With all the rain happening so far this year, and no group cleanups going on, I have been asked, “Is littering here in Liberty County an issue with Stormwater?” Well, Stormwater picks up and carries various pieces of litter into our waterways. Any amount of litter can cause problems, no matter the amounts. One of the smallest but most significant contributors to Stormwater pollution is cigarette butts. Many smokers do not believe cigarette butts are litter. They don’t think twice about leaving a pathway of cigarette litter behind them. According to Keep America Beautiful (KAB), Americans are smoking fewer cigarettes than ever before. Yet, cigarette butts continue to be the most commonly littered item in the United States and around the world today.
KAB stated the main two reasons for this are, the lack of awareness on the smoker’s part, and the lack of availability of waste receptacles at transition locations, such as outside stores and other buildings, and at public transportation pickup spots. Surprisingly, 77% of people in a survey by KAB responded that they didn’t think of cigarette butts as litter. KAB also notes that for every public cigarette butt receptacle, cigarette litter drops by 9% in that area. When it rains, cigarette butts left on the ground can end up in our waterways. The cumulative effects of stormwater runoff on water bodies are evident in our rivers and in the ocean.
Pollutants in Stormwater include litter thrown on the ground, antifreeze, grease, oil, and heavy metals from cars; fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals from gardens, homes, and businesses; bacteria from pet wastes and failing septic systems; and sediment from poor construction site practices. If not properly managed, the volume of Stormwater can flood and damage homes and businesses, flood septic system drain fields, erode stream channels, and damage or destroy fish and wildlife habitat. Because less water soaks into the ground, drinking water supplies are not replenished, and streams and wetlands are not recharged. This can lead to water shortages for people, and a small stream flows for fish.
Uncontrolled Stormwater runoff has many cumulative impacts on humans and the environment, including:
•Flooding - Damage to public and private property •Eroded Streambanks - Sediment clogs waterways, fills lakes, reservoirs, kills fish and aquatic animals
•Widened Stream Channels - Loss of valuable property
•Aesthetics - Dirty water, trash, and debris, foul odors
•Fish and Aquatic Life - Impaired and destroyed
•Impaired Recreational Uses - Swimming, fishing, boating
•Threatens Public Health - Contamination of drinking water, fish/ shellfish
•Economic Impacts – Impairments to fisheries, shellfish, tourism, recreation- related businesses
•Increased Cost of Water and Wastewater Treatment - Stormwater pollution increases raw water treatment costs. It reduces the assimilative capacity of water bodies.
Excess Stormwater causes flooding and damage that is difficult and costly to clean up.
To find out ways that you can make a difference, check out our website: www.keeplibertybeautiful. org. Then, contact us at Keep Liberty Beautiful at (912) 880-4888 or klcb@libertycountyga. com to get involved today.