Community Development

Best Management Practices

Stormwater Program

Municipalities in the Los Angeles area are required by federal regulations to develop programs to control the discharge of pollutants into the storm drain system, including the discharge of pollutants from construction sites and areas of new development or significant redevelopment. As a result, your development and construction projects may be subject to new requirements designed to improve stormwater quality such as expanded plan check and review, new contract specifications, and increased site inspection.

General Practices

The following are some general principles that can significantly reduce pollution from construction activity and help make compliance with stormwater regulations easy:

  • Identify all storm drains, drainage swales and creeks located near the construction site and make sure all subcontractors are aware of their locations to prevent pollutants from entering them.
  • Clean up leaks, drips, and other spills immediately so they do not contact stormwater.
  • Refuel vehicles and heavy equipment in one designated location on the site and take care to clean up spills immediately.
  • Wash vehicles at an appropriate off-site facility If equipment must be washed on-site, do not use soaps, solvents, degreasers, or steam cleaning equipment, and prevent wash water from entering the storm drain. If possible, direct wash water to a low point where it can evaporate and/or infiltrate.
  • Never wash down pavement or surfaces where materials have spilled. Use dry cleanup methods whenever possible.
  • Avoid contaminating clean runoff from areas adjacent to your site by using berms and/or temporary or permanent drainage ditches to divert water flow around the site. Reduce stormwater runoff velocities by constructing temporary check dams and/or berms where appropriate.
  • Protect all storm drain inlets using filter fabric cloth or other best management practices to prevent sediments from entering the storm drainage system during construction activities.
  • Keep materials out of the rain - prevent runoff pollution at the source. Schedule clearing or heavy earth moving activities for periods of dry weather. Cover exposed piles of soil, construction materials and wastes with plastic sheeting or temporary roofs. Before it rains, sweep and remove materials from surfaces that drain to storm drains, creeks, or channels.
  • Keep pollutants off exposed surfaces Place trash cans around the site to reduce litter. Dispose of non-hazardous construction wastes in covered dumpsters or recycling receptacles.
  • Practice source reduction reduces waste by ordering only the amount you need to finish the job.
  • Do not over-apply pesticides or fertilizers and follow manufacturers instructions for mixing and applying materials.
  • Recycle leftover materials whenever possible. Materials such as concrete, asphalt, scrap metal, solvents, degreasers, cleared vegetation, paper, rock, and vehicle maintenance materials such as used oil, antifreeze, batteries, and tires are recyclable.
  • Dispose of all wastes properly Materials that cannot be reused or recycled must be taken to an appropriate landfill or disposed of as hazardous waste. Never throw debris into channels, creeks or into wetland areas. Never store or leave debris in the street or near a creek where it may contact runoff.
  • Illegal dumping is a violation subject to a fine and/or time in jail. Be sure that trailers carrying your materials are covered during transit. If not, the hauler may be cited and fined.
  • Train your employees and inform subcontractors about the stormwater requirements and their own responsibilities.

Following is a summary of specific best management practices for erosion and sediment control and contractor activities. For more information on erosion and sediment control BMPs and their design, please refer to the California Storm Water Best Management Practice Handbook for Construction Activity (March 1993).

Soil erosion is the process by which soil particles are removed from the land surface, by wind, water and/or gravity. Soil particles removed by stormwater runoff are pollutants that when deposited in local creeks, lakes, and the Pacific Ocean, can have negative impacts on aquatic habitat. Exposed soil after clearing, grading, or excavation is easily eroded by wind or water.

The following practices will help prevent erosion from occurring on the construction site:

  • Plan the development to fit the topography, soils, drainage pattern and natural vegetation of the site.
  • Delineate clearing limits, easements, setbacks, sensitive or critical areas, trees, drainage courses, and buffer zones to prevent excessive or unnecessary disturbances and exposure.
  • Phase grading operations to reduce disturbed areas and time of exposure.
  • Avoid excavation and grading during wet weather.
  • Limit on-site construction routes and stabilize construction entrance(s).
  • Remove existing vegetation only when absolutely necessary.
  • Construct diversion dikes and drainage swales to channel runoff around the site.
  • Use berms and drainage ditches to divert runoff around exposed areas. Place diversion ditches across the top of cut slopes.
  • Clean up spills immediately after they happen.
  • When vehicle fluids or materials such as paints or solvents are spilled, cleanup should be immediate, automatic, and routine.
  • Sweep up spilled dry materials (e.g., cement, mortar, or fertilizer) immediately. Never attempt to "wash them away" with water, or bury them. Use only minimal water for dust control.
  • Clean up liquid spills on paved or impermeable surfaces using "dry" cleanup methods (e.g., absorbent materials like cat litter, sand or rags).
  • Clean up spills on dirt areas by digging up and properly disposing of the contaminated soil.
  • Clean up spills on dirt areas by removing contaminated soil.
  • Report significant spills to the appropriate spill response agencies immediately (See reference list on the back cover of this booklet for more information).

Note: Used cleanup rags that have absorbed hazardous materials must either be sent to a certified industrial laundry or dry cleaner or disposed of through a licensed hazardous waste disposal company.

  • Wet and dry building materials with the potential to pollute runoff should be stored under cover and/or surrounded by berms when rain is forecast or during wet weather.
  • Store stockpiled materials and wastes under a temporary roof or secured plastic sheeting or tarp.
  • Berm around storage areas to prevent contact with runoff.
  • Plaster or other powders can create large quantities of suspended solids in runoff, which may be toxic to aquatic life and cause serious environmental harm even if the materials are inert. Store all such potentially polluting dry materials —especially open bags—under a temporary roof or inside a building, or cover securely with an impermeable tarp. By storing dry materials under a roof, you may also help protect air quality, as well as water quality. Store building materials under cover. Make sure dumpsters are properly covered to keep out rain.
  • Store containers of paints, chemicals, solvents, and other hazardous materials in accordance with secondary containment regulations and under cover during rainy periods.
  • Open or leaking dumpsters can be a source of stormwater pollution.
  • Cover open dumpsters with plastic sheeting or a tarp during rainy weather. Secure the sheeting or tarp around the outside of the dumpster. If your dumpster has a cover, close it.
  • If a dumpster is leaking, contain and collect leaking material. Return the dumpster to the leasing company for repair/exchange.
  • Do not clean dumpsters on-site. Return to leasing company for periodic cleaning, if necessary.
  • Paint removal wastes include chemical paint stripping residues, paint chips and dust, sandblasting material and wash water. These wastes contain chemicals that are harmful to the wildlife in our creeks and the water bodies they flow to. Keep all paint wastes away from the gutter, street, and storm drains.
  • Non-hazardous paint chips and dust from dry stripping and sandblasting may be swept up or collected in plastic drop cloths and disposed of as trash. Chemical paint stripping residue and chips and dust from marine paints or paints containing lead or tributyl tin must be disposed of as a hazardous waste.
  • When stripping or cleaning building exteriors with high-pressure water, cover or berm storm drain inlets. If possible (and allowed by your local wastewater treatment plant), collect (mop or vacuum) building cleaning water and discharge to the sanitary sewer. Alternatively, discharge non-contaminated wash water onto a dirt area and spade into the soil. Be sure to shovel or sweep up any debris that remains in the gutter and dispose of as garbage.
  • Although many paint materials can and should be recycled, liquid residues from paints, thinners, solvents, glues, and cleaning fluids are hazardous wastes. When they are thoroughly dry, empty paint cans, used brushes, rags, absorbent materials, and drop cloths are no longer hazardous and may be disposed of as garbage.
  • Never clean brushes or rinse paint containers into a street, gutter, storm drain, or creek.
  • For water-based paints, paint out brushes to the extent possible and rinse to a drain leading to the sanitary sewer (i.e., indoor plumbing).
  • For oil-based paints, clean out paint from brushes to the extent possible, and filter and reuse thinners and solvents. Dispose of unusable thinners and residue as hazardous waste.
  • Recycle, return to supplier or donate unwanted water-based (latex) paint. You may be able to recycle clean empty dry paint cans as metal.
  • Dried latex paint may be disposed of in the garbage.
  • Unwanted paint (that is not recycled), thinners, and sludge must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • More and more paint companies are recycling excess latex paint.
  • Concrete and cement-related mortars that wash into gutters and storm drains are toxic to fish and the aquatic environment.
  • Avoid mixing excess amounts of fresh concrete or cement mortar on-site.
  • Store dry and wet materials under cover, protected from rainfall and runoff.
  • Wash out concrete transit mixers only in designated washout areas where the water will flow into settling ponds or onto dirt or stockpiles of aggregate base or sand. Pump water from settling ponds to the sanitary sewer, where allowed. Whenever possible, recycle washout by pumping back into mixers for reuse. Never dispose of washout into the street, storm drains, drainage ditches, or creeks.
  • Whenever possible, return contents of mixer barrel to the yard for recycling. Dispose of small amounts of excess concrete, grout, and mortar in the trash.
  • Cleared vegetation, tree trimmings, and other plant material can cause environmental damage if it gets into creeks. Such "organic" material requires large quantities of oxygen to decompose, which reduces the oxygen available to fish and other aquatic life.
  • Do not dispose of plant material in a creek or drainage facility or leave it in a roadway where it can clog storm drain inlets.
  • Avoid disposal of plant material in trash dumpsters or mixing it with other wastes. Compost plant material or take it to a landfill or other facility that composts yard waste.
  • Recycle yard waste and tree pruning at a landfill that chips and composts plant material.
  • Make sure all demolition waste is properly disposed.
  • Demolition debris that is left in the street or pushed over a bank into a creek bed or drainage facility causes serious problems for flood control, storm drain maintenance, and the health of our environment. Different types of materials have different disposal requirements or recycling options.
  • Materials that can be recycled from demolition projects include: metal framing, wood, concrete, asphalt, and plate glass.
  • Materials that can be salvaged for reuse from old structures include: doors, banisters, floorboards, windows, 2x4s, and other old, dense lumber.
  • Unusable, un-recyclable debris should be confined to dumpsters, covered at night and during wet weather, and taken to a landfill for disposal.
  • Hazardous debris such as asbestos must be handled in accordance with specific laws and regulations and disposed of as hazardous waste. For more information on asbestos handling and disposal regulations, contact the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
  • Arrange for an adequate debris disposal schedule to insure that dumpsters do not overflow.

You are required by law to report all significant releases or suspected significant releases of hazardous materials including oil.

To report a spill, call the following agencies:

  • Dial 911
  • County of Los Angeles Hotline (800) 303-0003
  • Governor's Office of Emergency Services Warning Center (800) 852-7550 (24 hours).
  • For spills of 'Federal Reportable Quantities' of oil, chemicals, or other hazardous materials to land, air, or water, notify the National Response Center (800) 424-8802.
  • If you are not sure whether the spill is of a 'reportable quantity,' call the federal Environmental Protection Agency (800) 424-9346 for clarification.
  • For further information, see State Office of Emergency Services, Hazardous Materials Division's California Hazardous Material Spill Release Notification Guidance.

Agencies to call if you find or suspect contaminated soil or groundwater:

  • Regional Water Quality Control Board Los Angeles Basin (213) 266-7500
  • California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) (510) 540-3732

Documents and resources are available from:

  • State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) (916) 341-5250
  • Cal EPADTSC (916) 322-3670
  • General Construction Activity Storm Water Permit
  • California Storm Water Best Management Practice Handbook Construction Activity
  • Waste Minimization for the Building Construction Industry Fact Sheet
  • Additional information regarding Development Services call (562) 570-6651
  • For City of Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau (562) 570-2876, special pick-up.