay and Red Clay Watershed, rainwater washes motor oil, antifreeze, paint, cigarette butts, yard waste, herbicides, pesticides, and plastic litter from our neighborhood streets and litter from our neighborhood streets and lawns into the storm drains. These pollutants drain directly into our streams NOT the wastewater treatment plant. The marking of the storm drains alerts the public to keep the storm drains free of pollution. Drain marking also may help prevent illicit dumping of paint, antifreeze and used motor oil into storm drains which is a common (but illegal) practice in many urban areas.
  • Who Benefits from Storm Drain Marking? All people in New Garden Township as well as all wildlife benefit from the clean pollutant free rainwater that replenishes our groudwater, streams and creeks New Garden Public Works experiences a reduction in maintenance costs used to remove litter and debris from storm drains and it helps communities meet environmental mandates of the Clean Water Act. Local economies benefit by attracting and retaining businesses whose employees value a clean environment in which to live and do business.
  • Who Can Mark Storm Drains? School groups, 4-H clubs, girl and boy scout troops, faith groups, civic clubs such as the Women's League, Rotary and Kiwanis, Crime Watch groups, and environmental clubs can all participate in the ongoing improvement and protection of one of our most precious elements of life...water. A storm drain marking project can be a rewarding experience for everyone! So become involved today. Call Scott Gantt at the township for more information 610-268-2915

butterflyRain garden:

 A rain garden is a depressed area of the ground planted with vegetation, allowing runoff from impervious surfaces such as parking lots and roofs the opportunity to be collected and infiltrated into the groundwater supply or returned to the atmosphere through evaporation and evapotranspiration. View the Township building’s installed rain garden (March 2012). 

Rain gardens provide several benefits:
  • Vegetation and soils within the rain garden use physical and biological processes to remove contaminants carried by stormwater runoff.
  • Infiltrating stormwater into native, underlying soils helps mimic natural drainage processes and reduces the volume of stormwater runoff.
  • Stormwater runoff reduction improves the physical and biological integrity of receiving streams by reducing stream bank erosion and negative effects on aquatic communities.
  • Rain gardens improve the aesthetics of an area compared to conventional infrastructure.
Rain GardenThe rain garden has three goals:
  • Reduce stormwater runoff by reducing impervious surfaces.
  • Quantify the hydrologic performance – the ability to accept, store, and infiltrate stormwater – of rain gardens through changes in season and rain garden age.
  • Test the effect on hydrologic performance of multiple ratios of impervious surface area to rain garden area.

Riparian BufferRiparian Buffer:

 “Surplus nitrogen from fertilizers, animal wastes, leaky sewer lines, highway runoff and other sources is a hazardous pollutant to both surface and subsurface water systems. For instance, excess nitrogen levels in surface water often cause toxic algal blooms, oxygen depletion, fish deaths, and a loss of biodiversity. In ground water, the nitrate form of nitrogen often contaminates drinking water sources and poses a threat to human health, especially in infants. Riparian buffers are considered an effective, sustainable method of protecting against these dangerous effects of excess nitrogen. Buffers reduce nitrogen levels through plant uptake, microbial immobilization and denitrification, soil storage, and ground water mixing.” (EPA) 

buffer diagramWhy restore riparian buffers?

In addition to protecting existing buffers, research has shown that stream damage can be minimized and water quality enhanced through installing riparian buffers where they have been previously removed. Landowners can plant trees and shrubs in areas where there is a gap in the riparian buffer to begin a restoration project. However, most plans to restore a riparian buffer involve more than just planting trees and should be coordinated with the local municipality and an agency experienced with stream restoration practices.

stream fishingForested riparian zone:

Trees along a stream maintain the health of the stream and the fish population in it. They help to maintain the stream bank. The root systems of large woody plants keep the bank from eroding thereby decreasing sediments into the stream. Trees also prevent pollution of the stream by lawn fertilizers or stormwater run-off from roads. On a stream bank or near a creek trees supply food for many of the animals and insects that live in the stream, including fish. They shade the stream, allowing fish, such as trout that need cold water, to survive. They improve wildlife habitat, provide a natural corridor for wildlife and enhances water quality for the larger watershed. 


Research has identified numerous benefits to protecting and restoring riparian buffer areas. Buffers have been found to: increase groundwater infiltration, provide cooler water and air temperatures, decrease streambank erosion glossary, filter sediments and pollutants commonly found in runoff, provide floodwater storage, increase wildlife habitat and provide recreation areas. 


There is little or no cost involved in protecting existing riparian buffers. Restoring forested buffers requires an initial investment in plant materials, tools and labor. However, the long-term cost savings due to decrease mowing requirements for a restored buffered area can be quite significant. 


Watering new plantings and removing invasive weeds are the primary maintenance requirement for restored riparian buffers. Ongoing maintenance activities for all buffers may include selective cutting and/or pruning and replanting bare spots or unsuccessful trees and shrubs. Riparian buffer areas should not be mowed frequently --only about once per year for newly created buffer areas. Existing, mature riparian areas should require no mowing at all. 


Trees, shrubs and wetland grasses can all be used to restore or enhance a riparian buffer area.Native vegetation should be used whenever possible to restore a riparian buffer. 

Suggested Trees:
  • American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • Black willow (Salix nigra)
  • Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
  • Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
  • Red maple (Acer rubrum)
  • River birch (Betula nigra)
  • Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Suggested Grasses & Sedges:
  • Big blue stem (Andropogon geradii)
  • Broom sedge (Carex scoparia)
  • Riverbank wild rye (Elymus riparius)
  • Soft rush (Juncus effusus)
  • Switch grass (Panicum virgatum)
Suggested Shrubs:
  • American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
  • Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
  • Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
  • Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
  • Silky dogwood (Cornus racemosa)
  • Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Suggested Perennial Flowers:
  • Beard-tongue (Penstemon digitalis)
  • Blue vervain (Verbana hastata)
  • Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)
  • New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
  • Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

If you own property with a steam running through it, download the Stream Buffer Kit from PADEP.