Reporting Illicit Discharges

Answers to common questions about illicit discharges.

Last updated Aug. 04, 2016 - 8:28 am
Common illicit discharges include (left to right) leaking dumpsters, spilled paint, leaking sanitary sewer clean outs, and detergents.

Illicit discharges cause water pollution by sending pollutants right into creeks, streams, ponds, and lakes. Be sure you know what illicit discharges are so you can help prevent water pollution and keep our streams clean!

See what the Sodfather has to say about keeping our streams clean.

Report Illicit Discharges

Prevent water pollution. Call the Water Pollution Helpline at 919-996-3940 (Monday through Friday 8:30am - 5:15pm) or email us at to report an illicit discharge or any type of water pollution in our streams or stormwater inlets. In case of emergencies, call 911.

What is an illicit discharge?

An illicit discharge is an unlawful act of disposing, dumping, spilling, emitting, or other discharge of any substance other than stormwater into the stormwater drainage system. The stormwater drainage system includes streets, ditches, catch basins, yard inlets, lakes, and streams.

Below are some examples of illicit discharges:

  • Paint being poured into or near the storm drainage system
  • Changing oil or antifreeze over or near a storm structure
  • Washing vehicles where the runoff could drain into the storm drainage system
  • Washing dumpster pads and allowing the runoff to drain into the storm drainage system

What information should be reported when calling in an illicit discharge to the Water Pollution Hotline?

  1. What time did you see the discharge?
    It is important that illicit discharges are reported immediately so the person(s) responsible can be found and the discharge can be cleaned up and corrected as soon as possible. We want to respond as quickly as possible to prevent pollution to our environment.
  2. Where did you see the discharge?
    Please give us an address, intersection, business name, or landmark to help us quickly find the illicit discharge.
  3. What do you think the discharge is?
    Please let us know if you think it was a paint spill, oil spill, sewer leak, or another type of illicit discharge.
  4. Was there a business involved?
    Please tell us the name of the business involved to help us eliminate the discharge as quickly as possible and provide enforcement action when needed.

Is yard waste considered an illicit discharge?

Large amounts of yard waste can actually become harmful to our streams and creeks. Dumping yard waste into the storm drainage system can be considered a violation of Raleigh's Illicit Discharge Ordinance. However, if residents are collecting leaves together along their curb line for the seasonal leaf collection program, this is an exception. Other than the seasonal leaf collection program (which is only for residential neighborhoods), residents can have their yard waste collected in paper bags or clear plastic bags on their regular garbage and recycling collection day.

Where can used motor oil be thrown away?

When residents change their motor oil and perform other maintenance on their vehicles, none of that waste should be dumped into a storm drain because that is an illicit discharge and causes water pollution. Used motor oil can be taken to any auto parts store and their staff will take care of the used motor oil for you. The auto parts stores can accept motor oil in containers holding up to five gallons of motor oil.

Is trash in the creek considered an illicit discharge?

Periodically, reports of large amounts of trash or debris in a creek are called in to the Water Pollution Helpline, (919-996-3940). Large amounts of debris (such as construction waste) or individual items (such as furniture, washing machines, and refrigerators) can be considered an illicit discharge if they are degrading water quality and creating a harmful affect on the environment. These types of illicit discharges can only be enforced if the person(s) responsible for the illegal dumping can be found.

Is water from swimming pools considered an illicit discharge?

Backwash and discharges from swimming pools are listed as exceptions from the Illicit Discharge Ordinance, provided the water does not have a harmful impact on the environment. If the swimming pool water has chlorine in it (e.g. if it was recently "shocked" before draining), then that water can be extremely harmful to aquatic life in Raleigh's streams and this will be considered an illicit discharge. Violators discharging chlorinated pool water that has a harmful affect on the environment will be held responsible for their actions.

Are there some things that aren't illicit discharges?

There are some exceptions to the Illicit Discharge Ordinance.

Below are examples of exceptions:

  • Air conditioning condensate
  • Fire fighting runoff
  • Nonprofit car washing, including charity car washes and residential car washing
  • Groundwater discharges from sump pumps

What is an illicit connection?

An illicit connection is an unlawful connection from the sanitary sewer system into the stormwater drainage system or directly into lakes and streams.

Below are some examples of Illicit Connections:

  • Floor drains from inside a building going into the storm drain system instead of the sanitary sewer system
  • Providing a washing machine connection into a ditch or storm drain structure instead of the sanitary sewer system
  • Installing a new plumbing line from a toilet into a stormwater drainage structure instead of the sanitary sewer system

Are there any penalties for violators?

The City may issue Notices of Violation to offenders and fines may be issued depending on the severity of the violation. The City can issue fines, or civil penalties, up to $5,000 per day and these fines can continue for each day the illicit discharge remains active.

Repeat offenders, the penalty will double the amount that was previously fined up to $25,000 each day.

Money collected from violators goes to the Wake County Public School System.

View the Illicit Discharge Ordinance in the Municode

Chapter 5. - Offenses Against the Environment.

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