Water pollution problems happen every day in our community. These problems are caused when we make poor choices around our homes and areas where we live and work.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 controls pollutant discharge from what the Environmental Protection Agency calls “point sources” into any navigable waters in the United States — at least they are supposed to. Point sources mean that pollution is generated from identifiable locations like industrial, commercial and municipal facilities. Point sources are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which requires compliance with technology and water-quality treatment standards.
Unfortunately, the most significant danger to our local waterways — “nonpoint sources” — are actually far harder to control. Nonpoint pollution develops mainly in our homes, backyards, roads and populated areas. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall, snowmelt or irrigation moving over and through the ground. The runoff picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants and deposits them into creeks, lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and even our underground sources of drinking water. It is often referred to as stormwater pollution because those little downpours of rain wash the pollution and debris into our groundwater and our waterways. These pollutants include:
• Oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production
• Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding stream banks
• Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainage from abandoned mines
• Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems.
According to the EPA, nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water-quality problems. Nonpoint pollution is known to have harmful effects on drinking water, wildlife and — as we are now learning — our sport and seafood fisheries. As urbanization continues, the effects of nonpoint pollution could worsen.
Because we create these non-point problems, we need to participate in efforts to reduce or prevent this pollution. Here are 10 ways each of us can minimize the problems created by stormwater pollution:
1. Use lawn and garden chemicals sparingly or use organic alternatives. Whatever you put on your lawn could find its way to a stream.
2. Choose low-maintenance, native plants that require fewer chemicals and less watering. There are plenty of fantastic indigenous plants and trees that look beautiful in this region.
3. Don’t dump anything into storm drains. Most lead directly into area waterways. Litter, cigarette butts and any type of debris will end up in our waterways.
4. Wash your car on the lawn or gravel, which filters the dirt and soap out of the water. Use soaps without phosphates that remove oxygen from the water, or go to a car wash that recycles wash water.
5. Fix that oil leak in your car and recycle oil and other car fluids. Please don’t pour them onto the ground or down a storm drain.
6. Clean up after your pet and dispose of the waste in the garbage or flush it down the toilet.
7. Use phosphate-free household cleaners.
8. Keep your septic system maintained to prevent leaks. Have it checked or serviced every three to five years.
9. Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of hosing them off.
10. Reduce the amount of impervious surfaces around your home. Alternatives such as paving blocks, gravel, cobbles, brick and natural stone can replace asphalt and concrete in driveways, parking lots and walkways. Rainwater, etc., can then drain down slowly through these surfaces rather than gushing off hard surfaces and taking all the debris with it.
The reality is that we are nonpoint source pollution. We create these pollution problems, and we can make choices to stop this pollution. Try some of these steps to help keep our waters clean.
Upcoming Keep Liberty Beautiful events
• Progress Through People luncheon — June 21. For more information, call 880-4888 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.