Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stories about Getting to Clean Water: Stormwater Sleuths Solve the Mystery of the Putrid Pipe - Pullman’s hunt for the elusive, illicit discharge

By Diane Dent, Water Quality Stories Lead, Water Quality Program

Pullman stormwater outfall dye test
Dye testing to determine illicit connection of a sanitary sewer to a stormwater outfall.
Photo credit: Pullman Stormwater Services
The illicit stormwater discharge often lurks out of sight under a city’s buildings and streets. The challenge for cities, regulated under the state’s Municipal Stormwater Permit, is to locate and eliminate this pollution source.


In every city across the nation, mistakes happen during construction. After all, when you are connecting pipes underground they all pretty much look the same. But it is important to make sure the drains from sinks and toilets lead to the sanitary sewer and not the stormwater sewer. A misconnection could mean raw sewage going directly to a stream without treatment. An illicit discharge is any discharge to a stormwater system that is not composed entirely of stormwater.

City crews working on an infrastructure replacement project in Pullman’s downtown business district noticed “suspicious material”. The obviously illicit connection was traced back to a historic office building. A true team effort of private contractors and public staff was required to fully unravel the mystery.
  • To learn more about this illicit discharge, read this full story online
  • Story written by Elaine Snouwaert, Ecology Eastern Regional Office

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