Illicit Discharge Detection & Elimination

What is an illicit discharge?


An illicit discharge or illegal discharge is any disposal, emptying, or dumping of any substance other than rainfall into the stormwater drainage system, including ditches or streams. The accidental spill or leak of substances such as car fluids, yard waste, or private sanitary sewer overflows is also considered an illicit discharge. 

The Stormwater Division detects and eliminates illicit discharges whenever possible. This is done with the help of citizen and City staff reporting. If you see anything suspicious around a storm drain, ditch, or stream please call the Stormwater Division line at (336) 222-5091 or fill out an online Fix it, Burlington! request and staff will respond within 24 hours of the initial report.

How do illicit discharges contribute to water pollution?

Rainwater that runs off hard surfaces, such as pavement and rooftops cannot soak into the ground and becomes stormwater runoff and empties into the nearest stream. As the stormwater flows over the ground, any substances, chemicals, or debris on the ground is carried by the stormwater and has the potential to end up in our streams, rivers, lakes, drinking water reservoirs, and even the ocean without any treatment whatsoever! 

What you can do to help the Stormwater Division keep our water clean:

1. Take a photo of the pipe and note whatever you see and smell. 

2. Report your observation as soon as possible by calling (336)222-5091 or fill out an online Fix it, Burlington! request. 

3. Share all the information with Stormwater staff for us to respond efficiently and safely. 

What happens after pollution is reported? 

  • Once the Stormwater Division receives report of illicit discharge, we investigate and find where the pollution is coming from. 
  • If it is a sewer overflow on City property or easement, we will work with Water Sewer Pipe Maintenance to stop the overflow. 
  • If the source is originating from private property or business, we will notify the owner that pollution is coming from their property and will have the chance to stop the pollution and fix the problem. 
  • The Clean Water Act makes illicit discharge illegal and if the violator repeatedly pollutes the water, they are subject to further enforcement actions.