frequently asked questions

If I know or suspect someone is dumping toxic substances into storm drains, whom should I contact?
You can go to the Contact Us section of this website and follow the instructions for reporting dumping.
I’ve changed the oil in my car. What do I do with the used motor oil? I also have other automotive items to dispose of. Where should I take these items?
Please contact your local auto parts store for disposal options. Waste Management has an oil disposal location in Springfield at 4747 Wayne Road.  
Do not ever mix automotive items together. Also, label containers of fluids, so that they are more easily identifiable.
Used motor oil is accepted at the four Household Hazardous Waste collection days within the county. For more information, visit
Where can I properly dispose of oil-based paint, paint thinner, pesticides and herbicides, and other household hazardous chemical?
These items, and others, can be taken to one of the four Household Hazardous Waste collection days within Calhoun County. For more information, visit
How can I tell the difference between oil-based or latex paint?
(Courtesy of the Kalamazoo Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program.)
To help figure out what kind of paint you have, it helps to read the label on the front and back of each paint can.

Oil-based Paint
Key words: Alkyd or Oil-based
On front of label, look for the words "Caution: Combustible"
On side of label, look at Ingredients Box; look for key words such as mineral spirits, Soya oil, aliphatic hydrocarbons or petroleum distillates.
This category also includes some stains and most varnishes and polyurethanes.
(Oil-based paint should be disposed of at one of the four Household Hazardous Waste Collection days within Calhoun County.)

Latex Paint
Key word: Latex or Acrylic Latex
On back of label, look for clean-up Instructions; should say "Cleans up with soap and water."
On side of label, look at Ingredients or Contents Box: look for key word: water.
This category also includes some varnish and polyurethanes.

To Properly Dispose of Latex Paint

Completely dried out paint can be safely discarded in your garbage. To dry out latex paint, try one of these methods:
Remove lid and stir in plenty of cat litter. Make sure the cat litter is stirred in all the way to the bottom of the can. Let dry overnight. In the morning, the paint will have dried into a hard, crumbly rock. It is now safe to place in trash. Remember to leave lid off.


  • For cans less than 1/4 full, place in a safe outdoor location, remove lid and allow to air dry. Discard when dry.
  • For cans more than 1/4 full, line a large cardboard box with black plastic. In a safe outdoor location, pour 1/2 inch of paint on top of plastic. Let dry. Re­peat by pouring out more paint in 1/2-inch layers until all paint is dry. Roll up plas­tic and place in trash.

How do I know my septic tank is functioning properly?
If you have any of the following signs, contact the Calhoun County Environmental Health Department, 269-969-6341.

Odors, surfacing sewage, wet spots or lush vegetation in the drain field area.
Plumbing or septic tank backups.
Slow-draining fixture, not due to local clogging.
Gurgling sounds in the plumbing system.

To help maintain your septic system, consider the following:

Regularly pump and maintain your septic system
Conserve water in your home.
Redirect surface water flow away from your drain field.
Keep automobiles, all heavy vehicles, and livestock off of the drain field.
Do not use chemicals to clean or “sweeten” your system.
Do not overuse a kitchen garbage disposal unit.
Do not put harmful materials in the tank.
Do not stockpile snow or soil on your drain field.

I have a well on my property that is not in use. Should I be concerned?
Yes! Abandoned wells can act as conduits for contamination of groundwater. Close any abandoned wells you may have. For more information, contact the Calhoun County Environmental Health Department, 269-969-6341.
How can I prevent lawn fertilizers and pesticides from getting into storm drains?
Follow the instructions on the containers closely. Over application can cause these products to make their way into both surface waters and groundwater. Both the City of Battle Creek and Calhoun County have restricted the use of fertilizer containing phosphorus.

Try landscaping with native plants. They are well suited to our climate, resistant to pests and can reduce the need for irrigation and chemical application.

Are grass clippings and leaves in storm water a problem?
Yes! Grass clippings and leaves cause a problem because of the amount of phosphorus they contain. Try mulching your grass clippings and leaves or sweeping or blowing your clippings and leaves back on the lawn.
Can I wash my car in a way that will not harm our waterways?
Yes! Carefully choose where you wash your car. Washing your car on your lawn will reduce the amount of water this is converted to runoff and allow the detergents to be filtered by your lawn before it enters the storm sewer system. Another alternative is to choose an automatic carwash that is connected to the sanitary sewer systems or recycles its wash water.
Is it true that tap water quality is getting worse?
It might seem that way from what you read and hear, as chemists and microbiologists are able to find more contaminants than ever before, but actually the opposite is true. Water suppliers must meet many more rules today than they did a few years ago, and standards for many of the regulated chemicals and microbes are stricter than they were a few years ago. Tap water quality is improving, although it is being talked about more because the general public is more aware of water quality issues. (Courtesy of Plain Talk About Drinking Water, Third Edition, Dr. James M. Symons, American Water Works Association.)
Drinking water often looks cloudy when first taken from a faucet and then it clears up. Why is that?
The cloudy water is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water similar to the gas bubbles in beer and carbonated soft drinks. After a while, the bubbles rise to the top and are gone. This type of cloudiness occurs more often in the winter, when the drinking water is cold. (Courtesy of Plain Talk About Drinking Water, Third Edition, Dr. James M. Symons, American Water Works Association.)
My drinking water is reddish or brown sometimes. What causes this?

If you are on a private well, you probably have a lot of iron dissolved in your water. When the water combines with air, the iron turns reddish-brown. If the problem is severe, you may want to consider buying an iron-removal unit for your home.

If you are on the City of Battle Creek’s water system, drinking water pipes may be the problem. Although the city removes iron at its iron removal plant, pipes in the street, leading to your home, or in your home may be rusting, creating the rusty-brown water. Also, your hot water tank may be rusting. Sometimes when the water mains are flushed, rusty-brown water may appear for a short period. If the problem is persistent, lead and copper may also be getting into your drinking water. Call the City of Battle Creek Water Division with any questions, 269-966-3481.