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Banish the monsters from our waterways
Keep Liberty Beautiful
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There are monsters lurking in our waterways. I would not be too worried this Halloween about typical monsters such as vampires and werewolves. The monsters we need to worry about are all too real and, unfortunately, we are the Dr. Frankensteins who “create” them every day with careless actions that harm our waterways and our environment.
When a good gully washer comes through after a dry period, like we are experiencing now, we experience the effects of stormwater pollution. Gully washer is actually an accurate name for a good rain, because the rainwater washes over curbs, sidewalks and ditches, carrying whatever items or debris are discarded there. Many familiar, everyday products become problematic “monsters” as they flow into storm drains as litter or debris. Fast food wrappers, plastic bags, cigarette butts and other common items are only part of the problem. Residual pesticides and fertilizers from our yards, improperly disposed of paints and solvents from our homes and automotive products such as gasoline, motor oil and antifreeze can all be washed down storm drains or directly into local streams and creeks. Even natural materials like soil, grass clippings, fallen leaves and pet waste can be problematic when washed into storm drains. Another serious issue is improperly disposed of medications and other personal products.
All of the aforementioned items can end up in our local municipalities’ storm drain networks. I know we do not live in Atlanta or a big city like that, but in our local communities there are a lot of impervious surfaces such as paved streets, sidewalks, parking lots and driveways. Stormwater washes over these impervious surfaces and carries whatever is on them into storm drains in our communities. I know many people actually dump or discard items, like cigarette butts, into storm drains. Unfortunately, anything that ends up in storm drains flows directly into our local waterways.
This type of pollution is called non-point source pollution because it can originate from many different sources as opposed to pollution that might be traceable to a single source such as a factory. These may seem like small items, so you’re probably wondering why it’s a big deal. Unfortunately, non-point source pollution poses the biggest threat to the quality of our water in America.
• Toxic chemicals like automotive fluids and some household and yard products can be quite harmful to humans, plants and animals. We don’t need this stuff in our waters. Just one quart of motor oil that has been improperly disposed of can ruin the quality of 250,000 gallons of water — enough to meet the needs of a family of four for a year.
• Items like fertilizers, pet waste and even decomposing leaves and grass clippings can cause algae to grow in our waters. Algae deplete oxygen levels and can lead to fish kills. Animal waste can also introduce harmful bacteria and other pathogens into our water supply.
• Sediment from soil erosion and construction activity can reduce the clarity of the water and block sunlight needed by aquatic plants and fish.
• Litter and debris, particularly plastic items, can be mistaken for food by fish and birds and can be harmful to them.
• Each year, millions of birds, turtles, fish and marine mammals are killed after getting tangled in marine debris or ingesting plastics. Their habitat can be damaged and destroyed by these monsters.
Eighty percent of marine litter comes from land-based sources — much of it is litter from storm runoff and debris carried into rivers and streams. So you can see why we all need to make sure that we keep our roadways, sidewalks and parking lots free of litter. At home, we need to make sure that we use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. We also need to use, maintain and dispose of these items and other household products appropriately.

Here are some
additional quick
home tips:
• Do not over fertilize. Sweep (do not wash) fertilizer and soil off driveways and walkways.
• Use native plants and grasses that require less water and less fertilizer.
• Use nontoxic pest controls when possible.
• Recycle auto fluids, filters and batteries.
• Keep your vehicles maintained to minimize auto fluid runoff on roadways.
• Pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly.
• Use cleaning products that are phosphate free, biodegradable or nontoxic when washing your car or your house or outdoor furniture. Avoid products with chlorine, ammonia, diethylene glycol, hydrochloric acid, oxalic acid and petroleum solvents.
• Wash your car on the lawn and not on your paved driveway.
• Recycle leftover paint or dispose of it properly.
• Look for local opportunities to dispose of old medications properly.
• Recycle monofilament fishing line.
• Don’t flick your cigarette litter on the ground. Use a pocket ashtray or cigarette litter bin.
Next Saturday, at our fifth Annual Rivers alive event, we will banish waterway monsters in more than 25 locations around the county. We need many “monster slayers” to help with this effort. The more monsters we catch now, the safer our waterways will be. The mission of Rivers Alive is to create awareness of and involvement in the preservation of Georgia’s water resources — big and small. Rivers Alive cleanups target all waterways in Georgia, including streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and the ocean. Rivers Alive is a statewide waterway cleanup effort sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Keep Georgia Beautiful in collaboration with the international efforts of The Ocean Conservancy.
Can you spare a few hours on Saturday, Oct. 23 to fight for clean and safe waters in our community? Then call Keep Liberty Beautiful today at 880-4888 or e-mail to register for one of the numerous cleanup sites across our county from Walthourville to Islands Highway. We provide the cleanup supplies at each location, and the first 350 registered volunteers will get Rivers Alive T-shirts. Our sponsor, SNF Chemtall, will have a cookout lunch at Riceboro Creek for all volunteers who help. Come make Liberty County’s waterways “monster-free.”

More volunteer events:
• Nov. 15: America Recycles Day. Take the pledge to recycle and have a waste-free lunch to encourage waste reduction.
• Saturday, Nov. 20: Recycle It! Fair for electronics and household hazardous waste items. Call 880-4888 for more information.

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