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Storm Drains

Pollution Prevention

In 1989, Congress passed amendments to the Clean Water Act requiring states to address the increasing problem of runoff pollution into storm drains, which carry untreated water directly into nearby waterways. California began requiring a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for stormwater discharges, also called non-point source discharges. To save costs and share information, San Mateo County and all its cities together formed the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program (SMCWPPP), formerly STOPPP (San Mateo Countywide Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program). Each municipality shares in general program tasks but must maintain its own stormwater pollution prevention program.

Pollution Prevention Program
The San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program (SMCWPPP) developed its own stormwater management plan consisting of five major pollution prevention and control sections:

  • Municipal Maintenance Activities
  • Industrial & Illicit Discharge
  • Controls Public Information/Participation
  • New Development & Construction Controls
  • Watershed & Monitoring

Each of the plan's sections describes goals, existing conditions and tasks that will be accomplished over a five-year period.

Municipal Maintenance Activities
The efforts by Pacifica streets division staff make a big difference in protecting water quality. Municipal maintenance activities reduce pollutant load into waterways through street sweeping, cleaning catch basins and storm lines, and removing material from drainage channels. Pacifica's streets division staff cleans over 88.9 miles of streets with 989 catch basins and averages about 48 cubic yards of waste removed each year. Contact public works at 650-738-3760 to report a plugged storm drain or debris-filled catch basin.

Another part of the municipal maintenance component is the collection and recycling of materials and waste. Contact Recology of the Coast at 650-355-9000 for information on non-hazardous recyclables and the San Mateo County Household Hazardous Waste Program at 650-363-4718 for hazardous recyclables and waste.

Industrial & Illicit Discharge Controls
Illicit discharges are releases of pollutants or non-stormwater to the storm drain system. Source control and the streets division staff respond to calls from the public or incidents discovered in the field. If the discharging party is present, they are educated about their pollution contribution and asked to clean up the material they illegally discharged where possible. Sometimes they are given a warning notice of violation while other occasions warrant a citation. The streets division may be able to clean up the material if it is still on the street or captured in the catch basin. Cost recovery by the discharging party is pursued if appropriate. However, many times it's simply too late and the material enters the waterway


Public Information/Participation
Public information and participation is one of the keys to preventing stormwater pollution. The better the general public understands what causes stormwater pollution and the simple things that can be done about it, the cleaner the waterways, bay and ocean will be. The program provides pamphlets on stormwater pollution prevention to the public and can be found in the engineering offices at the public works corporation yard at 155 Milagra Drive. The public works department also marks all water inlets, notifying residents that the water does not go through a treatment process, but flows directly into creeks and/or the ocean.

New Development & Construction Controls
The new development section of the stormwater program addresses pollution during construction projects, including sediment and erosion control as well as incorporating permanent controls into project designs. The City of Pacifica Specifications and General Conditions of Approval, which apply to all projects, contain language requiring stormwater pollution prevention practices. Contractors are informed of the Best Management Practices (BMPs) required on all construction projects. For more information on new development and construction controls, contact the building division at 650-738-7344.

Watershed & Monitoring
The watershed and monitoring component of the stormwater plan conducts special studies to determine which prevention techniques work best and where to focus pollution prevention efforts. A watershed is that area of land that would drain rainwater to a particular waterway based on topography. The amount of imperviousness in a watershed is important because, once it approaches 40 percent, the receiving waterway starts to show significant degradation. By finding out which watersheds can best be preserved, agencies can focus planning efforts appropriately. Pacifica is made up of 19 major watersheds. Currently, the drainage master plan is being updated and a study is being performed on San Pedro Creek by the San Pedro Creek Watershed Coalition. Samples of the creek will be analyzed using a new DNA test to identify the sources of some bacterial pollution.

Program Enforcement
The city's code enforcement officer is responsible for the enforcement of the city’s stormwater pollution prevention program. Enforcement will occur in the form of letters and informal violation notices exerting increasing pressure to comply. If a good faith effort to comply is not witnessed, a citation will be issued. It is the policy of the program that education be the primary means used to gain compliance.

Information on Proper Disposal of RV Wastewater (Black / Gray Water)