What Is Stormwater Pollution?
Water from rain and melting snow that flows over lawns, parking lots and streets is known as stormwater runoff. This water, which travels along gutters, into catch basins and through storm drain pipes and ditches, usually is not treated, but then flows or is discharged into local waterbodies. Along the way, the stormwater picks up trash (fast-food wrappers, cigarette butts, Styrofoam cups, etc.) and toxins and other pollutants (gas, motor oil, antifreeze, fertilizers, pesticides and pet droppings). This polluted stormwater can kill fish and other wildlife, destroy wildlife habitat, contaminate drinking water sources and force the closing of beaches because of health threats to swimmers.
Human activity is largely responsible for the stormwater pollution. Everything that we put on the ground or into the storm drain can end up in our water. Each of us has a responsibility to make sure these contaminants stay out of our water. Whether we have clean water is up to you.
STORMWATER POLLUTION PREVENTION
When heavy rains occur, fertilizer, pesticides and any other pollutants flow with it into storm drains and ultimately end up in our lakes and rivers. As part of New Jersey’s strategy to keep our water clean, plentiful and to be compliant with federal requirements, Wayne Township and other municipalities have adopted ordinances which prohibit various activities that contribute to storm water pollution. Violation of these ordinances can result in fines and other penalties.
Your everyday activities can affect water quality. Help reduce the amount of pollution that flows into our waterways by following the tips below.
In The Garden
- Conserve water. Do not overwater your lawn. Adjust sprinklers if water runs into the gutter. Water during cooler times of the day.
- Identify pests before spraying pesticides. Ask a specialist at your garden center for advice on how to treat for that specific pest. Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods to minimize chemical use in your garden. Many IPM methods do not even require the use of chemical pesticides.
- Limit your usage of fertilizers. Reduce the amount of grass by planting ground cover. This reduces the need for fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
- Have your lawn tested at the county Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension office, to determine if you need to fertilize. Use natural pesticides such as milky spore and nematodes wherever possible. Use natural and slow-release nitrogen fertilizers and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. Never apply to your lawn or garden if the weather calls for rain.
- If you must use chemical pesticides, use them sparingly and in targeted areas. Apply them directly to the weeds rather than broadcasting, if possible. Follow the instructions on the label on how to correctly apply and make sure to properly store or discard any unused portions. A healthy lawn will reduce weed growth.
- Use a mulching mower instead of bagging grass clippings to reduce lawn waste and to reduce the need for fertilizer. Use yard waste in a compost pile as a source for enriched soil. Do not put loose leaves or grass clippings in the street. If you do need to dispose of leaves or grass clippings follow the Wayne Recycling regulations for collection requirements.
- Use mulch on flower beds and gardens to prevent weeds from growing and to help absorb water. Use drought-resistant native plants in gardens and beds. These plants require less fertilizer and less water, thereby reducing the amount of potential polluted runoff.
Garbage & Recycling Tips
- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle materials whenever possible to create less waste, which could end up on our streets and contribute to stormwater pollution.
- Pick up trash and litter on your property and put it in the garbage. Always use a public trash can for trash in public areas. Recycle any reusable materials, especially cans, bottles and paper. Never throw garbage and debris directly into storm drains. Such debris can wash into waterways and onto beaches, and clogged drains can cause street flooding and traffic congestion.
- Hazardous products include some household or commercial cleaning products, lawn and garden care products, gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze, oil based paints, varnishes, pool chemicals, and photographic chemicals. Do not dispose of hazardous products down a sink, toilet or a storm basin. Storm basins are ultimately connected to local brooks, streams, rivers and lakes. This is a safety hazard and can result in a fine. These items can be recycled at the County Household Hazardous Waste Collection events listed on the Passaic County Recycling website or you can take them to a household hazardous waste collection center where they can be Recycled. To find a center near you, visit here.