<- Back

Fall & Winter Triage Stormwater System Issues

Triage Stormwater System Issues - Clogged catch basin
Erin Brewster
Erin Brewster
November 10, 2023

Stormwater system problems can very quickly cause a hazard to an HOA or COA. Most storm drain structures are underground, and if they are not being inspected or maintained annually, problems will slowly develop over time, causing costly damage to your community.

In this article, I’ll highlight a few problems you may notice in your own stormwater system, as well as short and long-term actions to be taken to treat and prevent them.

Problem: Flooding or ponding in your parking lot or road.

Flood in the parking lot

Action level: likely emergency, depending on location and severity


  1. Ensure that leaves and vegetation have been raked and removed from all catch basin grates. This can restrict stormwater drainage, causing flooding.
  2. If flooding is still present, contact your stormwater system vendor to remove water and address the underlying causes of flooding.
  3. Flooding is often caused by excess sediment and/or root infiltration in storm drainage structures. Structure sumps and pipes could be affected and are difficult to measure or detect without special equipment and expertise. Make sure your vendor identifies and solves all potential causes of flooding.
Maintenance on the drain

Problem: Asphalt Cracks around your Catch Basin

Action level: Fix within 30 days

  1. This is an issue caused by erosion within the catch basin over time. If possible, cone off the area to prevent damage to vehicles.  
Cracks around the catch basin
  1. Contact your storm system maintenance provider. While they are onsite addressing the asphalt, ask them about the grouting inside the affected structure. Grouting needs to be updated periodically to prevent erosion. Grout failure allows surrounding soil to erode into the catch basin, undermining the asphalt above.
Grout failure
  1. When the asphalt has been repaired, pat yourself on the back for helping to make your parking lot or private road that much safer for your residents.
Repaired catch basin

Problem: Spills  

Action level: Emergency

  1. Nothing but water should be entering a storm drain. Unfortunately, spills do occasionally occur. Common pollutants spilled include paint, motor oil, gasoline, pesticides and fertilizers, and construction substances.
Spill in the road

If your spill hasn’t reached any stormwater structures, utilize a spill kit to clean up the mess and prevent the substance from entering your stormwater system.  

  1. If the spill has reached your structures, call your stormwater system maintenance provider right away to have the substance removed from your system. It’s important to act on this quickly; your municipality and the Department of Ecology are required to make sure that harmful pollutants do not enter our natural waterways, and those who ignore pollutant spills are subject to hefty fines. Cleaning up isn’t just important, it’s the law.
  1. Make sure your spill plan is ready, spill kits are available and that several residents are trained to use them.

More information about spill prevention, cleanup procedures, and obtaining spill kits can be found here:

Problem: Dislodged catch basin frameset

Action Level: Fix within 30 days, or sooner in high traffic area

Dislodged catch basin frameset
  1. Create a barrier around the affected structure with cones or caution tape. A broken frameset is a hazard for vehicles or pedestrians moving through the area.
Frameset repaired
  1. Contact your stormwater system maintenance provider for assistance. Your provider will repair the broken frameset and ensure that it is securely grouted into the base.

Long-term Recommendations

There is only one major long-term recommendation to prevent all of these issues from recurring – annual inspections and maintenance. These proactive measures are essential for catching problems within your system, such as erosion, root infiltration, sediment accumulation, and other structural problems that lead to these urgent and costly repair needs.  Make sure your stormwater system maintenance provider is inspecting and mapping your system annually, calling out issues proactively and helping you develop a plan to keep your stormwater system in compliance year-round.