Roadside Drains Are Not Garbage Cans

April 18, 2017

As you start your spring cleaning, don’t even consider dumping unwanted household products down roadside drains.  Roadside drains are called catch basins or storm sewers.  You may think that these drains collect wastewater that goes into the sewers.  But the fact is that many of these drains are collection points for the water that we drink!  Most of these drains do not have filtering systems.  The water that they collect often flows right into the drinking water supply.  It is essential that you never dump pollutants such as used motor oil or paints nor waste like dog feces or fertilizers into these drains.  Dumping of such products can cause contamination and pollution of your community’s drinking water supply. 

Most groundwater (the water which flows underground and is replenished by rain) eventually becomes drinking water.  It is collected via natural underground routes or through man-made systems, known as catch basins.  (Those are the drains you see along the road that you always thought were part of the sewer system.)  Which roadside drains are part of the water collection system is hard to know unless you study a water supply map.  The part of a town where water is collected for the drinking water supply is called a public water supply watershed area.  These areas are marked by signs, but most of us are unaware of the exact location and boundaries of these areas. 

            Because of the intricate system of water collection, you can never be sure where something you dump will end up therefore wastes should be disposed of in a manner that will assure a safe water supply.  How do you dispose of household wastes such as paint thinners, oven cleaners, nail polish remover, waste motor oil, antifreeze, varnish, fertilizer, moth balls, and other such items?  Residents of the Quinnipiack Valley Health District can bring these products to HazWaste Central, located at the central office of the Regional Water Authority, 90 Sargent Drive in New Haven.  This facility is for residential waste only. It is open on Saturday mornings, 9:00 a.m. until noon, from mid-May through the end of October. It’s quick, easy and free. You don’t even have to exit your car. The HazWaste Central website lists the kind of items you can bring there. Items you cannot bring there include: radioactives, explosive material, pathological/medical waste, compressed gas, polychlorinated biphenyl’s, controlled substances, unknown substances, ammunition, waste from generators and business waste.  HazWaste Central can answer questions for you about other items.  Call 203 401-2712 or visit their website, HazWaste Central also notes trying these other resources. For batteries: 1-800-BATTERY or; for Compact Fluorescent light bulbs: 1-800-CLEANUP or; for paint: There are also local hardware stores that participate in take-back of waste paints. Call your local store first to see if they participate.   

WELL OWNERS, PAY ATTENTION! Although your water does not come from public collection sources, you must exercise the same caution with indiscriminate dumping of wastes on your property.  You do not know the underground pathways in which your water collects. Improperly disposed of waste in your neighborhood may end up in your well or your neighbor’s well.  Well owners should maintain a routine testing schedule to be sure your water quality is safe.  Monitor your water for changes in color, odor, and cloudiness.  Signs of possible pollution may include a change in taste; an oily film on utensils or sudsing.  Quinnipiack Valley Health District, the local public health department serving Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge, can provide you with a list of state-approved testing laboratories.  For this list or for more information on drinking water, District residents can call QVHD, 203 248-4528, or request by email, You can also access the laboratory list at, approved laboratories.