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:


1. Proper Pet Waste Disposal

Why?

Pet waste left on the street or lawn does not just go away or fertilize the grass. The bacteria and nutrients in dog waste is 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:

For Cat Waste:

Links:

http://www.adem.state.al.us/Publications/Miscellanous/dog2.PDF

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2. Lawn Care and Landscaping for the H2O Hero at Home :

Map of Larrys house #1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1: Minimize fertilizer Use: Fertilizers used for lawns and gardens contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In Monroe County, most of our soils already have enough phosphorus to make our grass and plants grow. When phosphorus contained 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 (eutrophication). In turn, when the algae and plants in the water decompose, they use up oxygen needed by aquatic life such as fish, and the decomposition also smells bad. Decomposition of excessive algae is one of the leading reasons for temporary closing of local beaches. How? Have your soil tested, and fertilize only when needed. Fertilize early autumn only to supplement nitrogen. To find a zero phosphorus fertilizer, use your favorite internet search engine.

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2: Mulching grass clippings or leaving them on your lawn provides a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Mowing high helps control weed growth. 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.

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3: The fertilized soil that you create by mulching or composting can be recycled I n your yard and reused as a natural fertilizer.

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4: Undisturbed (unmowed) vegetation along streams and drainage pathways will capture nutrients that wash off your lawn before it is discharged to the waterway.

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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 or during drier periods.

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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, go to http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/water/wm/dsfm/shore/documents/rgmanual.pdf

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7: Most storm drains flow directly or to nearby waterways, and any dirt and debris that enters the storm drains will cause pollution of streams, and eventually Lake Ontario.

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8: Use proper pesticide notification signs and let your neighbors know. See www.monroecounty.gov (click on Public Health) or call 753-PEST for more information and regulations.

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9: When it rains, any misapplied fertilizers sitting on sidewalks or other paved areas will get washed into drainageways and make their way, untreated, into our waterways.

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10: Follow directions on the bag and don’t apply. Sweep up from driveways and sidewalks, don’t wash off these surfaces.

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3. Home Maintenance and Improvements

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4. Car Maintenance

Reconsider car maintenance at home:

Why?

“…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:

Car Oil

Why?

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?

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5. Proper Chemical Use, Storage, and Disposal

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 Program at

http://www.monroecounty.gov/des-hhw.php

http://www.epa.gov/nps/toolbox/other/NC_GenProtectingWQ.pdf

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6. Septic System Maintenance

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. Here is a link for information about maintaining your septic system: Monroe County Health Dept. Septic System Care and Maintenance:

http://www.monroecounty.gov/p/eh-PHESepticSystemCare.pdf

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Webaward 2008