Public Education and FAQs

Make the Connection

Tips for Reducing Stormwater Pollution

Throughout the 400 square mile watershed that supplies the Town of Billerica, many pollutants are routinely discharged into the environment through our roadway network and stormwater drainage system. Keeping the roadways and drainage system free from contaminants is a necessary step in protecting our water supply. Find out what you can do here.

Lawn Care, Yard Waste, & Leaf Litter

Lawns can contribute stormwater pollutants through fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Steps that homeowners can take to reduce stormwater pollution from lawns include:

  • Use fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides sparingly
  • Try using organic lawn care methods
  • Mow 2 to 3 inches high to encourage dense growth and deter weeds
  • Mulch lawn clippings and leaves
  • Do not over-water your lawn
  • Reduce lawn size by planting rock gardens, shrubs, and trees
  • Replant bare areas to stop erosion
  • Maintain native vegetation along streams and lakefronts

Grass clippings and leaves decompose and release phosphorus. To prevent increased levels in waterbodies (which cause fish kills and algae blooms), bag your grass clippings and leaf piles for curbside pickup. 

Fact Sheets
Billerica’s Yard Waste & Hazardous Waste Programs
Don’t Trash the Grass
Zero-Phosphorus Fertilizer
Fertilizing the Lawn
More information from MassDEP
More information from UMass Amherst
Leaf Litter
Billerica’s Trash & Recycling Programs

Pet Waste

Pet waste contains bacteria and parasites which can pollute our waterways if left out when it rains. Regularly pick up after your dog in public areas and your backyard before it washes into our waterways! Every time you walk your dog, bring a bag to pick up pet waste and dispose of it in a trash can. Never toss down a storm drain!

Fact Sheets
Pet Waste


Cars can pollute stormwater with gas, oil, antifreeze, metals, and detergents. Steps that car owners can take to reduce stormwater pollution from cars include:

  • Keep your car well maintained to prevent fluid leaks
  • Recycle motor oil, antifreeze, tires, and batteries
  • Use a commercial carwash or wash your car on the lawn using small amounts of low-phosphate detergents

Septic Systems

Septic systems may leak and pollute local waterways if not properly maintained. In extreme cases, your septic system could back up into your home. Take proper care to regularly maintain your systems to prevent these problems.

Fact Sheets
Septic System Maintenance
More information from EPA

Snow & Ice Management

Snow melt carries deicers into waterways. To help reduce the stormwater pollution during the winter:

  • Store chemicals in a dry place
  • Apply sparingly
  • Read the labels to choose those that are not toxic to plants or animals

Fact Sheets
MassDEP Road Salt Storage
Snow and Ice Management Strategies
DCR Salt Smarter

Businesses, Commercial Facilities, Institutions, and Industrial Facilities 

Businesses, commercial facilities, and institutions can play their part in protecting stormwater from pollution. See the fact sheets for tips on waste disposal and spill prevention.

Fact Sheets
Proper Waste Disposal
Billerica's Trash & Recycling Program
Industrial Spill Prevention

Developers and Contractors

Developers and contractors should pay special attention to erosion and sedimentation controls. See the fact sheets for tips.

Be sure to review the Town’s Stormwater Bylaws webpage for construction site and post-construction requirements specific to Billerica. 

Fact Sheets
Construction Stormwater Tips
Pollution Prevention for Small Construction Sites
A Community Guide to Growing Greener
Construction Site Tips

Additional Tips

Other tips to help clean up stormwater include:

  • Aim roof downspouts away from paved surfaces or into a rain
  • Don’t litter - instead recycle paper, cardboard, cans, plastic and glass
  • Start stream teams to help care for neighborhood streams
  • Coordinate neighborhood storm drain marking activities

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between the sanitary sewer system and the storm sewer system?

The sanitary sewer system is a network of pipes that carries wastewater from the toilets, sinks, and bathtubs/When It Rains It Drainsshowers in your house to the treatment plant, where the wastewater is cleaned before entering the Concord River.

The storm sewer system, or more commonly known as the storm drain, is a network of roadside ditches, gutters, and underground pipes that collects stormwater (water from rain and melting snow that flows over the ground) and carries it away from our streets, parking lots, and yards. Water enters the storm drain system through catch basin grates and exits through outfalls. Water that enters the storm drain is generally not treated, and discharges directly to the environment and local waterways.

What can I do to help clean up stormwater?

Billerica has a robust stormwater management program, and residents, businesses, schools, developers, and industrial facilities can all take part! The Town regularly distributes information about stormwater management, pollution prevention, and other best practices online, at public meetings, and in mailings.

Who should I contact if I see suspected stormwater pollution?

Article XXVI of the Town’s General By-Laws, “Bylaw Governing Discharges to the Municipal Storm Sewer System,” was adopted in 2007 to regulate illegal discharges, connections, and dumping to the Town’s drainage system. The By-law makes it illegal to put pollution such as pet waste, water from laundry, motor oil, antifreeze and other chemicals, paint, tree branches and leaves, soapy water, and litter/trash into the storm drain or into waterbodies. If you suspect someone is putting pollution into the storm drain system or into waterbodies, call the Billerica Stormwater Engineer at 978-671-1300 or the Board of Health at 978-671-0931. See the Town’s Stormwater Bylaws webpage for additional information.

Remember, when pet waste, leaves, or litter is thrown in catch basins, it can clog the drain pipes and lead to flooding, pollute our waterways, and harm the local wildlife.

Does stormwater pollution impact more than the environment?

Yes! Billerica’s drinking water comes from the Concord River, so it is crucial to reduce potential impacts to the river’s water quality from stormwater pollution. There are many ways you can help, whether you are a homeowner, renter, or business owner in Billerica. Check out the Public Education materials, and reach out to the Town’s Stormwater Engineer with any questions.

NMSC Concord River

Who will need a Stormwater Management Permit?

Article XXV of the Town’s General By-laws, “Stormwater Management By-Law," was adopted in 2007 to regulate construction site and post-construction runoff for activities impacting an acre or more. Associated Stormwater Management Regulations were adopted by the Board of Health in 2010 and updated to meet the General Permit requirements for construction and post-construction stormwater management.

The following activities will require a Stormwater Management Permit from the Billerica Board of Health:

  • Any Subdivision requiring a Definitive Plan; or
  • Any activity that results in a land disturbance one acre or greater within the Town of Billerica. A land disturbance means any action that causes vegetation clearing; or a change in the position, location, or arrangement of soil, sand, rock, gravel, or similar earth material; or
  • Any activity that results in a land disturbance less than one acre if the project is part of a larger common plan of development that eventually will disturb one acre or more within the Town of Billerica. This includes Approval Not Required under Subdivision (APR) lots.

Exemptions, such as maintenance of existing landscaping, are described in the bylaw. More information about this bylaw and the associated Regulations can be found on the Town’s Stormwater Bylaws webpage.