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Solve pollution problems, don't be one
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“Gullywashers” like the storms we’ve had this week are certainly welcome because we need the rain. However, heavy rains always remind me of the water pollution problems that result when we make poor choices around our homes and in areas where we live each day.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 addresses pollutant discharge from what the EPA calls “point sources” into any navigable waters of the United States. Point sources mean pollution is generated from identifiable, specific locations, such as industrial, commercial and municipal facilities. Point sources must obtain national pollutant discharge elimination system permits, which require compliance with technology and water quality-based treatment standards.
Unfortunately, the most significant danger to our local waterways are non-point sources, which are actually harder to control than point sources.
Nonpoint source pollution develops mainly in homes, backyards, roads and populated areas. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall, snowmelt and irrigation moving over and through the ground. As the water runoff moves, it picks up and carries natural and human-made pollutants, depositing them into creeks, lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and even underground sources of drinking water. NPS often is referred to as stormwater pollution because little downpours of rain wash the pollution and debris into our waterways. These pollutants include:
• Oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production
• Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding stream banks
• Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainage from abandoned mines
• Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet waste and faulty septic systems.
According to the EPA, non-point source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. Non-point pollution is known to have harmful effects on drinking water, wildlife and — as we are now learning — our sport and seafood fisheries. As urbanization continues, the effects of non-point pollution only worsen.
Because we create these non-point problems, we all need to participate in efforts to reduce and prevent this pollution. Here are 10 ways that each of us can minimize the problems created by stormwater pollution:
1. Use lawn and garden chemicals sparingly or use organic alternatives. Whatever you put on your lawn could find its way to a stream.
2. Choose low-maintenance, native plants that require fewer chemicals and less watering. There are plenty of fantastic indigenous plants and trees that look beautiful in this region.
3. Don’t dump anything into storm drains. Most lead directly into area waterways. Litter, cigarette butts, and any type of debris will end up in our waterways.
4. Wash your car on the lawn or gravel, which filters dirt and soap out of the water. Use soaps without phosphates, which remove oxygen from the water. Or go to a car wash that recycles wash water.
5. Fix that oil leak in your car and recycle oil and other car fluids. Please don’t just pour them on the ground or — even worse — down a storm drain.
6. Clean up after your pet and dispose of the waste in the garbage or flush it down the toilet. Your pet would do it himself if he could, so help him out.
7. Use phosphate-free household cleaners.
8. Keep your septic system maintained to prevent leaks. Have it checked or serviced every three to five years.
9. Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of hosing them off.
10. Reduce the amount of impervious surfaces around your home. Alternatives such as paving blocks, gravel, cobbles, brick and natural stone can replace asphalt and concrete in driveways, parking lots and walkways. Rainwater can then drain slowly through these surfaces rather than gushing off hard surfaces and taking all the debris with it.
Let’s face it: We are non-point sources of pollution when we make choices that create problems. Try out a few of these steps to help keep our waters clean. The choices are up to you every day.

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