Durham County

It was just ketchup, but condiment or not, it should not go down the storm drain.

In Durham, water that runs into storm drains goes directly to a creek or stream. In this February file photo, water pools on Nutbush Court in Hillsborough. The town has identified Cornwallis Hills as one of the priority areas for stormwater work.
In Durham, water that runs into storm drains goes directly to a creek or stream. In this February file photo, water pools on Nutbush Court in Hillsborough. The town has identified Cornwallis Hills as one of the priority areas for stormwater work. Submitted

Imagine you are at a street festival in Durham and that coffee or soda you purchased is not what you expected. How do you dispose of the unwanted drink properly?

Whatever you do, do not pour it down a storm drain.

“Our ordinance says that we do not allow anything but pure rain water to go down the drain,” said Emily Rhode, pollution prevention coordinator for Stormwater and GIS Services.

Everything poured down a storm drain goes into a stream or creek, and may harm aquatic life or water quality, Rhode added.

Even ketchup.

On Tuesday, the stormwater department tweeted out a photo of a ketchup spill running into a storm drain on Chapel Hill Street. A city crew took the picture and sent it to Rhode, who runs the Twitter site. She sent the picture as a “light-hearted awareness message about things that go down our storm drains.”

The tweet requested that readers “help us ketchup with the person(s) responsible for this spill ....”

“Even though it was just ketchup, we do want to encourage people to not allow anything to go down the storm system,” Rhode said.

The culprit was never caught, but a crew cleaned up the ketchup spill. For cleaning such spills, an absorbent, dry substance like cat litter is recommended, Rhode said.

When the city has to flush lines, the hose has a device that takes the chlorine out of the water, thereby not hurting streams or creeks, Rhode said.

About that unwanted drink: Rhode said the preferred way to dispose of it is in a sink connected to a sewer line. If you see anyone dumping any liquid or object into a storm drain, call the stormwater hotline at 919-560-SWIM (7946).

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

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