Protecting Our WaterThreats to Our Water
Sources of Pollution
Water pollution comes from either point sources (PS) or nonpoint sources (NPS). PS pollution comes from a single, easily-identifiable source such as an industry or wastewater treatment plant. NPS pollution comes from diffuse sources and is commonly caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground picking up pollutants and depositing them in rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater.
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In our urban community, the biggest contributor to nonpoint source pollution to surface water is stormwater runoff — the water that flows and drains after a rain or snow melt. Unlike sewage from our homes and businesses, which is captured and piped to the wastewater treatment plant to be cleaned, rain or melting snow runoff from lawns, streets, and parking lots flows directly to our rivers, lakes, and streams untreated. It impacts both our surface water and groundwater.
The biggest threat to groundwater is also nonpoint source pollution from practices on the land, such as leaking underground storage tanks, failed septic tank systems, spills of hazardous chemicals from industrial sites, transportation accidents, and mismanaged manure operations.
Individuals can also pollute the groundwater by dumping motor oil, fuels, cleaners, paints, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides on the ground or down the drain. Take hazardous wastes to a community collection event to protect our drinking water.
How You Can Help!
Excess salt can run off paved surfaces into surface and groundwater increasing chloride concentrations to unacceptable levels. Shovel snow early and often in the winter and try an alternative to salt, such as kitty litter or potassium chloride.
Fuel Storage Tanks
Leaking above and underground storage tanks are a major source of contamination. Check all tanks on your property regularly for leaks.
Leaves and grass clippings
The next time you mow your lawn, mulch, bag, or compost your grass clippings, but don’t let it run into the storm drains. All that grass can end up in our lakes and rivers and release nutrients, which make weeds and algae grow.
Properly dispose of household hazardous waste
Never dump items such as motor oil, fuel products, cleaners, paints, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides on the ground or down the drain. They can contaminate groundwater and surface water.
Close any abandoned wells on your property. They can act as conduits for contamination of groundwater.
Wash cars at a commercial car wash or on the lawn so that wash water can be absorbed and naturally filtered, avoiding streets and storm drains.
Use no-phosphorus fertilizer
In 2012, the State of Michigan banned the use of fertilizer containing phosphorus for residential use with a few exceptions (new turf and where soil tests show deficiency). Fertilizers list their nutrient with three numbers in order as Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. For example, a fertilizer listed as 5-10-10 has 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potassium. So, be sure to choose a fertilizer with a middle number of 0.
Only rain in the storm drain
Rain water and snow melt are the only things that should wash down our storm drains. Anything else—grass clippings, leaves, motor oil, and fertilizer—is considered an illicit discharge. Storm water travels UNTREATED to lakes, rivers or wetland.
If you have a septic system, have it checked every 2–3 years to insure it is working properly. Improperly maintained septic systems can leach harmful nutrients and bacteria into the surface and groundwater.
Pet waste can act as a fertilizer in surface water, triggering algal growth and decreased oxygen levels. Plus it’s full of bacteria that can be harmful to human health. Be a responsible pet owner and prevent contamination of the surface water and groundwater we all share by cleaning up anything—“left behind” on your walk.
Travel Trailer Waste
During the camping season, remember to properly dispose of your black water tank waste at a designated RV sanitary dump station. Improper disposal of waste contaminates the ground and water and leaves the “great outdoors”—not-so-great!