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Drain Dumping Hazards

Information provided by Christian Hobbs as part of his Eagle Project.

Unlike the water that goes down your drain to the sewer, water that flows into storm drains is not treated and filtered for pollutants. This contaminated water flows into canals, into streams and lakes, like the Neponset River, then ends up in the ocean

Now, more than 60% of water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil, failing septic systems, and fertilizers from lawns, gardens and farms. All these sources add up to a big pollution problem.

When natural materials, such as yard trimmings, break down, oxygen is drawn from the water. In a natural setting the amount of this debris would be limited to the leaves of those plants and trees bordering creeks. However, in our urban setting, leaves and dirt on paved areas throughout the entire City are washed into creeks. A lot of natural debris can ruin the natural balance of the creeks, and harm fish. Some Common Pollutants

Motor oil

Used motor oil in particular is a significant polluter. Petroleum hydrocarbons and heavy metals found in used motor oil pose a direct threat to fish and other aquatic species. Each year, Americans illegally dispose of over 200 million gallons of used motor oil, which is equal to 19 Exxon Valdez oil spills. In Massachusetts, it is estimated that 3.6 million gallons of used motor oil are disposed of improperly each year. Used motor oil is the single largest source (over 40%) of oil pollution in US harbors and waterways. One gallon of used motor oil can create an eight-acre slick on surface water, threatening fish and other aquatic life. Used oil contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals which cause sever pollution and can kill the microorganisms that form the base of the marine food chain. Massachusetts Law requires retailers to take back used oil, as long as a receipt accompanies it. (so, save those receipts!!!)


Used paint products such as latex paint, oil paint, stains/varnished or paint thinner should never be poured down a catch basin. For latex paint, only, if the container is less than half full, let dry and place in the trash. All other paint products should be brought to a recycling center or to a household hazardous waste collection center. Also, Boston has a Paint Swap Shop where you can drop off paint, which is in good condition, or select a paint product for your home decorating project.

Pet waste

Pet waste disposed of into catch basins can release fecal coliform bacteria into Boston’s water resources. This bacterium is an indicator of potentially harmful microorganisms that can cause severe illness in humans, close beaches and restrict access to waterways. Please remember to always clean up after your pet.

Yard waste When left in the gutter or dumped into the storm drains, yard waste travels directly into the waterways or the harbor. Once in the waterways or harbor, yard wastes decompose rapidly. This process adds excessive nutrients to our waterways, which is detrimental to the environment. Yard wastes also clogs storm drains, rendering them ineffective and causing excessive water buildup. This can be disposed of at the Pine Street Landfill in Canton.


Antifreeze is a highly toxic chemical that biodegrades extremely slowly in the environment. It is poisonous to people, as well as to animals. Less than a teaspoon can be lethal to small animals such as fish, birds and the family pet. Antifreeze can also be fatal to animals that live or drink from contaminated stream, lakes or gutters.

Cigarette butts

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable. The filters are made of a form of plastic; therefore, they may exist in the environment longer than other forms of plastic. In addition, marine creatures that live in the harbor may mistake them for food, which poisons them. An estimated 4.5 trillion butts are littered every year and the toxic chemical in the cigarette butts create a hazardous environment for our waterways and harbor. Please be responsible and dispose of these butts into a proper trash receptacle.

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