It is raining while I write this. It is a typical summertime thunderstorm. I love a downpour like this. It just kind of refreshes the air even on a hot, humid day.
Thunderstorms can create some problems, though, so we all need to know how to minimize the sometimes negative effects of storm water. Significant water-pollution problems are created when we make poor choices where we live and work each day.
The Environmental Protection Agency folks call these problems “nonpoint source pollution,” which develops mainly in our own homes and backyards, around our businesses and on our busy roads and sidewalks in our populated areas. This pollution is caused by rainwater moving over and through the ground. As the water runoff moves, it carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into creeks, lakes, rivers, wetlands and coastal waters — and sometimes into our underground sources for drinking water.
As I have written before, according to the EPA, nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water-quality problems and is a significant threat to our waterways. It is known to have harmful effects on drinking water, wildlife and — as we now are learning — our sport and seafood fisheries. As urbanization continues, nonsource-pollution effects will only worsen.
Our choices actually create these problems. Rainwater is just an innocent bystander that happens to carry these pollutants that we created. Because we create these “nonpoint” problems, we all need to participate in efforts to reduce or prevent this pollution.
As I wrote in a previous column, here are 10 ways that each of us can minimize the problems created by storm-water 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. And the added plus is they are easier to grown and maintain!
3. Don’t dump anything into storm drains. Most storm drains lead directly into area waterways. Litter, cigarette butts, and any type of debris will end up in our waterways. Do you really want to drink water with a side of litter in it?
4. Wash your car on the lawn or gravel, which helps to filter the dirt and soap out of the water. Use soaps without phosphates, which 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 just pour them into the ground or even worse down a storm drain!
6. Clean up after your pet and dispose of the waste in the garbage. Your pet would do it himself if he could, so help him out. Do you need doggie poop bags? My dog, Munson, will be happy to share some of his.
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. These types of ‘concrete alternatives’ are far more attractive, too.
For more information on storm-water pollution and the role that you can play in creating a healthy environment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.keeplibertybeautiful.org.