Ways To Prevent Nonpoint Source Pollution

One of the nation's leading causes of water quality degradation is Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS).  NPS pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many different sources.  NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground.  As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water.

NPS pollution can seriously affect water quality.  Sediments, nutrients, pesticides, debris, pathogens, oil and toxic chemicals can enter local waterways, travel downstream into our larger rivers and event into areas such as the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, and the Great Lakes.  These pollutants cloud the water, reduce the water's vital oxygen supply, and disrupt stream habitat, affecting thousands of plants and animals as well as humans who rely on our waters.

An important step to reducing nonpoint source pollution is to reduce the amount of pollutants available for rain water to pick up in the first place.

Excess Nutrients - These fertilizers you might apply to your plants or pet waste on your property.  These nutrients are considered man introduced to your environment so they are excessive and can contaminate water.  You can reduce the access that stormwater has to these pollutants by reducing or eliminating the amount of fertilizer you use on your property and to clean up your pet waste regularly.

Chemicals - These can include household chemicals you may dump out, leaking chemicals from your automobile and pesticides you may add to your landscape.  Reduce these pollutants by disposing of household chemicals properly, regularly check your automobile and other machinery for leaks, and reduce the amount of pesticides you use on your landscape.  To check where you can properly dispose of these products, contact the Solid Waste Authority.  Agricultural operations need to prevent excess pesticides, fertilizers as well as animal manure from entering waterways.

Soil Erosion - Soil is a pollutant that most people don't recognize.  Too much soil in water can cover aquatic habitat.  It can smother fish eggs and clog fish gills.  Additionally, if the soil is contaminated with chemicals or excess nutrients, this is an added problem.  A landowner can reduce the amount of eroding soil from their backyard by covering exposed soil with mulch.  Fill in bare areas with native plants.  Steep slopes can be terraced to slow water or try planting a cover crop in your recently harvested vegetable garden.  Large construction sites need to use proper erosion & sedimentation control measures, such as silt fencing, to reduce water pollution.

Resource Extraction - Acid drainage from abandoned mines and mine waste piles cause more stream and rivers to be polluted in Pennsylvania than any other type of pollution.  Improperly sealed oil and gas wells and leaking underground tanks used to store petroleum products can contaminate surface and ground water.

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