Storm Water Pollution Prevention

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Stormwater Pollution Prevention
Stormwater and urban runoff reach the ocean and local water ways through canyons, creeks and the storm drain system. Storm water and urban runoff from nuisance flows carry pollutants to these recreational water bodies. The storm drain system is separate from the sanitary sewer system and was designed to prevent flooding by carrying excess rainwater away from city streets and into local canyons and waterways such as Machado Lake and Los Angeles Harbor—there is typically no treatment of stormwater. Stormwater and urban runoff pollution can cause beach closures, and harm humans and aquatic life.

The City commits significant resources to protect the quality of our local waters from urban runoff and stormwater pollution. We need the help of our residents and businesses to be successful.

Due to specific pollutant impairments of the Santa Monica Bay and nearby Machado Lake, the City of Rolling Hills Estates and our sister cities on the Peninsula must take special measures to target and eliminate the discharge of specific pollutants: trash, bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorous.

Trash needs no further explanation, we’ve all seen trash that washes up on our beaches and into LA Harbor after a rain.

Bacteria adversely impacts recreational waters and causes beach closures, especially during and immediately following storm events. Sources of bacteria are everywhere, even in soil, but controlling hot spot sources of bacteria like garbage, pet waste and horse manure and keeping them from contacting stormwater is critical.

Nitrogen and phosphorous in stormwater runoff cause algae blooms and subsequent die-off which depletes oxygen in the water and harms aquatic life. Nitrogen and phosphorous from inorganic fertilizers and uncomposted manure are especially problematic—organic fertilizers and compost are less harmful because the nitrogen and phosphorous are released slowly in a more stable form.

  • Key aspects of the City’s stormwater pollution prevention program and ways that you can help are highlighted below.
Litter Control
  • The City implements a proactive litter abatement program for keeping public rights-of-way, streets, medians, parks, and trails free of litter and debris.
  • Street sweeping is conducted on the two days immediately following trash pickup in order to capture any incidental litter associated with emptying the carts during collection and to reduce trash and debris deposited in catch basins.
  • Please keep a lid on trash carts and bins so wind and birds don’t scatter trash.

  • Youth sports groups who use our playing fields on the weekends can prevent the overflow of trash cans and scattering of trash by crows and wildlife by making sure to recycle beverage containers—collect them and take them home if the park recycling bins are full.
Dogs and Horses
Nitrogen and Phosphorus
  • Parks are maintained with the minimum amount of fertilizer necessary—playing fields are fertilized only twice per year and fully composted top dressing is applied once per year.
  • City parks and recreational areas are inspected frequently for broken irrigation heads, overspray, and muddy areas—water that doesn’t run off can’t carry pollutants to the storm drain.
  • The City has dedicated the George F Canyon Nature Center and Stein-Hale Nature Trail as a riparian preserve for public enjoyment with both passive and active education programs. We have partnered with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy in the preservation and restoration of coastal sage habitat and the endangered Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly at the Linden S. Chandler Preserve and at George F Canyon Nature Preserve.
  • Take the same measures on your property . . . did you know that native plants don’t need fertilizer?
  • Smart Gardening Workshops are held at South Coast Botanic Garden and more resources and information
  • Surfrider Ocean Friendly Garden program:
Toxic Pollutants
Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG)
Keep fats, oils and grease (FOG) out of sewer lines to prevent sewer backups which is a headache for property owners as well as a health hazard that could trigger a beach closure if it reaches the storm drain.

Butter, lard, and vegetable shortening are liquid at cooking temperatures but when poured down the drain they congeal in the sewage pipes causing sewer blockages. Even vegetable oil that is liquid at room temperature will coat the lining of sewer lines and cause buildup which leads to clogs.

Every cook, whether in a home or restaurant, can follow these guidelines to prevent sewer backups:

  • Scrape/pour FOG into a sealed container and place in the trash, never down the drain.
  • Before washing greasy pots and pans, dry wipe with paper towels to absorb excess FOG and then throw the oily paper towels in the trash. (Do not launder oily dish rags because oily residues left after washing can catch fire in dryers).
  • Dispose of coffee grounds—which are very oily—in the trash, or better yet, put them in the compost or worm bin.
  • But don’t place meat/poultry/fish fats or grease in compost piles—this attracts rodents!
  • Fibrous fruit and vegetable waste also contribute to sewer backups—minimize the use of garbage disposals, instead compost or dispose these in the trash.
Other Sources of Bacteria, Nitrogen and Phosphorus and Toxic Pollutants
  • City staff annually walk our open channels to identify and eliminate illicit connections and discharges—only clean water should be discharged to the storm drain system and our canyons.
  • Industrial and certain categories of commercial businesses such as restaurants are inspected to confirm that outdoor activities/storage are conducted in a manner that prevents discharge of non-stormwater and minimizes the contact of pollutants with stormwater runoff.
And More
The City of Rolling Hills Estates contracts with the County of Los Angeles for additional public works services to implement County-wide stormwater pollution prevention programs, including storm drain maintenance, catch basin cleaning and stenciling, industrial waste services, drainage review of new development and redevelopment, and building and safety services. Use of County contract services allows the City to cost effectively leverage County-wide resources and programs in performing standard stormwater pollution prevention services so that City staff can focus on City-specific issues and pollutants.

More information on County-implemented programs and resources are available at:

No Dumping Drains to Bay