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Protecting waterways is full-time job

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POSTED: July 2, 2013 11:30 p.m.

It’s officially summertime and the living is easy, right? Not necessarily.
We all have outdoor chores and activities that have to be done in the summertime. 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 of these systems eventually drain into larger bodies of water. We are a coastal county, and our choices can have a powerful effect on the quality of our waterways.
Let’s take a look at some routine activities that might have an effect on 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 that the water, etc., can drain slowly into the ground rather than streaming into the ground from the pavement or, even worse, washing into the street and then into the nearest storm drain that eventually empties into local waterways. Whatever washes in there gets a free ride to our waters — that includes litter, yard clippings, debris and detergents used to wash cars.  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 of the car washes have water-recycling systems.
Another chore could be changing the oil in your car.  When you change that oil, please take it to be recycled. As they say, oil and water do not mix. Oil has a devastating impact on our waterways. Even 5 quarts, which is what is changed out in an average oil change, can contaminate a million gallons of water, according to the Smithsonian Institute. Each year, more than 363 million gallons of runoff oil end up in our oceans from land and municipal and industrial waste and from average citizens.
Recycle oil at local auto-repair locations or at our quarterly Recycle It! Fairs. Never pour oil down a storm drain. If you have a spill or leak on your driveway, pour cat litter on it to absorb it and dispose of the litter in a garbage bag.
Another regular activity is walking the family pet. Pet waste 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. Because of the pet foods that our furry family members eat, pet waste can add excessive nutrients and bacterial pollution when they end up in our waterways. 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. Store all fertilizer properly, and do not fertilize right before a storm.
A couple of other 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 also can cause thermal-pollution problems that can result in fish kills.
Don’t sweep or blow dirt or yard waste into the street and, ultimately, 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. Help to keep our waterways clean so we can all enjoy water!

Upcoming KLB events
Today is the last day for nominations for our quarterly Win-dex Awards. Nomination forms for the quarterly Win-dex Awards for attractive businesses are available at the KLB office, 101 N. Commerce St., or at the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce office, 425 W. Oglethorpe Highway. For more information, call 880-4888 or 368-4445 or email klcb@coastalnow.net. Awards will be announced in mid-July at the next chamber Progress through People Luncheon.

 

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