Painters products (paints, stains, solvents, varnishes, adhesives, paint removers) and processes (preparation, painting, and clean-up) can introduce pollutants into our local creeks.  If spilled or disposed of improperly, these materials can be harmful to water quality and creek habitats.

Products labeled “nontoxic” and “biodegradable” can still harm wildlife if they enter the storm drain system. These products are prohibited discharges to the storm drain system.

How are the Storm Drain and Sanitary Sewer Systems Different?

The storm drain system transports rainwater to local creeks, rivers, and the ocean. This system was created to prevent flooding within communities and homes.

All water and materials that enter the storm drain system are untreated.

The sanitary sewer is a plumbed system that transports used water from buildings to a wastewater collection and treatment facility, where the water and sewage is treated.

If you see an outdoor drain and are unsure of its use, assume it is a storm drain and do not discharge wash water to it.

Clean creeks are important. They provide vital fish habitat, recreation, and add to the beauty of our city.

Job Preparation

  • Check the weather; avoid work outdoors if rain or high wind is forecasted.
  • When transporting paint, make sure containers are securely tied in the vehicle to prevent costly spills on the roadway.
  • Be prepared: Have materials on hand to contain spills. This may include materials such as a squeegee, dustpan, large bucket, rag, storm drain inlet protection, or a wet/dry vac to collect the runoff from rinsing down any spill area.
  • Set-up and operate on tarps or drop cloths for easier clean-up of spilled material, including areas for paint preparation and storage, painting, and clean-up.

Paint/Surface Preparation

  • Paint stripped with any chemical must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Process water and paint stripped by a power-washer must be collected in a tank and strained/filtered to remove all paint chips prior to disposal to the sanitary sewer.
  • When Power Washing any surface, refer to the “Power Washer Guidelines” document and/or your local municipality for regulatory compliance requirements.
  • Lead based paints (or paint applied prior to 1972) are considered hazardous materials and require special permitted procedures.
  • Paint chips and dust from non-hazardous dry stripping and sand blasting must be swept up and disposed of as trash.
  • Chips and dust from marine paints or paint containing lead or tributyl tin are hazardous wastes; dry sweep and contact your local
    County administered Household Hazardous Waste program for requirements.

Painting and Refinishing

  • Measure the room so that you purchase the correct amount of paint.
  • Choose water-based paint or stain over oil-based when possible.
  • Keep paint sealed to prevent spills.
  • Keep unused paint in original containers. Do not remove labels.

Clean Up

  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Use dry cleanup methods only for spilled materials (i.e. towels, rags, shop vac).
  • Use up all paint in your brush or roller by brushing or rolling it onto newspaper (ready for trash when dry).
  • Water-based paints, brushes, rollers, and spray equipment can be cleaned in a bucket or sink and discharged to the sanitary sewer.
  • Oil-based paints and solvent cleaners must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Contact your local County administered Household Hazardous Waste program for requirements.
  • Cover and protect unused or left-over paint.
  • Reuse paint thinner by setting thinner aside in a closed jar to settle out paint particles, and then pour off clear liquid for future use.  Dispose of residue as hazardous waste.
  • Recycle empty and dried-out water-based paint cans.

Paint Disposal

There are three options for residents to properly dispose of paint:

  • The Household Toxics Facility,
  • Community Toxics Collections and
  • Toxic Rover Pickup service.

For more information, contact your local County administered Household Hazardous Waste program for requirements.

Releasing pollutants into the storm drain system or a waterway is prohibited by local ordinance, state, and federal law.

For an emergency or a spill involving hazardous materials or hazardous waste call 911 or your local Fire Department.

For All Non-Emergency / Non-Hazardous Spills

To report a Non-Hazardous spill, or for other useful phone numbers, see Spill Numbers informational reference sheet for your local agency contact information or visit:

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