Lawn and Garden Activities
Lawn and garden activities can result in contamination of stormwater through pesticide, soil, and fertilizer runoff. Proper landscape management, however, can effectively reduce water use and contaminant runoff and enhance the aesthetics of a property.
- Planning and Design – It is important for property owners to develop a landscape plan that utilizes the natural conditions of the property.
- Soil Analysis – Test soils every 3 to 4 years to determine the amount of nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy lawn.
- Appropriate Plant Selection – Choose local or regional plants when developing an environmentally friendly landscape.
- Practical Turf Areas – Plant non-turf areas where possible, because lawns require more water and maintenance than wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
- Efficient Irrigation – Use low-volume watering approaches such as drip type or sprinkler systems. Avoid over watering to eliminate runoff problems.
- Use of Mulches – Mulches help retain water, reduce weed growth, prevent erosion, and improve the soil for plant growth.
- Fertilizers – Avoid using fertilizers, or if they are used, from over-applying them. Use less-toxic alternatives to commercial fertilizers, such as composted organic material.
- Pesticides – Like fertilizers, pesticides should be used on lawns and gardens only when absolutely necessary. Pesticide use can be avoided entirely by selecting hearty plants that are native to the area and by keeping them healthy.
Proper Disposal of Household Hazardous Wastes
Other products labeled toxic, flammable, or corrosive, or containing lye, phenols, petroleum distillates, or trichlorobenzene. Many products found in homes contain chemical ingredients that are potentially harmful to people and to the environment. Chemicals such as oven cleaners, paint removers, bug killers, solvents, and drain cleaners are just a few common hazardous products in the home. Over the last 20 years, concern about the disposal of such products has been growing. In 1976, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed, regulating the procedures governing the generation, storage, transport, treatment, and disposal of hazardous materials. Although this legislation has mitigated some of the problems associated with commercial hazardous material disposal, more efforts need to be made to reduce and properly dispose of hazardous waste in the home.
Hazardous products include the following:
- Cleaning products: oven cleaner, floor wax, furniture polish, drain cleaner, and spot remover.
- Car care and maintenance: motor oil, battery acid, gasoline, car wax, engine cleaner, antifreeze, degreaser, radiator flush, and rust preventative.
- Home improvement products: paints, preservatives, strippers, brush cleaners, and solvents.
Disposal of hazardous products used in the home also requires special attention. When use of hazardous household products is unavoidable, hazardous wastes should not be flushed down the drain because these drains lead to either a home septic system or a municipal treatment plant, neither of which has adequate capability to remove hazardous chemicals form wastewater. Toxic chemicals might also disrupt microbial processes in septic tanks and treatment plants, reducing their effectiveness. Some of the toxins can be removed, but a significant portion of these chemicals passes through treatment processes and ultimately contaminates water resources. Hazardous products used in the home should never be poured on the ground, into gutters, or down storm drains where they will eventually enter storm sewers and be transported into nearby water bodies untreated.
- Use less toxic alternatives to household hazardous waste
- Contact your solid waste disposal service for locations of hazard waste collection sites.
- Your waste disposal service does not pick up hazardous materials.
- Do not use your storm drain system for hazardous waste disposal.
Pet Waste Management
When pet waste is not properly disposed of, it can wash into nearby water bodies or can be carried by runoff into storm drains. Since storm drains do not connect to treatment facilities, but rather drain directly into lakes and streams, untreated animal feces can become a significant source of runoff pollution.
As pet waste decays in a water body, it uses up oxygen, sometimes releasing ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia combined with warm temperatures can be detrimental to the health of fish and other aquatic life. Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication). Eutrophic water becomes cloudy and green, making it unattractive or even prohibitive for swimming and recreation. Pet waste also carries bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can pose risks to human health and threaten wildlife.
There is plenty of evidence that pets and urban wildlife can be significant bacterial sources. A single gram of dog feces can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. Dogs can also be significant hosts of both Giardia and Salmonella. It was also noted in a 1982 study of Baltimore, Maryland catchments that dog feces were the single greatest contributor of fecal coliform and fecal strep bacteria. This evidence points to a need for enforcement and education to raise resident awareness regarding the water quality impacts of this urban pollutant source.
- Please pick up after your pet — Use a “pooper scooper”.
- Dispose of waste properly
Detergents and Car Washing
Most people do not think of detergents as a serious environmental hazard. Unfortunately, detergents in our creeks and ponds pose a very real threat to our fish. The detergents by themselves can have poisonous effects to all types of aquatic life if they are present in sufficient quantities, and this includes the biodegradable detergents. All detergents destroy the external mucus layers that protect the fish from bacteria and parasites; plus they can cause severe damage to the gills. Most fish will die when detergent concentrations near 15 parts per million (ppm). Detergents concentrations as low as 5 ppm will kill fish eggs.
Detergents can also add to problems of aquatic life by lowering the surface tension of the water. Organic chemicals such as pesticides and phenols are then much more easily absorbed by the fish. A detergent concentration of only 2 ppm can cause fish to absorb double the amount of chemicals they would normally absorb. As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of detergents to affect the fish.
The county has not established regulatory requirements at this time, however, we are asking for citizens to voluntarily eliminate all outdoor detergent discharges.
Each and every one of us can make a positive difference in reclaiming our neighborhood creeks if we will just make a few changes in our lifestyles. Number one, don’t wash cars, boats or RV’s at home. The detergent laden water runs down the street, through the storm drain and into a creek. Use a commercial car wash instead. It doesn’t matter if it’s automated or self serve, the wastewater generated at these facilities is sent to the wastewater treatment plant where it is thoroughly cleaned. Number two, practice dry cleanup methods when cleaning your sidewalks and driveways. Try using a broom instead of a water hose and utilize dry cleanup methods when removing oil stains. There are many new products available at most auto part stores that do not use water.
The development of a prevention program to reduce the impact of car wash runoff includes outreach on management practices to reduce discharges to storm drains. Some of these management practices include:
- Using a commercial car wash.
- Washing your car on gravel, grass or other permeable surfaces.
- Blocking off the storm drain during charity car wash events or using an insert to catch wash water.
- Pumping soapy water from car washes into a sanitary sewer drain.
- If pumping into a drain is not feasible, pumping car wash water onto grass or landscaping to provide filtration.
- Using hoses with nozzles that automatically turn off when left unattended.
Automotive maintenance facilities are considered to be stormwater “hotspots” where significant loads of hydrocarbons, trace metals and other pollutants can be produced that can affect the quality of stormwater runoff. Some of the types of waste generated at automobile maintenance facilities and by residents performing their own car maintenance at home include:
- Solvents (paints and paint thinners)
- Brake fluid and brake lining
- Motor oils
- Fuels (gasoline, diesel, kerosene)
- Lubricating grease
Automotive maintenance facilities are highly regulated with respect to discharges to storm and sanitary sewer systems. Fluid spills and improper disposal of materials result in pollutants, heavy metals and toxic materials entering ground and surface water supplies, creating public health and environmental risks. Alteration of practices involving the cleanup and storage of automotive fluids and cleaning of vehicle parts can help reduce the influence of automotive maintenance practices on stormwater runoff and local water supplies.
The automotive repair industry is the leader in number of generators and amount of total waste produced for small quantity generators of hazardous waste in the United States. Common activities at maintenance shops that generate this waste include the cleaning of parts, changing of vehicle fluids, and replacement and repair of equipment. These activities are also performed by residents at home in their driveway in the course of normal vehicle care. In ultra urban areas, the impacts of automotive maintenance practices are more pronounced due to the greater concentrations of vehicles and higher levels of impervious surface.
Waste Reduction – The number of solvents used should be kept to a minimum to make recycling easier and to reduce hazardous waste management cost.
Do all liquid cleaning at a centralized station to ensure solvents and residues stay in one area.
Locate drip pans and draining boards to direct solvents back into solvent sink or holding tank for reuse
Using Safer Alternatives – Use non-hazardous cleaners when possible.
Replace chlorinated organic solvents with non-chlorinated ones like kerosene or mineral spirits.
Recycled products such as engines oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze, and hydraulic fluid can be purchased if available to support the market of recycled products.
Spill Clean Up – Use as little water as possible to clean spills, leaks, and drips.
Rags should be used to clean small spills, dry absorbent material for larger spills, and a mop for general cleanup. Mop water can be disposed of via the sink or toilet to the sanitary sewer.
Good Housekeeping – Parked vehicles should be monitored closely for leaks and pans placed under any leaks to collect the fluids for proper disposal or recycling.
Promptly transfer used fluids to recycling drums or hazardous waste containers.
Do not pour liquid waste down floor drains, sinks, or outdoor storm drain inlets.
Obtain and use drain mats to cover drains in the event of a spill. Store cracked batteries in leak proof secondary containers.
Parts Cleaning – Use detergent based or water based cleaning systems instead of organic solvent degreasers.
Steam cleaning and pressure washing may be used instead of solvent parts cleaning. The wastewater generated from steam cleaning should be discharged to a pretreatment structure.
The presence of pesticides in stormwater runoff has a direct impact on the health of aquatic organisms and can present a threat to humans through contamination of drinking water supplies. The pesticides of greatest concern are insecticides, such as diazinon and chloropyrifos, which even at very low levels can be harmful to aquatic life. A recent study of urban streams by the U.S. Geological Survey found that some of the more commonly used household and garden insecticides occurred at higher frequencies and concentrations in urban streams than in agricultural streams. The study also found that these insecticide concentrations were frequently in excess of US EPA guidelines for protection of aquatic life.
The major sources of pesticides to urban streams are home applications of products designed to kill insects and weeds in the lawn and garden.
How Do I Eliminate Pests in My Yard?
Biological control is a component of an integrated pest management strategy. It is defined as the reduction of pest populations by natural enemies and typically involves an active human role. Keep in mind that all insect species are also suppressed by naturally occurring organisms and environmental factors, with no human input. This is frequently referred to as natural control.
The conservation of natural enemies is probably the most important and readily available biological control practice available to growers. Natural enemies occur in all production systems, from the backyard garden to the commercial field. They are adapted to the local environment and to the target pest, and their conservation is generally simple and cost effective. With relatively little effort the activity of these natural enemies can be observed.
Trash and floating debris in waterways have become significant pollutants, especially in areas where a large volume of trash is generated in a concentrated area. Trash in water bodies contributes to visual pollution and detracts from the aesthetic qualities of the landscape. It also poses a threat to wildlife and human health (e.g. choking hazards to wildlife and bacteria to humans).
- Use waste disposal and recycling centers.
- Form neighborhood clean up campaigns.
- Adopt-a-highway or adopt-a-stream programs initiated by ADOT.