I love the rain – after a good, soaking rain, everything seems to come alive and seems refreshed. However, because of the pollution, we constantly subject our planet to; rain has become toxic because of stormwater runoff. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or melting snow runs over hard surfaces such as roadways, rooftops, sidewalks and driveways rather than being soaked into the ground. The runoff from these hard surfaces is filled with pollutants, such as dirt, chemicals and debris that are then dumped into lakes, streams, rivers and other bodies of water. The pollutants in the runoff are untreated and remain in the water that we use for many things such as swimming, watering gardens, drinking and fishing.
The effects of stormwater runoff are varied and the pollutants in stormwater runoff have serious consequences for plants, fish, animals and humans. First and foremost, stormwater runoff enters water sources that we use to obtain drinking water. This creates polluted drinking water which in turns causes us to become ill. When insecticides, pesticides and other pollutants poison seafood and shellfish, we consume this poison when we eat the seafood or consume land animals who may have fed on the poisoned seafood. That is if the sediment in stormwater runoff has not already destroyed aquatic habitats or the excess nutrients in runoff have not upset the balance of oxygen in water making it difficult or impossible for fish to live. Stormwater runoff also contains debris (plastic bags, bottles, trash, etc.) that can choke and suffocate ducks, fish, birds and turtles. Even if we do not consume poisoned seafood, swimming in water that contains bacteria and other pathogens that have washed into swimming areas with stormwater runoff can make us ill.
We cannot stop the rain; however, we can do something to prevent or reduce stormwater runoff. According to the information available at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency:
Our homes: Dispose of household chemicals, pesticides, paints, etc. according to the instructions on the label. Do not pour these into storm drains or anywhere outside. Do not dispose of chemicals in sinks or toilets.
Our pets: We love our pets; however, their waste contains harmful bacteria that can contaminate stormwater. When walking your pet, pick up pet waste and flush it at home if possible.
Our lawns: Use organic mulch and eco-friendly pest control measures whenever possible. If you must use fertilizer and pesticides, use them sparingly. Do no leave piles of yard debris where it can be washed away with rain.
Our septic tanks: Maintain septic tanks and check regularly for leaks. Repair any leaks or damage to septic systems immediately.
Our vehicles: Check for leaks and repair them immediately (oil, gas, transmission fluid, anti-freeze, etc.). Use commercial car washes that recycle water rather than washing your car at home.
If you want more information about how you can prevent stormwater runoff or ways that your community can reduce stormwater runoff, print the brochure “A Citizen’s Guide To Understanding Stormwater” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency