Painting Guidlines

Improper disposal of painting wastes is harmful to the environment, hazardous to public health and against the law.  Waste materials from painting activities include excess paint, used containers, painting equipment, rags, used thinner, cleanup water, and paint chips.

Since preventing pollution is much easier than cleaning up after the fact, the Town of Carrboro have adopted ordinances for stormwater management.   These local ordinances prohibit the discharge of any pollutants into the storm drainage system, streams, lakes, or other surface waters (Article 4 Section 5). You can find more information on Carrboro’s Illicit Discharge Program here.  

Following the best management practices (BMPs) for the painting industry that include the proper handling, storage and disposal of materials can prevent water pollution from your business and prevent fines. You may already be implementing many of the best management practices. However, if you discover any potential problem areas, please consider using one or more of the recommended BMPs.

Paint Prep and Removal

  • Read manufacture MSDS and clean up instructions.
  • Protect or cover storm drains when pressure washing a structure to remove paint.
  • Spread a tarp to capture paint chips when removing old paint.
  • Paint chips and dust from non-hazardous dry stripping and sand blasting may be swept up and disposed of as trash.
  • Chips and dust from paint containing lead is hazardous waste (most paint prior to 1978 contains lead).  Follow safe work practices when working with lead paint.   Sweep up waste and dispose of as hazardous waste.

Outdoor Surface Treatments

Wood preservatives, pavement seal coating, and other outdoor surface treatments commonly contain metals, pesticides, solvents, or polymers that are hazardous materials. Handle and dispose of them properly, as follows: 

  • Apply only as much of the chemical as the surface can absorb or as needed to cover the paved area. 
  • Soak up excess chemicals with absorbent material or rags rather than allowing them to flow to the storm drains or soak into the soil. 
  • If the chemicals spill, clean up promptly using dry techniques. 
  • When sealing pavement, prevent the sealant from reaching the gutters or drains. Use absorbent booms, or stuff rags into storm drain openings. 
  • When treating a roof with wood preservative or sealant, line the gutters with rags. Dispose of the rags properly: as hazardous waste if the substances you are using are hazardous. 
  • If you clean a roof or sidewalk before applying preservative, sweep thoroughly to remove loose particles first and then wash with water if necessary. 
  • Collect wash water from downspouts or drains where possible and remove particles. 
  • Avoid applying surface treatment chemicals during the wet weather season.

 Painting Clean Up

  • Never clean brushes or rinse equipment any place where the wastewater may run into a street, storm drain or stream.
  • For water-based (latex) paint, rinse and dispose of wastewater to the sanitary sewer.
  • For oil-based paint, use paint thinner for cleaning.
  • Use up excess paint or donate it to a school, club or charitable organization that can use it.
  • Water-based (latex) paint may be disposed of in the trash once it is completely dry.  Oil-based paint and aerosol cans are hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of with regular trash.

Wastewater Disposal

  • Discharge wastewater from water-based (latex) painting activities only into a drain connected to the sanitary sewer system.
  • Wastewater from oil-based painting activities is hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of into the sanitary sewer.
  • Do not lift a sewer manhole to discharge wastewater – it is illegal to do so. 
  • Check with OWASA about other requirements for discharge to the sanitary sewer. Call (919) 537-4343.


  • To avoid spills and exposure to storm water, place lids on paint cans when not in use and store them under cover.
  • When transporting paint containers in a vehicle, properly secure the containers to ensure that spills do not occur.
  • Carry spill response materials on business vehicles in case a spill occurs.
  • Do not hose down outside spills.
  • Report spills and leaks that enter the storm drain system to 919-913-2999 or 911.

Employee Training

  • Train all employees on BMPs and spill procedures.
  • Create Project specific stormwater management plan before beginning activities and review with employees at start of project. (Sample Project Stormwater Management Plan link below)
  • Post information on BMPs where they are accessible to staff.
  • Report illegal dumping by calling 919-913-2999 or 911.

If your project or site location poses questions or concerns for your activities please contact the Stormwater division at 919-913-2999 or and a staff member can answer your question and/or provide technical assistance.


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