Be an H2O Hero at Home: Make Your Home the Solution to Pollution
When you look around at your community, you will likely notice that there is more land covered with housing than any other use. Every house has impervious surfaces (roofs, sidewalks, and/or driveways) that prevent water from soaking into the ground. The stormwater runoff that comes from these impervious surfaces picks up pollutants that have come from the air, lawn and garden care, vehicles, pets, or on-site wastewater treatment systems and washes them into our waterways. If you and your neighbors become H2O Heroes, you can make a difference by reducing the pollutants that make their way to Lake Ontario. Click on one of the links to learn more about what you can do at home:
More household tips for protecting water quality can be found at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npstbx/FeaturedProducts.cfm
Pet waste left on the street or lawn does not just go away or fertilize the grass. The bacteria and nutrients in dog waste are often washed by rainwater or snowmelt down storm drains and into ditches, streams, ponds, and lakes and can travel for miles in the water. Kitty litter dumped outside can also be washed into our streams. The bacteria from pet waste can make it unsafe to swim in our waters. Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication). Cloudy and green, eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy. It's been estimated that there are more than 110,000 dogs that live in Monroe County. Just think about the amount of pollutants that could be washed into our waterways from that much dog waste! In most communities, it is the law that dog waste must be picked up from sidewalks, roads, or the private property of another person.How? For Dog Waste:
1: Minimize fertilizer Use: Fertilizers used for lawns and gardens may contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In Monroe County, most of our soils already have enough phosphorus to make our grass and plants grow. Phosphorus in fertilizer gets washed off our grass and gardens with rainwater; the phosphorus makes its way to our ponds and lakes. Too much phosphorus in our waterways causes an excess of algae and other plant growth in our water. For more information on phosphorus in our local waterways, go to H2O Quality 101. Now, IT'S THE LAW!: New York State has recently banned phosphorus in lawn fertilizers. Make sure your fertilizer does not contain phosphorus by reading the label and verifying that the middle number of the three number set shown is 0, for example 12-0-15. Fertilize in early autumn only to supplement nitrogen, and now, IT'S THE LAW!: New York State has recently banned the application of fertilizer on lawn between December 1st and April 1st. Dispose of unused phosphorus-containing fertilizers properly.
2: Mulching grass clippings or leaving them on your lawn provides a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Mowing high helps control weed growth. Sweep up grass clippings from roadways and driveways, and DO NOT dump grass clippings or other plant materials into streets, catch basins, or streams — the nutrients will leach from them and enter nearby waterways, spurring unwanted algae growth.
4: Undisturbed (unmowed) vegetation along streams and drainage pathways will capture nutrients that wash off your lawn before they are discharged to the waterway. Now IT'S THE LAW!: New York State now prohibits the application of lawn fertilizer within 20 feet of any surface water except where there is a vegetative buffer of at least 10 feet, or 3 feet from surface water where the fertilizer is applied by a device with a spreader guard, deflector shield, or drop spreader.
5: Why? Pollutants picked up from your roof can be kept out of the waterways if they are first filtered and used by your existing vegetation. If the downspouts are directed to impervious surfaces like your driveway and storm sewer, they will make their way directly to the closest waterway. How? You can direct your downspouts directly onto vegetated surfaces, or install a rain barrel to collect the rain and distribute it as needed to other parts of your yard during drier periods.
6: Plant rain gardens of native drought- and pest-resistant plants to collect and filter rainwater. Why? Because rainwater picks up pollutants from the surfaces it touches, and washes them into our waterways. For more information on rain gardens, click here.
7: Most storm drains flow directly or to nearby waterways, and any fertilizer, dirt, and debris that enters the storm drains will cause pollution of streams, and eventually Lake Ontario. Now IT'S THE LAW!: New York State has recently prohibited application of fertilizer on impervious surfaces and requires pick up of fertilizer applied or spilled onto impervious surfaces, such as sidewalks, driveways, and roadways.
8: Use proper pesticide notification signs and let your neighbors know. Go to http://www2.monroecounty.gov/eh-environmentalquality.php#Pesticide or call 753-PEST for more information and regulations.
Download the H2O Hero Lawn care and Landscaping brochure
"…When cars are washed on streets and driveways, dirty water enters storm drains and makes its way to local waterways. The used wash water contains, among other things, detergent residue, heavy metals, and oil and grease. Other pollutants that can make their way to waterways from cars include residue from exhaust fumes, gasoline, heavy metals from rust and motor oils."How?
Use a commercial car wash: The average homeowner uses 116 gallons of water to wash a car, while most commercial car washes use 60% less water for the entire process than a homeowner uses just to rinse the car. Also, most commercial car washes reuse wash water and then send it to a wastewater treatment plant for processing.
If you do wash your car at home, here's how to minimize the water quality impact:
Used oil from a single oil change can pollute up to one million gallons of freshwater. Improper disposal of used oil, which includes oil leaking from cars, contributes significantly to stormwater pollution. The EPA estimates that American households generate 193 million gallons of used oil every year and improperly dump the equivalent of 17 Exxon Valdez oil spills every year. Oil that leaks from cars onto pavement will get washed into nearby storm drains and enter local waterways untreated. Never dump motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, or other engine fluids down storm drains, into road gutters, on the ground, or into a ditch.What can you do?
Unused household cleaners, grease, oil, paints, pesticides, or fertilizers should not be disposed of outside or disposed of with your weekly trash. On household lawns and gardens, homeowners can try natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides and apply no more than the recommended amounts. Natural predators like insects and bats, composting, and use of native plants can reduce or entirely negate the need for lawn chemicals. For information on how to properly dispose of chemical waste, go to the Monroe County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Program at
or, Monroe County residents can call 585 753-7600 (Option #3) to make an appointment at the HHW facility for disposal of these environmental hazards, free-of-charge.Pharmaceuticals
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that pharmaceuticals such as steroids, prescription and nonprescription medications, antibiotics and hormones have been detected in the nation's streams, rivers, and lakes. Studies have shown that pharmaceuticals are present in water bodies around the U.S., but more research is needed to determine the extent of ecological harm and the impact that it may have on human health. Although the concentrations are low, their effect could be potentially harmful to aquatic and human life.
To reduce potential sources of environmental contamination, the Monroe County Department of Environmental Services organizes pharmaceutical waste collections to provide residents with a safe and proper way to dispose of their unused or unwanted medications. This service is free of charge to Monroe County residents. Pharmaceuticals include, but are not limited to, prescription and over-the-counter medications, veterinary medications and nutritional supplements. For more information on pharmaceutical waste and its proper disposal, go to Monroe County Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal at
Monroe County residents can call 585 753-7600 (Option #3) or go to
for available drop-off dates and locations for disposal of these environmental hazards, free-of-charge.Electronics
Most computer monitors and televisions contain about five pounds of lead. Computers also contain other elements (such as metals and rechargeable batteries), and rechargeable batteries (from laptop computers, cell phones, electronic components, etc.) contain metals like cadmium and mercury. All these items, if improperly disposed of, can be environmental hazards.
There are several companies in the Monroe County area that will accept computers/TVs and other electronics from residents. For details about these programs, go to the Monroe County website's Electronics Recycling page at
If your home has an on-site septic system (very likely if you don't pay for sewer services as part of your local tax bill), it is important that you properly maintain your system so that sewage does not leak onto your lawn and drain to nearby waterways. For information about maintaining your septic system, go to Monroe County Health Dept. Septic System Care and Maintenance:
Although it is perfectly safe to enjoy pools, fountains, and spas when their waters are treated properly, that same water in our stormwater system can become hazardous for aquatic life and our environment. Chlorine, acid, algaecides and other water treatment chemicals should be handled, stored, used and disposed of properly. Even the empty containers need proper cleaning before disposal.
When using water treatment chemicals in pools, fountains, and spas:
Pool backwashing is the most common maintenance activity. Backwash water can become a pollutant to our stormwater system, and draining to a storm sewer or water body is illegal if the water contains chemicals.
Some basic practices to prevent pool backwash chemicals, as well as fountain and spa wastewaters, from entering a water body include:
Draining Pools, Fountains and Spas
Download the H2O Hero Pools, Fountains and Spas… brochure.