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Poor choices can cause big water problems

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POSTED: July 17, 2012 2:00 p.m.

We all have outdoor chores and activities we do on a regular basis. Do you ever think about the consequences of some of the choices you may be making in those activities?

Many of our daily choices can have detrimental consequences for our local waterways. No matter where you live in Liberty County, there are creeks, streams or stormwater drains nearby.

All these systems eventually drain into larger bodies of water, such as the Atlantic Ocean. We are a coastal county, and our choices can have a powerful effect on the quality of waterways around us.

Let’s take a look at some routine activities that might have an affect our waters:

• Do you wash your car at home on your concrete driveway? Bad idea. It is better to wash it on the grass so the water can drain slowly into the ground rather than streaming from the pavement or, even worse, washing into the nearest stormdrain. Storm drains empty into local waterways, so whatever washes in them gets a free ride to our waters. Even biodegradable detergents can be toxic to wildlife and aquatic life. So wash your car on the grass or, better yet, visit your local car wash. Many car washes have water recycling systems.

• Another chore could be changing the oil in your car. It is good to maintain your car properly so that it does not leak oil and other fluids on your carport or the roads. But when you change that oil, please take it to be recycled. As they say, oil and water do not mix — or, as I say, they never should mix except in salad dressings. Oil has a devastating impact on our waterways. Even five quarts, which is what is changed out in an average oil change, can contaminate 1 million gallons of water, according to the Smithsonian Institution. Each year, more than 363 million gallons of oil in runoff end up in our oceans from land and municipal and industrial waste and from us average citizens. That is a serious problem, when you consider that in an average year, oil spills from tanker disasters contribute about 37 million gallons. Recycle oil at auto-repair locations or at our quarterly Recycle It! Fairs. Never pour oil down a stormdrain. If you do have a spill or leak on your driveway, pour cat litter on it to absorb it, and dispose the litter in a garbage bag.

• Another regular activity is walking the family pet. Pet poop is another problem. Scoop it up and dispose of it properly. My dog Munson is seriously offended by the idea that his little gifts could be offensive. So I explained to him why they are. Pet foods can add excessive nutrients and bacterial pollution when they end up in our waterways as waste. The extra nutrient levels can disrupt the ecosystem. Another consideration is the level of E.coli found in pet waste. In urban areas, dog waste is one of the leading causes of E.coli pollution, according to www.lcbp.org. Munson understands now. I hope you do too.

• I know we all like green grass. Some people, like my husband, have a fixation on how green the grass is, but over-fertilizing our lawns can cause major problems. Excess fertilizer accelerates algae growth in water, which causes an overabundance of algae blooms. These blooms rob the waterways of oxygen that fish and plants need to survive. Even a modest increase in phosphorus levels can set off a whole chain of undesirable changes in the ecosystem. Do not over-fertilize your lawn. Store all fertilizer properly. Do not fertilize right before a storm.

A couple of more points to remember:

• Always berm or bank a home construction project to prevent soil erosion and sediment from clogging streams, stormwater catch basins and stormwater drains. Debris like this can also cause thermal pollution problems too that can result in fishkills.

• Don’t sweep or blow dirt or yard waste into the street or the storm drain. You can create the same kind of debris and sediment problems.

The bottom line is this: Don’t ever dump or empty anything out in your driveway or street — or even out of your boat — that you would not want to swim in or drink.

 

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