While the current nutrient-related water pollution incidents in the news leave challenges for policy makers, there are things we can do at home to reduce nutrient pollution in our streams. We know nutrients can be beneficial to plant growth; elevated nutrients that wash off the land and in our streams can pose a threat to human health. Elevated concentrations of nitrates present a health risk to both infants and women who are pregnant. This spring nitrate levels were identified in drinking water coming from the Columbus Dublin Road water plant, resulting in a water advisory.
Elevated levels of soluble phosphorus can also pose a risk. Harmful algae blooms caused by elevated phosphorus levels produce toxins that can be harmful to humans and pets. As families take to the beaches for summer break, there continues to be concerns about toxic algae in lakes across Ohio. Fertilizers, animal waste, and sewage are major sources of nutrient pollution in our streams. Other sources include atmospheric deposition of automobile exhaust, soil erosion, yard waste, and detergents.
There are many actions residents and homeowners can take to reduce nutrient pollution in our local streams.
1. If you have a household sewage treatment system (septic system or aerator), make sure that it is functioning properly.
2. If you fertilize your lawn, read the labels and do your research to ensure proper application and timing. Sweep up any fertilizer from sidewalks, driveways, streets and other hard surfaces, so that it doesn’t wash into storm drains.
3. Keep lawn and yard waste (raked leaves, yard clippings, etc.) out of the street and backyard streams. Remember, storm drains discharge directly to our streams.
4. Pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly.
5. Wash your car in an area where the wash and rinse water drains to a grassy area and not the street, or wash it at a commercial car wash.
6. Install practices that infiltrate rain water into the ground such as rain barrels and cisterns that store water that can be reused and rain gardens that can store and infiltrate water from our rooftops.
7. Maintain your vehicles’ pollution control devices. These devices reduce the nitrogen compounds that are released into the air and then return to the ground in the form of rain as nutrients.
We all contribute to water pollution and we can reduce this pollution by practicing good stewardship at home.