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How to Prevent Nonpoint Source Pollution At Home


There are a number of things that you can do to reduce nonpoint source pollution. These things fall into two categories: reducing run-off and keeping run-off clean.

  • Limit paved surfaces: Paved surfaces like sidewalks, parking lots, roads, and driveways prevent water from percolating down into the ground, cause runoff to accumulate, and funnel into storm drains at high speeds. When quickly flowing runoff empties into receiving waters, it can severely erode streambanks. Paved surfaces also transfer heat to runoff, warming receiving waters until native fishes and other aquatic life cannot survive.
    There are alternatives to traditional nonporous surfaces. Grasses and natural ground cover, for example, can be attractive and practical substitutes for asphalt driveways, walkways, and patios. Wooden decks, gravel or brick paths, and rock gardens keep the natural ground cover intact and allow rainwater to slowly seep into the ground.
  • Landscape with nature: Altering the natural contours of yards during landscaping and planting with nonnative plants that need fertilizer and extra water can increase the potential for higher runoff volumes, increase erosion, and introduce chemicals into the path of runoff.
    Instead, use the xeriscape approach to landscaping. Xeriscape incorporates many environmental factors into landscape design—soil type, use of native plants, practical turf areas, proper irrigation, mulches, and appropriate maintenance schedules. By using native plants that are well-suited to a regions climate and pests, xeriscape drastically reduces the need for irrigation and chemical applications. Less irrigation results in less runoff, while less chemical application keeps runoff clean.
  • Manage septic systems properly: Malfunctioning or overflowing septic systems release bacteria and nutrients into the water cycle, contaminating nearby lakes, streams, and estuaries, and ground water.
    Septic systems must be built in the right place. They should be located away from trees because tree roots can crack pipes or obstruct the flow of wastewater through drain lines. Trampling the ground above the system compacts soil and can cause the systems pipes to collapse.
    Once built, proper maintenance is important. A system should be inspected and emptied every 3 to 5 years. Limit wastewater levels by maintaining water fixtures and by purchasing water-efficient showerheads, faucets, and toilets; this reduces the likelihood of septic system overflow.
  • Use, store, and dispose chemicals properly: Household cleaners, grease, oil, plastics, and some food or paper products should not be flushed down drains or washed down the street. Over time chemicals can corrode septic system pipes and might not be completely removed during the filtration process. Chemicals poured down the drain can also interfere with the chemical and biological breakdown of the wastes in the septic tank.
    On household lawns and gardens, 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 chemicals. Xeriscape can limit chemical applications to lawns and gardens.
    If chemicals are needed around the home, they should be stored properly to prevent leaks and access by children. Most cities have designated sites for the proper disposal of used chemicals.


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Last updated Monday, November 17, 2003 7:02.