Why are they bad for water quality?

Industrial businesses and automobiles release heavy metals, like copper and zinc, into the air which land on hard surfaces, are dissolved in storm water and ultimately carried to the nearest waterbody. Because dissolved metals are hard to see in the water, they are often not thought of as a pollutant by many people. However, these metals accumulate in the environment and many have impacts on aquatic ecosystems for years to come.

What can we do to reduce or prevent metals from reaching our waterways?

Wash your car on the grass or at a car wash. The grass will filter the metals and other debris that come off the car while washing and won’t go directly to the street and into the storm drain. Car washes recycle the water and remove the metals and other debris from the wash water after which the debris is properly disposed.
Keep your car maintained regularly to prevent your exhaust from becoming heavily polluted. Efficient combustion and a properly maintained system will use less fluids and emit fewer pollutants.
Rideshare. Try carpooling instead of driving alone. This cuts down on the number of cars on the road and decreases the amount of pollutants entering the air and water. For more information, call Ridelink at 619-237-POOL or visit
Link your trips. When running errands, try to find a way to link all your stops, so you can cut down on your driving time and pollute less. Half of the pollution your car creates happens when you start the car.
Report smoking vehicles. The San Diego Air Pollution Control District and the California Highway Patrol have created a project to reduce air pollution, but need your help. If you see a smoking or gross polluting vehicle, simply call 1-800-28-SMOKE or #SMOG from your cell phone and report it to the dispatcher. Some general information  (54 KB) will be needed at the time of your call.

What do the laws say about metals?

While none of the above tips are mandatory, by voluntarily reducing pollution, we can prevent the government from creating more stringent laws.

Report any water running in the street when it is not raining or someone dumping something in the storm drain or curb and gutter by calling the
Urban Runoff Hotline at 760-435-4500.