August is here and everyone is trying to squeeze in a few more adventures before school starts and that can include visiting Ohio’s streams, rivers, and lakes. With more than 60,000 miles of streams and 50,000 lakes and ponds, we are very lucky to live in such a water rich state. How can we do our part to protect the quality of our valuable water resources at the local level?
The two most common pollutants found in our storm water are pet waste and yard debris. Unlike sewage systems, storm water is not treated and travels directly from streets, gutters, catch basins, and road ditches into ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. This means any pollutants placed in the path of storm water will end up in these same bodies of water. It is important to not only recognize the environmental and public health concerns this type of waste can present, but also to be aware of preventative actions we can take to ensure the cleanest possible surface runoff.
Dead leaves and grass clippings are the most common form of yard waste to affect water quality. Dumping grass clippings and raking leaves directly into the street, road ditch, or storm sewer inlet releases nitrogen and phosphorus into our streams, rivers, and lakes. These nutrients, while valuable for growing plants, become food for various bacteria and can lead to algal blooms and in some cases cyanobacteria which can produce toxins harmful to humans, fish, and animals.
You can help by disposing of yard waste properly. The easiest solution for grass clippings is to simply allow cut grass to decompose naturally into your lawn to replenish nutrients. The clippings can provide up to 25 percent of your lawn’s total fertilizer needs. If you must bag, add the clippings to a home compost pile or deliver it to the nearest facility that accepts yard waste. Visit Delaware-Knox-Marion-Morrow Solid Waste District’s website at dkmm.org for a list of places near you. The website also has information on how to make your own compost.
Leaves can be used as an alternative to mulch in flower beds and around trees or composted into rich soil for landscaping and gardening. If you live in a community with leaf pick up, do not push the leaves into the street or gutter as the leaves can clog the inlet and cause flooded streets.
Pet waste can present serious health concerns because of the bacteria in it. Dog feces can carry a host of diseases and worms, including E. coli. This is why it’s imperative to clean it up after Fido does his duty. Remove pet waste from your yard and pick up after your dog when you take him out for exercise. Place bagged waste in the trash or flush smaller quantities of unbagged waste down the toilet. According to petMD, cat waste should always be disposed of in the trash and never flushed in the toilet. If you don’t want to “scoop the poop” there are pet waste removal companies that provide service in Delaware County.
If your last few days of vacation include a road trip to a public beach for swimming, check out publicapps.odh.ohio.gov/BeachGuardPublic/Default.aspx for the latest monitoring information from the Ohio Department of Health. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
For other great conservation ideas and event information and our schedule of Delaware County Fair events, please visit our website at www.delawareswcd.org.
Bonnie Dailey is the deputy administrator of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District.
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