Stormwater and Illicit Discharge

What is Illicit Discharge?

Illicit discharge, or illegal dumping is a hazard for the community and a drain on public tax dollars. Illicit discharge harms local water quality and wildlife and hinders public drainage systems by increasing stress, demand, and maintenance costs.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines an illicit discharge as any discharge into a storm drain system that is not composed entirely of stormwater. Stormdrains and ditches are only designed to convey stormwater runoff, and there is no treatment facility between the street and the end destination – a lake, stream, or wetland. 

Examples of Illicit Discharge Include: 

  • Trash, furniture, or construction debris such as concrete mix or drywall mud.
  • Chemicals, paint, or water softener salt.
  • Grass/lawn clippings, bagged leaves from yards – these are “natural” yet become pollutants and drainage blockers, especially for downstream culverts and neighbors. 
  •  Mop bucket water, carpet cleaning water, or pool water.

What Can You Do?

Everyone has the potential to protect water and drainage systems from anywhere in Vadnais Heights, even if you can’t see a wetland or ditch from your home. Visit the Ramsey County A-Z Disposal Guide for more info on responsible disposal. Your help in planning ahead and leading by example is a community investment that pays off in the long run. 

What to look for to be an illicit discharge detective:

  • Residues, stains, odors, or unusual damage on street surfaces or around stormdrains.
  • Sediment running off of a construction site (this isn’t natural erosion).
  • Fowl smells gathered around outputs (natural algae or oils would be more widespread).
  • Water flowing in ditches or stormdrains when it hasn’t rained.
  • Pipes or hoses directed to stormdrains.
  • Piles of debris or trash in ditches, ponds, or wetlands.
  • Catching someone in the act. Kindly educate them by informing them that the drain leads directly to a waterbody. Many times people just aren’t aware.

Steps for reporting an illicit discharge event:

  1. Photograph. Document the substance that’s been dumped into a ditch, pond, or water conveyance system with a photo. (I.e. grass clippings, paint, automotive fluids, construction site run-off, cleaning substances, etc.). If a photo isn’t possible, note the substance or what you expect the substance to be.
  2. Think like a detective. Document the specific location with a street, cross street, or directions of the ditch or stormdrain in reference to the street/intersection. Note the day and time as well as any vehicle or license plate information.
  3. Call the City at 651-204-6000 to report. If you’re not sure if it’s illegal dumping but suspect it, staff will investigate to determine the nature of the problem. Staff will pursue remediation and clean-up as necessary. 
  4. Celebrate your success! Clean water is everyone’s business and responsibility. Reporting may seem difficult or intimidating, but all reports are made anonymously. Reporting an illicit discharge is the responsible thing to do for the community. 


City of Vadnais Heights - Environment Webpage
VLAWMO - Projects
Ramsey County A-Z Disposal Guide