We tend to forget about garbage. We pile it in bins and barrels, tie it up with string, or stack it as close to the curb as we can. But then that’s it. Unless it starts to stink or draw bees we pay it little mind as it sits there waiting to be picked up.

We also tend to think that if it’s our property, it doesn’t matter what we do with our waste. Not that we’re slobs, but so what if there’s no lid on the garbage can, right?

If that was all there was to it, maybe it would be fine, but things get more dicey when it rains. Stormwater, like a toilet, flushes no end of bad things from where we left them. Contaminants seep into yards, freshwater ecosystems, and groundwater supplies, triggering everything from foul smells to genuine health hazards.

West Windsor Township, in line with state Department of Environmental Protection regulations, is typical of many towns that have taken steps to lessen the effects of stormwater runoff where home and commercial garbage is concerned. It also just awarded a $466,193 contract to Waste Management Inc. to use biodiesel-powered trucks to pick up the town’s trash.

#b#Pet Waste#/b#. Dung is the original fertilizer, but not all droppings are created equal. Dog droppings left on the ground will, after seven days or so, become a brothel for roundworms. Leaving dog droppings on the sidewalk or on others’ lawns is not just rude, it is pollution. The township requires pet owners to pick up and properly dispose of pet waste dropped on public or other people’s property. It prevents fecal contamination from finding its way into local waterways.

#b#Litter#/b#. When what you have with you ceases to be useful, it is garbage. And as such it should go into a garbage can — not on the ground or on the steps or into the sewer grate. It is illegal in West Windsor to throw, drop, discard, or otherwise place litter of any kind onto public or private property. It is unsightly and unsanitary and, like pet wastes, could find its way into streambeds and waterways. Once there it can cause a host of problems.

#b#Waste Disposal#/b#. In a similar vein, it is illegal to dispose of waste in any place not specifically designated for the purpose of solid waste storage or disposal. This, again, is to prevent unsanitary conditions and groundwater pollution.

#b#Wildlife Feeding#/b#. People like to feed the ducks or leave scraps for squirrels. But wild animals are not pets. They are not tame and they carry any number of bacteria detrimental to human health. To feed wild animals also is to encourage them to hang around where a food supply will be easy pickings. This puts them close to humans, who could suffer serious health problems from direct contact, and close to roads, where humans zip by in fast-moving metal boxes. Feeding wildlife in any public park, deed-restricted area (like a preserved open space), or on any other piece of township property is prohibited. The law itself is in response to health concerns regarding bacteria harmful to humans and fish populations, but it also heads off contact between people and untamed (and unpredictable) animals.

#b#Yard Waste#/b#. Generally speaking, leaves and bits of cut grass are good for the ground. But yard waste is often coated with chemicals that help the grass grow greener or keep pests from building homes in your trees. These things are not supposed to be in the sewer, but a lot of that stuff ends up there after a storm. Dispose of yard waste the proper way — by setting it out on designated collection days and by dropping it off where yard waste is collected (see Interchange, January 19, 2011).

#b#Illicit Connections#/b#. Sewers are not meant to be catch basins. It is illegal in West Windsor to connect any pipe or device to the municipal storm sewer system, or to spill or dump any material other than stormwater runoff or groundwater (sump pumps) into the system.

#b#Refuse Containers and Dumpsters#/b#. West Windsor has a tremendous number of business parks, and where there are business parks there are large trash containers. What you might not know if you work in one of these office parks is that the lids are supposed to be closed or covered at all times. It is common for the lids of large trash containers to be left open (if they are the old-style metal lids, they are heavy, and if they are the newer plastic lids they are just unwieldy). But leaving huge amounts of refuse open to the elements invites trouble. Water that collects in these bins can get stagnant and breed pests; and if there are any leaks to the containers themselves, liquids, semi-liquids, and solids can flush their way right into the storm sewer system.

#b#Private Storm Drain Inlets#/b#. Some business parks (such as Carnegie Center) are connected by streets the township has nothing to do with. Boston Properties, as the owner of Carnegie Center, for example, collects its own trash and clears the snow that lands there. In such places, storm drains in the street or embedded in a curb that come into direct contact with repaving, repairing, reconstruction, resurfacing, or alterations of facilities on private property, must be be retrofitted to keep trash from getting into the sewer system.

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