Stormwater Pollution Prevention

What is stormwater?

Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground. It flows from rooftops, over paved areas, bare soil, and sloped lawns. As it flows, stormwater runoff collects and transports litter, grass & leaves, animal waste, pesticides, fertilizers, oil & grease, soil, and other potential pollutants.

What's the problem?

Rain washes pollutants from our land, streets, and rooftops into ditches and storm sewers. Eventually, these empty the polluted stormwater directly into streams, rivers, and lakes with no treatment. This is known as stormwater pollution.

Polluted stormwater degrades our lakes, wetlands, and other waterways. Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen can cause the overgrowth of algae resulting in oxygen depletion in waterways. Toxic substances from motor vehicles and careless application of pesticides and fertilizers threaten water quality and can kill fish and other aquatic life. Bacteria from animal wastes and improper connections to storm sewer systems can make lakes and waterways unsafe for wading, swimming, and fish consumption. Eroded soil is a pollutant as well. It clouds the waterway and interferes with the habitat of fish and plant life.

Sanitary sewer and a storm sewer are the same thing, Right?

Not at all. Water that goes down a sink or other inside drains flow to either a wastewater treatment plant or to a septic system for treatment. Storm sewer flows are not treated. Water that flows down driveways, streets, and outside areas into a storm sewer or ditch flow directly to nearby creeks, fish and wildlife habitats, downstream recreational areas, and our drinking water supplies.

It is important to remember that any type of surface water runoff, not just rainfall, can run into the storm sewer and collect in the stormwater management system. For example, when you wash your car on the driveway, that water, dirt, and grime end up in the storm sewer system.

We need to be careful with what we put into the storm sewers as traces of all this material can end up in the stormwater system and our local waterways.

Find out more with our partners at

But everything gets treated, right?

Not necessarily. In most parts of McAlester, storm drains run directly to local streams, rivers, and lakes with no treatment at all. That means that the candy wrapper, cigarette butts, plastic bag, automotive fluids, pet waste, or yard chemicals you saw on the ground can be washed by rain into storm drains and right into our local waterways. By keeping streets and storm drains clean, you can prevent the trash, chemicals, and bacteria from going down the drain and into our waterbodies. 

Do your part and help keep our streets clean from debris! Be part of the solution, not the pollution!

What Can I Do?

  • Dispose of any trash in the proper receptacle. Reuse, Reduce, Recycle where possible.
  • Pick up any litter you see as you are walking.  Plan or participate in a cleanup events.  
  • When mowing your lawn, do not blow the clippings into the street. Sweep them up or mulch them into your lawn. You can do the same with leaves.
  • Dispose of fats, oils, & grease (F.O.G.) properly. They do not belong down any drain or ditch.
  • Do not hose down your sidewalk or driveway into the street.
  • Leaves and grass clippings in our waterways can contribute to algae growth. As this plant material decomposes, it uses up oxygen in the water and can kill fish and other aquatic wildlife.
  • Automotive fluids (such as motor oil, gasoline, and antifreeze), even small amounts, will contaminate water and harm aquatic wildlife.
  • Overspray from careless lawn and garden chemical application can also be washed into local waterways where it can cause increased algae growth, decreased oxygen levels, and can harm fish and wildlife
  • Storm drains are for rain ONLY! Never use them to dump or dispose of liquids or solid waste.

Be clean, be green, be a recycling machine!

For more information about cleanups, visit our partners at #keepmcalesterbeautiful #dobeautifulthings

Don't cigarette filters and other waste products biodegrade?

Cigarette butts are the most commonly polluted plastic. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, which is a synthetic fiber that can take 5 years to degrade. Most of these will be washed into our waterways long before they break down where they contaminate our water supply and harm wildlife with toxins from the cigarette. Every litter bit hurts.

Most plastics are not biodegradable.  Even biodegradable plastics need the correct amount of sunlight and moisture to break down. In many cases, biodegradable plastics may just break down into smaller pieces of plastic, which can remain in the environment for quite some time. Even paper bags can take up to 4 weeks to decompose and can clog storm sewer systems in the meantime. 

Keeping our water clean is everyone's responsibility. McAlester is our home. This is the place that we live. We all have the tools to take care of our waterways and Community.

If you don’t want it in your water, don’t pass it by. Put trash in it’s place!

Why so hard on concrete?

After concrete is poured the hoppers and chutes of concrete trucks must be washed out to remove the remaining material before it hardens. This is usually done back at the concrete plant; however large or rural construction projects tend to wash out on-site. This concrete must be collected and contained for reuse or recycling. The reason being is that concrete has a PH of 12. In comparison liquid Drano has a PH of 13.5! Our freshwater PH is only 6.5-9. This caustic concrete water can contaminant our water supply and harm aquatic life. This PH level is high enough to also change soil chemistry and inhibit plant growth.

What exactly is concrete?

Concrete is a mixture made by heating limestone and clay containing oxides of calcium, aluminum, silicon, and other metals in a kiln and then pulverizing the material. Fine sand or coarse crushed stone aggregates are then added. When cement is mixed with water, a chemical reaction called hydration occurs, which produces glue that binds the aggregates together to make concrete. Mortar, plaster, stucco, and grout are all cementitious (having the properties of cement) and all can have detrimental effects to our environment if not used properly.

Proud people don’t pollute.

To report concrete wash out locations and other pollutants click here.