When it rains, there is water (storm water runoff) that is not absorbed into the ground. Instead, it flows down different surfaces such as rooftops, lawns, and roads and carries pollutants into nearby bodies of water.
These pollutants include:
As the pollutants empty into bodies of water and contribute to polluted lakes, rivers, and other waterways. For example, pesticides and other chemicals can kill nearby aquatic life, while the bacteria released from pet waste can make the water unsafe for swimming and cause the aquatic life living there to become non-consumable. Even eroding soil, which may seem like a normal part of runoff, can cloud the water, and interfere with aquatic and plant life.
While you might not litter and are consistently picking up and throwing away your pet’s waste you may be unknowingly contributing to storm drain pollution.
Your car, for example, can become a huge source of pollutants. If you are washing your car in your driveway instead of a commercial car wash, there is a good chance that all that soapy water is going into a nearby storm drain and polluting local waterways. Any oil or fluid leaks that your car is experiencing can also quickly become dangerous pollutants the next time it rains.
While this is true, a common part of your lawn, a garden, can help prevent runoff by collecting and filtering rainwater before it travels down a storm drain. Unfortunately, if you are using fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides your garden may be contributing more to storm drain pollution than it is preventing it. These chemicals are often carried by the remaining water in your garden and emptied directly into local rivers and ponds where it can kill aquatic and plant life while polluting their habitat.
Montgomery County does not filter the water that enters our storm drains, so every pollutant that is emptied into a storm drain not only reaches but also contributes to the destruction of the habitats within our local waterways.
With storm water runoff pollution becoming an increasingly present problem, here are 6 tips to start helping make a difference.
Using a rain barrel to catch rainwater from your roof, which is one big source of runoff, will reduce the amount of rain running off from your home and into local waterways. It will also provide you with free water to use for your garden or lawn while reducing the amount of metered water you are using.
Pet waste is often left on the ground and will wash into nearby storm drains. When the waste enters bodies of water it will decompose and release nutrients that can cause nearby algae to overgrow. This can cause the body of water to become murkier and no longer usable for fishing, swimming, and other activities. To prevent this, make sure you’re picking up and throwing away your pet’s waste into the
Native plants are generally more accustomed to the conditions in your area, including within your garden. They also will not need any fertilizers, and require less watering after they have been planted which not only decreases the runoff from your lawn but is easier for you. Native plants also have better pollutant filtering compared to nonnative plants, which will help filter the water moving through your garden before reaching the drain.
If you choose to plant nonnative plants, you will most likely need to use fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals. Unfortunately, these chemicals can kill aquatic life and make our local bodies of water unusable. Instead, manage your use of fertilizers and use organic alternatives.
Oil or fluid leaks your vehicles may experience may seem small but when those fluids are washed into your storm drain it can be disastrous for aquatic habitats. Oil can cause plants and animals to die and prevent new growth in the future. Keeping your vehicles well maintained and fixing leaks as soon as possible is a great step towards helping prevent pollutants.
Whether this includes litter on the ground, soap, or draining your pool into a drain, making sure the only thing entering your storm drain is rainwater is essential. Even pool or fountain water that may seem safe contains chlorine which is unsafe for most aquatic life. To help out you can sweep your sidewalk of debris/leaves, pick up litter, and follow these tips throughout your day!
You can help reduce water pollution: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/water/streams/pollution.html
Written by Melat Ghebreselassie, a Liberty’s Promise Summer 2021 Intern with Montgomery Energy Connection.