Sources of Water Pollution

Point Source Pollution

When asked to picture pollution entering rivers and lakes, many people think of discharge pipes from factories spewing foul-smelling chemicals into the water. Factory discharge pipes are known as point sources of pollution because they come from a single source. Point sources threaten water quality and are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act.

Non-Point Source Pollution

The greatest threat to water quality today, responsible for more than half of all surface water pollution problems, is non-point source pollution. This type of pollution does not have an easily identifiable source but can come from runoff from roads (including poorly maintained gravel roads), erosion of residential yards caused by rain or melting snow, and runoff from farms and lawns. Pollutants from these sources include phosphorous-laden sediment, animal wastes, and associated bacteria, pesticides, fertilizers, toxic substances, road salt, and fluids from automobiles.

Preventing Non-Point Source Pollution

Household Chemicals

• Be aware that chemicals commonly used around the house can be toxic; use low phosphate or water-based detergents whenever possible.
• Do not pour unwanted household chemicals down the drain — take them to hazardous waste collections.

Storm Water Management

Rain water quickly travels into our water- ways through storm drains or by flowing directly from the land. To prevent polluted stormwater from entering our streams, lakes and ponds, follow these guidelines:
• Maintain gravel roads and driveways to minimize runoff from rain and snowmelt.
• Keep a buffer of shrubs and ground cover at the water’s edge to capture runoff
• Repair fluid leaks from autos, and dispose of waste oil properly
• Clean up pet wastes — bury or flush down the toilet.

Landscaping & Gardening

What you decide to plant and how you choose to maintain your property can have a definite impact on water quality.
Some helpful landscaping tips include:

  • When landscaping your yard, select plants that have low requirements for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Preserve existing trees and plant additional trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and promote infiltration of water into the soil.
  • Leave lawn clippings on your lawn so that nutrients in the clippings are recycled.
  • Install wood decking, bricks, or interlocking stones instead of impervious cement walkways.
  • Spread mulch on bare ground to prevent erosion and runoff.
  • Direct downspout flows and other runoff to rain gardens, rain barrels, or a gravel or lawn area where the water can settle into the soil.

Septic Systems

Improperly maintained septic systems can contaminate ground water and surface water with nutrients and pathogens. By following the recommendations below, you can help ensure that your system continues to function properly.

• Inspect your septic system annually.
• Pump out your septic system regularly (pumping every two to three years is recommended for a three-bedroom house with a 1,000 gallon tank).
• Do not divert storm drains or basement pumps into septic systems.
• Sump pump discharges should be directed into grass and gravel to naturally filter into the ground.
• Avoid or reduce the use of your garbage disposal — it contributes unnecessary solids to your septic system and can increase the need for frequent pumping.
• Don’t use toilets as trash cans! Excess solids may clog your drain field and require more frequent pumping.

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