It may sound crazy, but rain can be a pollutant. Rainwater or melted snow that runs off buildings, paved surfaces, or hard structures outdoors becomes stormwater when it picks up fertilizer, car oil spots on the driveway, litter and more.
Residential stormwater pollution is a big deal because there’s no one source; it’s all of us, so it’s really hard to stop or track. Stormwater’s extra warmth and pollutants harm aquatic life in our local waterways. Lakes, rivers and wetlands are the backbone of our watersheds. Fertilizer washing into drains from lawns and fields can cause overgrowths of algae and deplete oxygen for life in ponds. Because stormwater is a pollutant that we are all responsible for, we can all make individual choices to help reduce the problem.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems. Nonpoint source pollution is known to have harmful effects on drinking water, wildlife and, as we are now learning, our sport and seafood fisheries.
Here are some things you can do to help minimize stormwater runoff pollution:
- Never dump anything down a storm drain or directly
- on the ground, as it may seep into our groundwater. County ditches in rural areas are for drainage of stormwater and should not be used to drain washing machine water, sewage, etc.
- Wash your car at a commercial car wash rather than in the street or on your driveway. If you wash your car at home, wash it on your lawn.
- Reduce your use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. If you use these chemicals, follow directions and use them sparingly. Don’t fertilize before a rainstorm. Consider using organic fertilizers.
- If your residence or house is on a septic system, maintain the system. Septic systems require regular inspections, maintenance and pumping. Otherwise, they will fail, causing untreated sewage to be discharged on the ground and pollute nearby lakes and streams. Repairs can be costly. Have a professional inspector check your system regularly and have it pumped out when needed.
- Pick up after your pets and keep animals out of streams. Scoop your dog’s poop and properly dispose of it. Also, make sure fences and other structures are keeping cows, horses and other animals out of streams. Compost manure in a designated area so it doesn’t wash off into nearby waterways.
- Compost or mulch yard wastes. Yard clippings and leaves can wash into storm drains and contribute nutrients and organic matter into streams.
- Vegetate bare spots in your yard.
- Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces; consider starting a rain garden.
Remember that one person can make a difference. Small accomplishments add up quicker than you might think.
You have the power to turn the tide and take everyday actions that will help prevent pollutants and trash from reaching our global ocean.