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Be aware of pollution you leave behind
Keep Liberty Beautiful
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Sara Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.

NPDES: The first time I heard that term was about 12 years ago, I wondered, "What could this be about?"

It stands for National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. Now, that explains everything, right? Leave it to the government to come up with a catchy name like that. It just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?

I was at a training many years ago for people who would be monitoring or educating about NPDES, and I was the only person in the room who could share what NPDES stood for. As confusing as it may sound, everyone needs to be aware of this permitting process, and we all need to understand about point source and nonpoint pollution, because pollution affects all of us.

I am going to try to translate what all of this means in Saraspeak rather than government speak, so I hope I do not freak out too many bureaucratic types by doing so.

NPDES is basically a process for regulating and permitting sources that might release pollution discharge in some way. Point source pollution simply means that the pollution is coming from a specific source, like a factory. So that source has regulations it must follow.

Nonpoint source pollution is a different ballgame. It means that the types of pollution occurring are coming from a variety of different sources — and those sources are us. The public actually — and, unfortunately creates nonpoint source pollution, or what I think of as "people pollution."

If you did not catch that, public means you and me.

You may be shocked to hear this, but it is true. We drive cars – and lots of them – that leave deposits of oil and other vehicle fluids on our roads and hard surfaced parking areas. Some of us also either throw out or let litter blow out of our vehicles, creating loads of litter, as well.

When it rains, the water washes the litter and fluids away, either down storm drains in towns and cities or off roads, ultimately ending up in creeks and streams. The debris continues its journey into larger bodies of water — rivers and even the ocean.

It is not just this stuff though. At our homes, farms and businesses, we use fertilizers and pesticides and cleaning products that also end up being washed away into our local waters.

As this stormwater runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops) it accumulates the debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that can adversely affect water quality when it ends up in our waterways.

Have you ever longed for a tall, cool glass of water topped off with antifreeze or motor oil? It does not sound very appetizing.

Do you long to jump into a pond or river and swim with residue from fertilizer from your landscaping efforts, or go boating or water skiing with cigarette butts and fast food wrappers?

Well, that is the problem with nonpoint source pollution. We seem to prefer clean, healthy water sources in our community. We are the reason we have this problem — and we are the solution to preventing it.

Our everyday choices make a difference. Use a litter bag, tarp or secure trash and loose items in your vehicles, never litter — not even cigarette butts — and use proper methods and natural options in landscaping and pest control efforts.

These are just some of the ways that we can prevent pollution.

I think many of us believe large businesses and industries are the major sources of water pollution in our country. Unfortunately, we are the major cause of water pollution.

The good news is, though, that if we each take responsibility for our daily choices, we can significantly reduce the damage to our waterways and wildlife and aquatic life.

If you would like to learn more about water pollution, water conservation, litter prevention and a whole host of environmental topics in a government speak-free zone, join us for our 12th annual Earth Day Celebration from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 20 at the YMCA fields on Mary Lou Drive.

We target activities for kids but it is really for everyone. We have cleverly disguised environmental education as games, crafts, entertainment and just flat out fun for you and your family to enjoy. It is free, too. How fun is that?

Mark your calendars now for some environmental fun for Earth Day on April 20 and consider starting your "green" journey by registering for our citywide litter cleanup in Hinesville on April 28.

Our planet could use a little help from all of us. We are the mess-makers after all. Taking care of our Earth is not that hard. Join us as we all become good Earthkeepers.

To learn more about Earth Day or to volunteer for the Great American Cleanup, contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 912-880-4888 or

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