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Public Works

Stormwater Operations are responsible for the maintenance of public ditches and drainpipes citywide. Private drainage systems are the responsibility of the property owner. Drainage systems are considered public if they receive runoff from public rights of way or property. Operations take on two key roles:

Facility and Ditch Maintenance

Ditch maintenance consists of cutting vegetation and removing debris/sediment that impedes the natural flow of water. If weather permits, ditch crews will cut public ditches 3 times per year to maintain the flow line. Residents are responsible for maintaining the banks of ditches that are adjacent to or run through their property.

Residents are reminded that it is illegal to dump leaves, grass clippings, and debris into the drainage system and ditches. Ditches should never be burned. The vegetation in ditches provides stability to the banks and natural filtration of water.

Crews regularly clean catch basins, drop inlets and outfalls to remove debris and blockages. Crews can also flush sediment from clogged pipes. A vacuum truck is used to pump high-pressure water through drainpipes.

  • Fall Stormwater Tip

    When Autumn (Fall) arrives and it is time to rake the leaves, here is what you can do to help prevent stormwater runoff, a major pollutant to our rivers, lakes and the Chesapeake Bay.

    Do not rake leaves into ditches, sweep them down storm drains, gutters or curbing. Doing so will cause blockages and lead to flooding.

    Do not burn leaves in ditches. Burning in ditches causes erosion and allows pollution to wash downstream to our waterways. Rake leaves and put them out in clear plastic bags at the curbside for pickup, or mulch and compost them for use in your garden.


  • Hurricane Response

    City staff receives regular weather reports and updates prior to severe weather.

    When the threat of severe weather arrives, Stormwater Management Operations crews work citywide to remove debris from blocking outfalls; remove blockages from backyard and roadside ditches to ensure water flow; and clean debris from around and inside storm drains to keep street from flooding.

    When the threat of severe weather subsides, Stormwater Management Operations crews work citywide assisting in the removal of fallen trees from roadways; help block of roads subjected to fallen wires; and repeat the activities taken prior to the storm.

Facility and Ditch Repair

Construction crews respond to reports of cave-ins on storm drainpipes and falling ditch banks throughout the City. Crews are also involved in small drainage projects.

  • Cave-ins

    A cave-in associated with a storm drainpipe can be caused by a failure at the pipe joint or in the pipe itself. Cave-ins also occur at drainage structures such as catch basin, drop inlets or storm drain manholes. Construction crew supervisors investigate all reports of storm drain cave-ins. If necessary, crews will be instructed to place barricades or fill in the voided area with dirt, stone or asphalt depending on the surrounding area to make it “safe”. Subsequent repairs will be either scheduled for crews in-house or tagged for contractual repair.

    Note that private systems such as those in apartment complexes, shopping centers, private parking lots, etc are the responsibility of the property owner. If a driveway pipe is associated only with a driveway and the entire ditch is not piped, then any cave-in on this pipe belongs to the property owner.

  • Minor Bank and Structure Repair

    Construction crews perform numerous repairs on storm drain structures such as catch basins, drop inlets and manholes. Crews also inspect and repair the banks of public ditches to prevent blockages and subsequent ditch failure.

  • Maintenance Projects

    Construction crews assist in identifying, planning and implementing various maintenance projects to alleviate “hot spots” citywide. This work is typically performed through contractual services. Initiatives also include Citywide Ditch and Outfall Maintenance Program and annual Storm Drain Rehabilitation projects.

Did You Know?
In FY 05-06,

  • Stormwater Management Maintenance Crews responded to 533 customer calls.

  • Stormwater Management Maintenance crews cleaned approximately 35 miles of storm drainpipe; cleaned over 198 miles roadside and backyard ditches; removed 314 blockages from public ditches; and serviced 13, 934 catch basins/drop inlets. Crews cleaned 36 outfall pipes every 2 weeks and 51 outfall pipes every week.

  • Stormwater Management Maintenance crews disposed of 13,765 truck loads of debris at the City landfill.

  • Stormwater Management Construction crews performed 325 safe ups in the street and 488 in the dirt. They repaired 187 cave-ins and 41 drainage structures.

  • Contractually, Public Works was responsible for over 400 storm drain cave-in repairs at over 150 locations; over 2500 linear feet of storm drainpipe was cleaned and video inspected; and; over 1500 linear feet of liner repair were performed through storm drain rehabilitation.

  • More than 10 Maintenance Projects were completed. Over 10 additional “hot spots” were identified as potential future Maintenance Projects.


City of Portsmouth, Virginia · All Rights Reserved · Portsmouth City Hall · 801 Crawford Street · Portsmouth, VA 23704 · 757-393-8000