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Please don't feed the storm drains
Keep Liberty County Beautiful
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The recent rains have been such a relief, haven’t they? For a while, I had almost forgotten what a good rain was like. We have even had a couple of what we used to call “gullywashers” when I was growing up in middle Georgia. “Gullywasher” is actually an accurate name for a good rain because the stormwaters wash over curbs, sidewalks and ditches carrying whatever items or debris have been discarded there.
Many familiar, everyday products become “food” for storm drains when they are left as litter or debris. Fast food wrappers, plastic bags, cigarette butts and other common litter items are only part of the problem. Residual pesticides and fertilizers from our yards, improperly-disposed paints and solvents from our homes and automotive products — gasoline, motor oil and antifreeze — can all be washed away down storm drains or even directly into local streams and creeks. Even natural materials, such as soil, grass clippings, leaves and pet waste can be a significant problem when washed into storm drains.  
All of the above mentioned items can end up flowing into the network of storm drains in our towns. I know we do not live in Atlanta or some big city like that, but in our communities where there is a significant amount of impervious surfaces — paved streets, sidewalks, parking lots and driveways — stormwaters from rains wash over impervious surfaces and carry whatever is on these surfaces into the storm drains.
I know many people even discard items, such as cigarette butts, into storm drains, thinking the drains are linked to water treatment facilities. Unfortunately, anything ending up in the 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 possible pollution that might be traceable to a single source, such as a factory. These may seem like small items, but this 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.  
• An abundance of items, such as fertilizers, pet waste and even decomposing leaves and grass clippings, can cause large amounts of algae to grow in our waters. Algae can deplete the 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 by fish and birds as food and can be quite harmful to them.
At home, we need to make sure 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 tips:
1. Do not over-fertilize. Sweep (do not wash) fertilizer and soil off driveways and walkways.
2. Use native plants and grasses that require less water and less fertilizer.
3. Use nontoxic pest controls.
4. Recycle auto fluids, filter and batteries.
5. Keep your vehicles maintained to minimize auto fluid runoff on our roads, etc.
6. Dispose of pet waste properly.
7. 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.
8. Wash your car on the lawn and not on your paved driveway.
9. Recycle leftover paint or dispose of it properly.
Yes, those storm drains are always “hungry” and will take whatever comes their way, so please do your part to keep our curbs and roads clean. Let’s put our local storm drains on a diet!
For more information on Keep Liberty County Beautiful programs, contact me at 368-4888 or
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