What to do about storm drain clogging

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Be it a gentle mist or the much more dreaded rain that is coming at you sideways that makes you scared to leave the house rain is a fact of life in Vancouver. You do your part to keep your home dry during rainstorms. If your gutters are clean and well maintained your home should be dry. They will move water away from your property and into the street. Here it meets rain gardens and storm sewers maintained by the city.

Usually they will be in good shape. Sometimes they can get blocked by debris like leaves that litter the streets during the fall and that water begins to pool. Storm drains can clog creating havoc for the homeowners nearby. If the water has nowhere to go it can damage your property.

Storm drains are the grates you see throughout streets and gutters. They are in place to drain water. Sometimes they are also called catch basins. Water drains from the grates into the stormwater or sewer system. They may drain directly into lakes, rivers, creeks, streams or the ocean so it is important to keep garbage and contaminants out of storm drains. When it rains water and anything swept up in it enters the drains.

Storm drains clog when objects enter the drains and block them or when debris piles up over top of the grate. The bars in the grates are spaced far enough apart that water can easily flow into them. They are meant to prevent large objects from going into the drain but don’t keep out smaller objects. When the storm drains are clogged by leaves, garbage or other debris water can’t drain through them. It pools on the street causing a pond to form or localized flooding.

It is in your best interest to keep storm drains clean and clear. Taking responsibility for the curb in front or your property and nearby drains can help prevent debris from collecting. Sweep or rake in front of your home. Collect leaves when they are dropping during the fall. Remove twigs and other debris. Place this in your compost bin. Remove any debris that has collected in and around your nearest grates. Pick up litter. When doing yard work don’t blow, sweep or rake leaves or grass into the street.

Only clean what is on the surface above the grate. You can always check the grates when there is heavy rainfall in the weather forecast.

If you notice a storm drain clogging during a storm call the city and notify them of the problem. Watch the situation and let your neighbours know about it. If the clog is caused by leaves or debris over the grate you can try to clear these yourself as long as conditions are safe. If the water is running quickly it may be unsafe to clear the drain yourself.

Picking up garbage, leaves, grass clipping and anything else in the street that might block drains is best done before a storm hits. Be proactive. Glance at your drain when you are walking down the street as you return to or leave your home.

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