Own a Big Parking Lot? How & Why You Should Have Your Storm Drains Cleaned Regularly

Most large parking lots have storm drains placed at regular intervals. When it rains, water flows into these drains and then through pipes leading to the sewer system. This prevents your parking lot from flooding. The drains also collect melting snow in the winter so it does not just sit in place and re-freeze, leading to dangerous conditions. What many parking lot owners fail to realize, however, is that in order to keep functioning properly, these storm drains need to be cleaned out on a regular basis. Here's a closer look at storm drain cleaning, its benefits, and how to tackle the task.

Why is storm drain cleaning necessary?

As water rushes into your storm drains, it carries a lot of debris with it. From sand to litter, these items build up in the storm drain over time. If they are allowed to build up to too great a level, eventually they will prevent water from draining through the drain and into the sewer pipe. When a heavy rain comes, your parking lot may flood.

By preventing your parking lot from flooding, cleaning out your storm drains also reduces the wear and tear on your lot. Water damages asphalt when it sits in contact with it for long periods of time. This means fewer patch repairs and seal coating treatments, as well as a parking lot that just looks newer and less worn. The soil surrounding your parking lot will also stay in better shape because it will experience less erosion due to runoff that occurs when the drains are full.

Cleaning your storm drains also prevents unpleasant odors in your parking lot. Leaves, twigs, and litter that wash into the storm drains start decaying in the moist environment, and they can cause quite the stench if left for too long.

How do you clean a storm drain?

If you are ambitious and don't mind encountering some odoriferous debris, you can clean your parking lot storm drains yourself. Put on rubber gloves and perhaps a protective plastic suit to protect yourself from contaminants. Then, use a screwdriver to remove the storm drain cover. Lift the cover off, and place it to the side.

Most parking lot drains are deep enough that you will need to clean them out with a shovel. Have a wheelbarrow nearby so you have somewhere to dispose of the debris. Reach down into the drain, being careful to stand far enough from the edge that you don't risk falling in. Just scoop the debris out, and set it in the wheelbarrow. Once most of the large debris has been removed, hook up a wet vac with a wide nozzle. Use this to suck up any small debris, such as sand or asphalt grit.

Finally, fill a bucket of water, and add a splash of household bleach. Dump this down the storm drain. The bleach should help kill any bacteria that are lingering in the drain and also remove foul odors. Put the cover back on the drain, and screw it back in place.

Repeat these steps for each storm drain. Experts recommend cleaning your storm drains twice per year—once in the spring and once in the fall.

As you can see, cleaning out storm drains can be a bit time consuming, particularly if you have many of them in your parking lot. If the idea of cleaning them yourself does not sound appealing, consider calling a plumber to do so for you. Many of the bigger commercial plumbing companies offer this service. They have special equipment that lets them suck everything out of the storm drain in a few seconds, so they can complete an entire parking lot in a short period of time.