Illicit Discharge Detection & Elimination in Bernalillo County


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the discharge of stormwater pollution as part of the Clean Water Act. Under these regulations, Bernalillo County is required to obtain permits to allow discharges to the Rio Grande.  There are several discharges that are NOT allowable under this permit, one of which is referred to as an illicit discharge.


What is an illicit discharge? 

An illicit discharge is the discharge of pollutants or non-stormwater materials into the storm sewer system via overland flow, direct dumping, or illicit connections. Illicit connections are pipes or other direct connections that illegally or unknowingly release pollutants or non-stormwater materials into a storm sewer system.

In Bernalillo County the storm sewer system collects stormwater runoff and carries it, untreated, to the Rio Grande. The result is untreated discharges that contribute high levels of pollutants (including heavy metals, toxic chemicals, oil and grease, solvents, nutrients, viruses, and bacteria) are carried to a receiving water body, in this case the Rio Grande (a treatment plant would be very costly— it would have to be large enough to treat an entire storm, but would be idle 95 percent of the time — not a good use of taxpayer funds!).

In urban areas, the storm drainage system consists of drains, arroyos, and underground pipes. Storm drains are generally located in streets and parking lots. In rural areas the storm drainage system may be in the form of ditches that carry the stormwater along a roadside or piece of property. These drainage systems are meant to carry only stormwater. Putting oil, antifreeze, detergents, or anything else that is not stormwater into the storm drain system is the same as dumping it directly into the river!

How do I report an illicit discharge?

Illicit discharges cause water pollution by sending pollutants right into our streams, creeks and rivers. To report an illicit discharge, spill, or other environmental violation, please visit the Submit an Environmental Complaint webpage or email, or call (505) 224-2100. 


Only Rain in the Drains!


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