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Land Use Planning Information>Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint Source Pollution

When it rains or the snow melts, water runs off the land into our streams, rivers, inland lakes and the Great Lakes. As the water moves across various landscapes, such as plowed agricultural fields, city streets and residential backyards, it picks up soil particles, fertilizers, pesticides, animal wastes, road salt, motor oil and other land borne pollutants. This type of pollution is called nonpoint source pollution.

Nonpoint source pollution is also caused by wind, which, like rain, can pick up soil particles and desposit them in our lakes and streams.

Where Does it Come From?
Urban Stormwater Runoff
Forests
Agriculture
Household Chemicals
Landscaping and Gardening
Septic Systems
Water Conservation
Community Action
Other Things

Where Does it Come From?

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Construction sediment - When land is cleared for new construction, soil erodes easily. Soil washes into streams, clouding the water and blocking sunlight needed by aquatic life. As the dirt settles, it buries nesting and spawning areas and smothers insects that live on the stream bottom.
Farm chemicals - Fertilizers and pesticides are sometimes needed to produce the food we depend on. These chemicals can run-off into our lakes and streams or seep into our groundwater that we use for drinking.
Lawn chemicals - Sometimes the chemicals used on lawns can run-off into our lakes or streams or seep into our groundwater (drinking water).
Other hazardous chemicals - Pool chemicals, oil, solvents, etc. are found in sheds, basements, garages. These chemicals if not stored or disposed of properly can end up in our streams, lakes or groundwater. Some farm, lawn and other household chemicals may be dangerous for both humans and wildlife.
Septic system wastes - Nutrients and e-coli bacteria leaching from poorly maintained or failing septic systems can pollute our groundwater, lakes and streams. Nutrients can cause algae blooms and excessive plant growth in lakes. Increased bacteria levels in groundwater, lakes and streams can present a public safety issue.
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Urban Stormwater Runoff

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  • Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains--these outlets drain directly to lake, streams, rivers, and wetlands.

  • Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions.

  • Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals properly, not in storm sewers or drains.

  • Clean up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease, and antifreeze. Do not hose them into the street where they can eventually reach local streams and lakes.

  • Control soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas.

  • Encourage local government officials to develop construction erosion/sediment control ordinances in your community.


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Forests

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  • Use proper logging and erosion control practices on your forest lands by ensuring proper construction, maintenance, and closure of logging roads and skid trails.

  • Keep disturbance in forests and natural areas to a minimum.


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Agriculture

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  • Manage animal waste to minimize contamination of surface and ground water. Protect drinking water by using less pesticides and fertilizers.

  • Reduce soil erosion by using conservation and other best management practices.

  • Use planned grazing systems on pasture and rangeland.

  • Dispose of pesticides, containers, and tank rinsate in an approved manner.


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Household Chemicals

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Many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic.
  • Select less toxic alternatives. Use non-toxic substitutes wherever possible.

  • Buy chemicals only in the amount you expect to use, and apply them only as directed. More is not better.

  • Take unwanted household chemicals to hazardous waste collection centers; do not pour them down the drain. Pouring chemicals down the drain may disrupt your septic system or else contaminate treatment plant sludge.

  • Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground. Soil cannot purify most chemicals, and they may eventually contaminate runoff.

  • Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents.

  • Use water-based products whenever possible.

  • Do not indiscriminately spray leftover household pesticides, either indoors or outdoors, where a pest problem has not been identified. Dispose of excess pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers. Many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic. Select less toxic alternatives. Use non-toxic substitutes wherever possible.

  • Buy chemicals only in the amount you expect to use, and apply them only as directed. More is not better.

  • Take unwanted household chemicals to hazardous waste collection centers; do not pour them down the drain. Pouring chemicals down the drain may disrupt your septic system or else contaminate treatment plant sludge.

  • Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground. Soil cannot purify most chemicals, and they may eventually contaminate runoff.

  • Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents.

  • Use water-based products whenever possible.

  • Do not indiscriminately spray leftover household pesticides, either indoors or outdoors, where a pest problem has not been identified. Dispose of excess pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers. Many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic. Select less toxic alternatives. Use non-toxic substitutes wherever possible.

  • Buy chemicals only in the amount you expect to use, and apply them only as directed. More is not better.

  • Take unwanted household chemicals to hazardous waste collection centers; do not pour them down the drain. Pouring chemicals down the drain may disrupt your septic system or else contaminate treatment plant sludge.

  • Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground. Soil cannot purify most chemicals, and they may eventually contaminate runoff.

  • Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents.

  • Use water-based products whenever possible.

  • Do not indiscriminately spray leftover household pesticides, either indoors or outdoors, where a pest problem has not been identified. Dispose of excess pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers. Many chemicals commonly used around the home are toxic. Select less toxic alternatives. Use non-toxic substitutes wherever possible.

  • Buy chemicals only in the amount you expect to use, and apply them only as directed. More is not better.

  • Take unwanted household chemicals to hazardous waste collection centers; do not pour them down the drain. Pouring chemicals down the drain may disrupt your septic system or else contaminate treatment plant sludge.

  • Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground. Soil cannot purify most chemicals, and they may eventually contaminate runoff.

  • Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents.

  • Use water-based products whenever possible.

  • Do not indiscriminately spray leftover household pesticides, either indoors or outdoors, where a pest problem has not been identified. Dispose of excess pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers.


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Landscaping and Gardening

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  • When landscaping yards, select plants that have low requirements for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.

  • Cultivate plants that discourage pests. Minimize grassed areas that require high maintenance.

  • Preserve existing trees, and plant trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and promote infiltration of water into the soil.

  • Use landscaping techniques such as grass swales. Low areas in the lawn or porous walkways to increase infiltration and decrease runoff.

  • Install wood decking or bricks or interlocking stones instead of impervious cement walkways.

  • Install gravel trenches along driveways or patios to collect water and allow it to filter into the ground.

  • Restore bare patches in your lawn as soon as possible to avoid erosion.

  • Grade all areas away from your house at a slope of one percent or more.

  • Leave lawn clippings on your lawn so that nutrients in the clippings are recycled and less yard waste goes to landfills.

  • If you elect to use a professional lawn care service, select a company that employs trained technicians and follows practices designed to minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

  • Compost your yard trimmings. Compost is a valuable soil conditioner which gradually releases nutrients to your lawn and garden. (Using compost will also decrease the amount of fertilizer you need to apply.) In addition, compost retains moisture in the soil and thus helps you conserve water.

  • Spread mulch on bare ground to help prevent erosion and runoff.

  • Test your soil before applying fertilizers. Over- fertilization is a common problem, and the excess can leach into ground water or contaminate rivers or lakes. Also, avoid using fertilizers near surface waters.

  • Use slow-release fertilizers on areas where the potential for water contamination is high, such as sandy soils, steep slopes, compacted soils, and verges of water bodies.

  • Select the proper season to apply fertilizers: Incorrect timing may encourage weeds or stress grasses.

  • Do not apply pesticides or fertilizers before or during rain due to the strong likelihood of runoff.

  • Calibrate your applicator before applying pesticides or fertilizers. As equipment ages, annual adjustments may be needed. Keep storm gutters and drains clean of leaves and yard trimmings. (Decomposing vegetative matter leaches nutrients and can clog storm systems and result in flooding.)

  • Do not over-water your lawn or garden. Over-watering may increase leaching of fertilizers to ground water.

  • When your lawn or garden needs watering, use slow-watering techniques such as trickle irrigation or soaker hoses. (Such devices reduce runoff and are 20-percent more effective than sprinklers.)

  • Clean up after your pets. Pet waste contains nutrients and pathogens that can contaminate surface water.
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Septic Systems

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Improperly maintained septic systems can contaminate ground water and surface water with nutrients and pathogens. Ensuring that the septic system continues to function properly is important in reducing leaks and potential nonpoint source pollution.

  • Septic tanks must be pumped regularly. (Pumping out every three to five years is recommended for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000-gallon tanks. Smaller tanks should be pumped more often.)

  • Do not use septic system additives. There is no scientific evidence that biological and chemical additives aid or accelerate decomposition in septic tanks; some additives may in fact be detrimental to the septic system or contaminate ground water.

  • Do not divert stormdrains or basement pumps into septic systems.

  • Avoid or reduce the use of garbage disposal. (Garbage disposals contribute unnecessary solids to septic systems and can also increase the frequency that tanks need to be pumped.)

  • Don't use toilets as trash cans! Excess solids may clog drainfield and necessitate more frequent pumping.


Water Conservation

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Homeowners can significantly reduce the volume of wastewater discharged to home septic systems and sewage treatment plants by conserving water.

  • Decreasing water usage can help prevent septic systems from overloading and contaminating ground water and surface water. (Seventy-five percent of drainfield failures are due to hydraulic overloading.)

  • Use low-flow faucets, showerheads, reduced-flow toilet flushing equipment and water saving appliances such as dish and clothes washers.

  • Repair leaking faucets, toilets, and pumps.

  • Use dishwashers and clothes washers only when fully loaded.

  • Take short showers instead of baths and avoid letting faucets run unnecessarily.

  • Wash your car only when necessary; use a bucket to save water. Alternatively, go to a commercial carwash that uses water efficiently and disposes of runoff properly.
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Community Action

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  • Participate in clean-up activities in your neighborhood.

  • Write or call your elected representatives to inform them about your concerns and encourage legislation to protect water resources.

  • Get involved in local planning and zoning decisions and encourage your local officials to develop erosion and sediment control ordinances.

  • Promote environmental education. Help educate people in your community about ways in which they can help protect water quality.

  • Get your community groups involved.


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Other Things

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  • Drive only when necessary. Driving less reduces the amount of pollution your automobile generates.

  • Automobiles emit tremendous amounts of airborne pollutants, which increase acid rain; they also deposit toxic metals and petroleum byproducts into the environment. Regular tune-ups and inspections can help keep automotive waste and byproducts from contaminating runoff. Clean up any spilled automobile fluids.

  • Recycle used oil and antifreeze by taking them to service stations and other recycling centers. Never put used oil or other chemicals down stormdrains or in drainage ditches. (One quart of oil can contaminate up to two million gallons of drinking water!)


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