The Effects of Water Pollution During the Summer

The Effects of Water Pollution During the Summer

On a warm summer day, nothing feels quite as nice as a refreshing dip in the water. Until the water is contaminated, that is. In the past year, nearly 60 percent of the 4,500 tested beaches across the country had water pollution levels (on at least one occasion) that put swimmers at risk of getting sick. Well over 2,000 beaches surpassed the EPA’s margin of safety. Polluted waters can lead to a variety of stomach and respiratory illnesses in swimmers, and ultimately cause an estimated 57 million cases of waterborne illnesses every year.

According to the EPA’s most recent Water Quality Assessment data, fecal matter from sewage overflows and stormwater runoff in highly settled areas are the two of the largest causes of waterway contamination.

photo of beach with sign warning swimmers not to swim in contaminated water

Stormwater

Stormwater flowing over both suburban and urban areas pick up fecal matter from pets and wildlife along the way. This waste carries bacteria which leads to illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that from 2000 to 2014, 140 outbreaks caused by recreational water contamination caused nearly 5,000 illnesses and two deaths. Consuming seafood harvested from contaminated waters can also cause an equally harmful health threat. In addition, studies in California show that swimmers directly in the flow of storm drains are 50% more likely to develop an illness than those who are just 400 more yards away from the same drainage flow.

Sewage Overflows

The EPA estimated that 850 billion gallons of untreated water were released into waterways as a result of sewage overflows. Sewage contamination contains human waste comprised of bacteria, viruses, and parasites capable of causing diseases.

The Effects of Fecal Contamination

Data from the 2018 National Water Quality Monitoring Councils’ Water Quality Portal showed staggering levels of contaminants from stormwater runoff and sewage overflows. Approximately 58 percent of beach sites tested in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states had unsafe levels of fecal contamination for swimming on at least one day.

Tested sites were unsafe if bacteria levels exceeded the EPA’s ‘Beach Action Value.’ These levels were reached in every region of the country.

  • Gulf Coast Beaches – 329 sites (85 percent of the 385 sites tested) were unsafe for at least one day
  • West Coast Beaches – 573 sites (67 percent of the 850 sites tested) were unsafe for at least one day
  • East Coast Beaches – 1,134 sites (48 percent of the 2,373 sites tested) were unsafe for at least one day
  • Great Lake Beaches – 418 sites (75 percent of the 558 sites tested) were unsafe for at least one day

Keeping our waterways clean, especially during the summer months, is critical. Luckily, we can all help reduce the number of contaminants reaching our favorite beaches and swimming holes.

Here are some helpful tips to stay safe at the beach this summer by preventing water pollution:

Prevent Urban Runoff Pollution

  • Advocate for natural and green infrastructure that prevent bacteria-laden pollution, such as rain barrels, permeable pavement, urban greenspace, and green roofs.
  • Protect and restore natural infrastructure such as wetlands that can filter bacteria, sediments, and nutrients.
  • Wash your car at a commercial car wash, or on an unpaved surface so the excess water can be absorbed by the ground.
  • Keep yard clippings out of the street. Sweep driveways and yards instead of hosing them down and letting residual materials flow into the storm drains.
  • Clean up oil spills and fix leaking automobiles.
urban water pollution shows plastic and other matter in ocean

Prevent Sewage Pollution

  • Advocate for public investments in fixing aging sewer systems.
  • Advocate for upgrade or relocation of wastewater facilities that are in danger of overflowing during storms and floods.
  • Ensure frequent inspections and proper maintenance of residential septic systems.

Prevent Manure Pollution

  • Help design best practices for reducing manure pollution from cropland, including the maintenance of conservation buffers set up around fields.
  • Encourage livestock operations to raise animals on rotational pastures.

Will you be able to put these into effect in efforts to stop stormwater pollution? What else are you doing to keep our waterways clean?

Stormwater Pollution and Lawn Maintenance

Stormwater Pollution and Lawn Maintenance

During the spring and summer months, stormwater pollution is especially prevalent. Water resulting from precipitation and snow/ice melt either soaks into exposed soil or remains on top of impervious surfaces. As stormwater flows as runoff to nearby waterways, it picks up pollutants including debris, sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste and more.

A major contributor to stormwater pollution is traced back to residual excess from lawn care maintenance – particularly with fertilizers and lawn clippings.

Check out the five tips below for ways to reduce stormwater pollution when it comes to your lawn maintenance.

 

Please feel free to print and share our Stormwater Pollution and Lawn Maintenance Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc. A high-resolution pdf can be downloaded by clicking here.

Use Fertilizer Sparingly

A little goes a long way. Many plants don’t need as much fertilizer or need it as often as you think. Reduce stormwater pollution by minimizing your fertilizer during the spring and summer.

Use Organic, Phosphorous Free Fertilizers

In addition to reducing stormwater pollution with the amount of fertilizer you use, it’s equally important to use the proper type. Organic, phosphorous free fertilizers release nutrients slower and are less detrimental to the environment.

Proper Disposal of Waste

One of the best ways to reduce stormwater pollution is with the proper disposal of lawn waste. Leaves and grass clippings can wash into storm drains, adding unwanted nutrients to streams.

Excess Water

Stop pollutants from making their way into the storm drain by avoiding over-watering as well as fertilizing before a rainstorm.

6 Ways to Help Prevent Stormwater Pollution this Spring

6 Ways to Help Prevent Stormwater Pollution this Spring

You know what they say; April showers bring May flowers. While the start of spring and warmer days to come is certainly exciting, it’s important not to oversee what else comes with an increase in seasonal rain – stormwater pollution. Stormwater is water that comes from precipitation and snow/ice melt. The water either soaks into exposed soil or remains on top of impervious surfaces like pavement or rooftops. Most stormwater will eventually evaporate, but often times it will flow as runoff to another location. As the water runs it picks up pollutants along its path including debris, sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste and more. This polluted stormwater can cause soil erosion, stream impairment, flooding, fish and wildlife habitat loss, and reduced groundwater levels. Although stormwater pollution cannot be eliminated completely, you can do your part in preventing it. Check out these six ways to help prevent stormwater pollution this spring.

stormwater drain leading into creek

1. Only Rain Belongs in the Drain

As you start a spring cleanup in your yard, it’s important to remember that storm drains are not garbage disposals. Substances including leaves, yard waste, and other debris should be disposed of properly, and not released into neighborhood drains. Do your part to ensure that the only thing flowing into the storm drains are rain and snow/ice melt.

2. Use Lawn Chemicals Sparingly

With the arrival of warmer weather and outdoor summer fun on the horizon, now is the time when people start getting their lawns in tip-top shape. When it comes to fertilizer, remember that a little goes a long way. While a 20-pound bag of lawn fertilizer may seem small, do note that it will typically cover up to 4,000 square-feet of space (bigger than a tennis court). When spreading the fertilizer, use it sparingly to assure the excess does not overflow into runoff when rain comes. Choosing an organic fertilizer will also be less detrimental to the environment.

man fertilizing lawn

3. Avoid Over-Watering Your Lawn

While fresh, green grass is the end-goal for most yards come springtime, be sure not to over-water your lawn. In addition to the risk of fertilizer flowing over and out into the streets, it’s not good to have pools of water collecting in your grass. Avoid this by scheduling times each week to water your lawn, or by turning on sprinkler timers.

4. Wash Your Car Over Grass or Gravel

If you plan to wash your car at home, find an outdoor surface such as gravel, stone or grass to wash it on. Soapy water and grime will have an easier time neutralizing if it is filtered out before it reaches our streams and creeks. Try using a non-toxic or biodegradable soap as well to allow fewer chemicals to get into the water. An even safer alternative would be heading over to your local car wash where they will have a system in place for recycling or removing wastewater.

kids washing car at home

5. Pick Up Pet Waste

Although this sounds like a given, there are still many folks who do not pick up their pet’s waste. Pick up, bag, and dispose of pet waste properly to assure that unhealthy bacteria is not flowing into local waterways.

6. Plant Low-Maintenance Grasses and Plants

When it comes time to choose either grass seeds for your lawn or decorative plants, go with a low-maintenance, native (ones that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved) option. Because native plants adapt to local environmental conditions, they require far less water and are a lot better for the environment. Curious about what types of native plants are in your area? Check out this Native Plants Database to find out!

Interested in learning more about eco-conscious stormwater management to avoid stormwater pollution? Check out our infographic here and keep these tips in mind as you get going on your spring activities.

 

Stormwater 101 Infographic

Stormwater 101

What is stormwater, what causes stormwater pollution, and how can we help prevent it? Take a look at our Stormwater 101 infographic! Please feel free to download, distribute, and print, with attribution. A high resolution PDF can be downloaded here.

stormwater_infographic