Storm Water

The City of Northville is located within the Rouge River watershed. Northville is committed to protecting the water courses within and downstream of the community. The following information can be used as a guide to help the residents and commercial businesses of Northville properly manage their storm water runoff.

Related Links:
Our Water System
Water System Q&As 

What is a watershed? 
A watershed is another word for a river basin. It is all the land that drains to a common body of water, such as a river, lake, or stream. The City of Northville is part of the Rouge River Watershed.

What is stormwater?
Stormwater is the rainfall or snowmelt that flows over our yards, streets, parking lots, and buildings and either enters the storm drain system or runs directly into a lake or stream.

What is a storm drain?
Storm drains are the openings you see along curbs and in streets and parking lots. They carry away rainwater and snowmelt and transport it through the system to nearby lakes and streams. Water and other debris that enter storm drains do not go to a treatment facility.

What is a sanitary sewer?
A sanitary sewer takes household water and waste from toilets, sinks and showers, and transports it to a wastewater treatment facility. There, the water is treated and then discharged back to a river, lake, or stream.

How does stormwater get polluted?
As stormwater flows over our lawns and driveways, it picks up fertilizers, oil, chemicals, grass clippings, litter, pet waste, and anything else in its path. The storm drain system then transports these pollutants, now in the water, to local lakes and streams. Anything that goes into a storm drain eventually ends up in a river, lake, or stream.
Advantages to Keeping up your Lawn and Garden
Environmental tips
When landscaping your yard, choose plants that are native to Michigan and use good lawn-care practices to help prevent pollution of our lakes and streams.

Good lawn care practices:
  • Mow high – Make your lawn easier to maintain by mowing to a height of three inches. Taller grass requires less water, promotes root growth, and shades out weeds.
  • Select earth-friendly fertilizers – Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release nitrogen and low or no phosphorus 
  • Sweep up fertilizer – Don't leave fertilizer on the pavement, where it will likely get washed into the storm drain. Instead, sweep that fertilizer back onto the lawn.
  • Use mulch - Place a thick layer of mulch (e.g., four inches) around trees and plants. This helps retain water, reduce weeds, and minimize the need for pesticides.
  • Go native – Select plants native to Michigan. Native plants can tolerate Michigan's climate better than non-native plants, plus they require less fertilizing and are more disease -resistant.

  • A sampling of plants native to Michigan
    • Black-eyed Susan, coral bells, purple coneflower, and columbine
    • Blueberry and raspberry bushes
    • Christmas, Lady, and Maidenhair ferns
    • Black walnut, hickory, Douglas fir, and white pine trees

    All can be found in local nurseries and greenhouses.

  • Variety – Using a wide range of plants helps control pests and minimizes the need for pesticides.
  • Water wisely – Generally, your lawn needs about an inch of water a week. Over-watering lawns results in shallow-rooted plants that are less tolerant of heat and drought, and more prone to disease. Avoid over-watering by using a rain gauge and watering only when necessary instead of on a fixed schedule.
  • Use less pesticides and herbicides – These chemical mixtures can be harmful to children, pets and the environment. Use them sparingly. Limit applications to problem areas instead of applying to the entire area (e.g., weed and feed).
  • Rake it or leave it. Follow the guidelines in your community for leaf pick-up. Never rake leaves into or near storm drains, ditches, or streams. Decaying leaves use up the water's oxygen, harming fish and the aquatic insects that fish depend on to survive. Better yet, mulch leaves as you cut your lawn. Leaves and grass clippings are good fertilizers for your lawn.
Vehicle Care
With more than  four million vehicles in Southeast Michigan, practicing good car care keeps harmful cleaning products and motor fluid out of our lakes and streams.

Storm drains and roadside ditches lead to our lakes and streams. If motor fluids or dirty water from washing cars are drained or dumped into these portals, it ends up polluting our local waterways.

Follow these tips for a clean, well-running vehicle that also protects our lakes and streams.
  • Use car washes – Car wash facilities treat their dirty water before discharging it to our lakes and streams. 
  • DIY car wash – If you do wash your car at home, direct the water toward the  grass rather than the storm drain. 
  • Minimize use of soap – By using less soap in your washing bucket, there's less chance of detergent or regular soap getting into the storm drain. When you need to replenish the soap in your bucket, pour it down your household drain rather than the storm sewer. 
  • Maintain your vehicle – Keep your vehicle properly tuned. Use the owner’s manual to guide decisions about how often you need to change fluids such as oil and antifreeze.
  • Use a car shop for oil changes – It's generally cleaner for the environment if you take your vehicle to the shop to have the oil and other fluids changed. These businesses can recycle the used materials and clean up accidental spills. 
  • DIY  and recycle – If you choose to change your vehicle's oil and other fluids yourself, label the waste containers. Then, take them to a Household Hazardous Waste collection day or a business that accepts used oil. Never dump used oil, antifreeze, or other fluids on the ground or down the storm drain.
  • Soak it up. Use kitty litter promptly to absorb small amounts of spilled vehicle fluids. Then sweep it into a bag and throw it in the trash. Perform vehicle maintenance in a well-ventilated but covered location (e.g., garage). This minimizes rainfall from washing any spills into the water ways.
Septic System Maintenance
Most homes in Northville are connected to a sanitary sewer that transports wastewater from the home to a wastewater treatment plant. Homes that are not connected to a sanitary sewer have septic systems buried in their yards. When properly designed and maintained, these systems allow natural processes to trap the solids, treat the wastewater and safely reintroduce the purified wastewater into the environment. However, overuse, misuse and poor maintenance of household septic systems fail.

Septic systems don’t last forever; the average life span of a working septic system is 20 years. Clogged and leaking septic systems can back up into home.  Eventually, the untreated wastewater and sewage saturates the soil in the residential yard and often leaks into adjacent properties, ditches and streams. If your system is old or showing signs of problems, please get it checked out by a professional. 

If you have any questions, contact the Public Works department.
Pet Care

Most of us pick up after our pets to be a good neighbor and to keep our yard clean. But there's another important reason. Pet waste contains bacteria that is harmful to us and our water. Leaving it on the sidewalk or lawn means harmful bacteria will be transported into the storm drains and then into our lakes and streams.

  • Dispose of pet waste promptly and properly. Whether it's in your yard or on a walkway, put your pet's waste in the trash or down the toilet where it will be properly treated. When pet waste is left behind, it washes into storm drains and ditches. From there it heads straight to your local lakes and streams, taking harmful bacteria with it.
  • Don't feed ducks and geese. Feeding waterfowl causes them to become dependent on humans. This, in turn, creates unnaturally high populations and problems in our parks and lakes. Waterfowl waste can pollute our water with harmful bacteria.
  • Work cooperatively with your local government to install signs, bag dispensers, and trash cans in convenient public places to remind visitors to clean up after their pets.

Household Hazardous Waste
Carefully store and dispose of household cleaners, chemicals, and oils. Antifreeze, household cleaners, gasoline, pesticides, oil paints, solvents, and motor oil are just some of the common household products that can enter our storm drains. Instead of putting these items in the trash, down the storm drain or on the ground, take them to a local hazardous waste center or mark your calendar for the next Household Hazardous Waste event in Northville, Wayne County or Oakland County. Surrounding communities often allow neighboring residents to recycle these harmful materials at their Household Hazardous Waste events.

Here are some simple steps you can take to carefully dispose of household wastes.

Identify it – Be aware of household products that can harm children, pets, and the environment. The words "danger," "caution," "warning," or "toxic" indicate that you need to be careful in how you use and dispose of the product.

Less is more – Reduce waste and save money by purchasing only the materials you need. When possible, choose less toxic alternatives. For example, try cleaning your windows with vinegar and water.

• Store properly – Keep unused products in their original containers with labels intact. Select cool, dry storage areas that are away from children, pets, and wildlife.

Disposal is key – Never dump motor oil, chemicals, and other toxic materials down storm drains, sinks, or on the ground.

• RV maintenance – Dispose of recreational vehicle sanitary waste at a nearby drop-off location. Never put it down a storm drain or roadside ditch.

Click here for dates and locations of Household Hazardous Waste events for Northville residents

Illicit Connection and Discharge Elimination
Northville’s Illicit Discharge Elimination Plan has identified storm outfalls to the Rouge River and tributaries. Illicit discharges and connections are investigated as identified though reported concerns and regular inspections. 

An illicit discharge is any discharge of polluting material into a storm sewer, river, stream or other waterway.

An illicit connection is an improper physical connection of illicit discharges to the storm water drainage system. Examples include: a floor drain that is connected to storm drain rather than a sanitary sewer, a septic tank discharge pipe that is connected to a storm drain or drains directly to a waterway or an improper connection between a storm sewer and sanitary sewer.

The City encourages citizens to report any suspicious observations that may affect our waterways in negative ways. Please contact one of the agencies listed in this section to report and/or ask questions regarding any of the following topics: 
  1. leaking septic systems
  2. suspicious dumping – commercial, residential yard wastes, oil & antifreeze car wastes, animal wastes and/or other wastes
  3. dead or stressed fish or animals
  4. sedimentation
  5. unusual or suspicious discharge in a catch basin or waterway
  6. runoff from storage piles
  7. illegal pumping from waterways
Contact Numbers:
Northville Fire Department - 248-449-9920
Oakland County 24-Hour Environmental Hotline - 248-858-0931
Wayne County Complaint Investigations/24-Hour Hotline - 888-223-2363


Riparian Corridor Management

image of a streamRiparian zones (areas adjacent to lakes, streams and rivers) have the capacity to buffer rivers and other waters from non-point source runoff from agricultural, urban or other land uses. Healthy riparian zones can absorb sediments, chemical nutrients and other substances contained in nonpoint source runoff. They also provide for aquifer recharge, diverse habitats and water storage and release. A healthy, functioning riparian area and associated uplands dramatically increase benefits such as fish and wildlife habitat, erosion control, forage, late season stream flow, and water quality. Management decisions must be designed with these processes in mind.

Riparian Corridor Management (RCM) is a system that allows for the protection of water resources while still allowing sustainable mixed use of surrounding riparian area. It is a combination of techniques that protect and may even improve water quality and biodiversity. These techniques include, but are not limited to:
  1. River-friendly lawn care
  2. Riparian buffer zones
  3. Streambank stabilization
  4. Woody debris management
  5. River maintenance
To learn more about how to use RCM techniques, contact Wayne County Department of Environment at 734-326-3936. This brochure contains illustrations and explains more about Riparian Corridor Management.


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