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Pollution presents problems for area
Karen Bell
Keep Liberty Beautiful Executive Director Karen Bell.

NPDES. The first time we heard of it several years ago, we wondered what could this be about? It stands for National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. That explains everything right? As confusing as it may sound, everyone needs to be aware of this permitting process and to understand about point source and non-point pollution because pollution affects all of us. 

In this column we are going to try to translate what all of this means. 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 they must follow.  Non-point source pollution is a different ballgame. It simply means that the types of pollution occurring are coming from a variety of different sources and those sources are us. The general public actually. And unfortunately we create a lot of non-point source pollution.

You may be shocked to hear this.  But, it is true. We drive cars that leave deposits of oil and other vehicle fluids on our local 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 local creeks and streams. The debris ultimately 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 storm water 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 had a drink 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 skiing with cigarette butts and fast food wrappers?  Well that is the problem with non-point source pollution.  

We are the reason we have it … 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. Many of us think that 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 local water ways. 

For more information or to volunteer, contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 912-880-4888 or

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