Reduce stormwater runoff to control pollution from your home
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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 80 percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land, and the biggest source of such pollution is stormwater runoff.
That's why President Obama has proclaimed the month of June to be National Oceans Month, and the United Nations has declared June 8 to be World Oceans Day. Both designations are designed to raise awareness about the actions people can take at a community level to reduce pollution in the world’s oceans.
NDS, Inc., a manufacturer of stormwater management and drainage products, encourages all homeowners to look for ways to reduce stormwater runoff in their day-to-day actions during National Oceans Month. Such practical steps can help reduce or eliminate the amount of pollutants and contaminants that run off a property during rainstorms into local waterways, watersheds and oceans.
Created when snow melts or rain falls on roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops and other paved surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground, stormwater runoff picks up and carries pollutants and contaminants into streams, and then flows downstream into lakes, rivers or oceans. These pollutants can include:
- Oil, grease, metals and coolants from vehicles
- Fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals from gardens and homes
- Plastics and other trash from streets
- Bacteria from pet wastes and failing septic systems
- Soil from construction sites and other bare ground
- Soaps from car or equipment washing
- Sediment from construction sites
“For most people, a good first step for reducing stormwater runoff starts in their own backyards,” said Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer and technical services manager at NDS. He is also known as “Dr. Drainage” in NDS’s YouTube instructional video series about how to properly use and install stormwater management and drainage products.
Larsen recommends several no-to-low-cost ways homeowners can reduce their stormwater runoff. These include:
Redirect downspouts: Direct downspouts and gutters onto your lawn and plant beds, or into rain barrels, cisterns or containment areas.
Police your yard and storm drain: Don't dump anything down storm drains. Be sure to clear away branches, leaves, trash and other debris to prevent obstructions. Sweep grass clippings, fertilizer and soil onto your lawn so they don’t get washed into storm drains. Pick up pet waste to help reduce bacterial and nutrient pollution.
Mow your lawn less often: Try to keep your lawn at least 3 inches in height, which reduces the need for watering and increases absorption of rain water. Leave grass clippings on your lawn to block weeds and retain moisture. Sweep clippings on your sidewalks and driveway on to your lawn rather than hosing them down.
Clean up your driveway: Clean up oil spills and fluid leaks from your car when parked in your driveway. Use cat litter to absorb oil and be sure to sweep up the litter once it absorbs the oil and dispose of it in a trash bag.
Wash your car with care: Take your car to the car wash instead of washing it in the driveway. Or, move your car onto your lawn to wash it, so water soaks into the ground and doesn’t run into sewers.
Plant more plants: Incorporate plantings, especially in areas where runoff collects. As runoff soaks into soil, plant roots help absorb and filter out pollutants. When runoff soaks into and percolates through soil, the soil also acts as a filter, removing some pollutants.
Additionally, for homeowners that want to do more, Larsen recommends several common products managing stormwater that can be purchased at home improvement and hardware stores:
- Catch basin: Designed to trap sediment, debris, contaminants and pollutants so that they cannot enter drainage pipes, catch basins are installed beneath downspouts. Large objects, such as leaves, will be filtered out and heavier bits, such as dirt, will sink to the bottom of the basin.
- French drain: A trench filled with gravel or rock or containing a perforated pipe, a French drain directs stormwater away from a specific area, blocks the passage of excess debris and collects water over the entire length of the drain instead of one particular spot.
- Dry well: An underground structure that collects and retains runoff, a dry well is typically a round plastic container with holes in it to allow water to slowly seep out and return to the groundwater.
- Permeable pavers: An alternative to traditional paving methods for driveways, walkways and patios, permeable pavers are typically honeycombed 3D grid-cellular systems, made of plastic and other materials, that naturally filter stormwater and reduce runoff that can pollute waterways.
Read more about wastewater treatment.