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Illicit Discharge

What is an illicit discharge? An illicit discharge is the release of untreated wastewater into our waters via a storm drain or direct wash off into ditches, rivers, lakes, and streams.  In other words, any waste that gets into our water. 


Report Illicit Discharges!
To protect the quality of our streams and public health, please report sources of pollution you witness in our community, including: dumping waste/oil or other vehicle fluids or suspicious pipes outletting to ditches or streams.  You can do this anonymously by calling the Pollution Emergency Alerting System (PEAS) hotline at: (800) 292-4706.


For immediate and obvious threats to public health/safety call 911!


Click the link below for more information on how to report illicit discharge:




Interactive Graphics 

How Not to Deal with an Illicit Discharge

How to deal with an Illicit Discharge 

Common Pollutants

Sediment, nutrients, organic matter, bacteria, oil and grease, toxic substances, heavy metals.  Scroll down to read how each pollutant effects our environment!


What is their effect on our environment? 

  •  Sediment is often viewed as the largest pollutant load associated with stormwater runoff in an urban setting. The loadings have been shown to be exceptionally high in the case of construction activity.
  • Sediment is associated with numerous impacts in surface waters including increased turbidity, effects on aquatic and benthic habitat and reduction in capacity of impoundments. 
  • A number of other pollutants often attach to, and are carried by, sediment particles.


  • The nutrients most often identified in stormwater runoff are phosphorus and nitrogen.
  • In surface waters, these nutrient loads can lead to heavy algae growth, eutrophication (especially in impoundments) and low dissolved oxygen levels.
  • Nutrients enter the urban system in a variety of ways, including landscaping practices (commercial and home), leaks from sanitary sewers and septic systems, and animal wastes.


Organic Matter


  • Various forms of organic matter may be carried by stormwater in urban areas.  Decomposition of this material by organisms in surface waters results in depleted oxygen levels. 
  • Low levels of dissolved oxygen severely impact water quality and life within surface waters.
  • Sources of organic matter include leaking septic systems, garbage, yard waste, etc.




  • High bacterial levels may be found in stormwater runoff as a result of leaking sanitary systems, garbage, pet waste, etc.
  • The impacts of bacteria on surface waters may affect recreational uses and aquatic life as well as impose health risks.


Oil and Grease


  • Numerous activities in urban areas produce oil, grease, and lubricating agents that are readily transported by stormwater.
  • The intensity of activities, including vehicle traffic, maintenance and fueling activities, leaks and spills, and manufacturing processes within an urban setting contribute heavily to the level of these pollutants present in adjacent surface waters.


Toxic Substances


  • Many toxic substances are potentially associated with urban stormwater including metals, pesticides, herbicides and hydrocarbons.
  • Toxic compounds may affect biological systems, and accumulate in bottom sediments of surface waters.


Heavy Metals


  • Heavy metals such as copper, lead, zinc, arsenic, chromium and cadmium may be typically found in urban stormwater runoff.
  • Metals in stormwater may be toxic to some aquatic life and may accumulate in aquatic animals.
  • Urban sources of metals in stormwater may include automobiles, paints, preservatives, motor oil and various urban activities.



What else impacts the pollution of stormwater? 


  • A Rise in Temperature
  • Stormwater runoff increases in temperature as it flows over impervious surfaces.  In addition, water stored in shallow, unshaded ponds and impoundments can increase in temperature.
  • Removal of natural vegetation (such as tree canopy) opens up water bodies to direct solar radiation.
  • Elevated water temperatures can impact a water body’s ability to support certain fish and aquatic organisms.
This page last updated on 11/21/2013.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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