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Rain and runoff: don't contribute to stormwater pollution.

A spring rain brings a clean, fresh smell. Afterward, however, a wide array of pollutants flows into lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries and oceans. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that these stormwater discharges have emerged as one of the leading causes of impairment of the nation's surface waters.

Stormwater runoff contributes the primary pollutants, nitrogen and phosphorous, that negatively affect many estuaries, including the Chesapeake Bay near Washington, D.C. The pollutants in stormwater can include bacteria, sediment, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other organic material, litter and other wastes.

Where do these pollutants come from? Runoff is generated when rain flows over surfaces such as streets and roadways, sidewalks and driveways, parking lots and rooftops. Most runoff enters storm sewers and then flows untreated into the receiving water. Debris such as animal wastes, litter, recyclables, fertilizer and lawn chemicals, leaves and grass clippings, and oil and grease can be carried along with the water into the stormwater system.

When these pollutants enter a body of water, they increase bacteria levels, turbidity and toxic sediments; decrease dissolved oxygen levels; and alter the aquatic habitat. These changes are detrimental to fish and other aquatic life, and can make water unfit for drinking, swimming and fishing.

The solution is changing individual behaviors. The United States and other countries have initiated efforts to educate the public. Here are some suggestions:

* Use fertilizers sparingly and avoid getting fertilizer and lawn chemicals on sidewalks and driveways.

* Do not dump materials into storm drains.

* Use pesticides sparingly, follow the label's directions and dispose of the container properly.

* Use a car wash. If you wash your car at home, do it over the lawn, not in the driveway.

* Check your car and other vehicles for leaks of oil and other fluids.

* Pick up pet waste and either flush it into the sanitary sewer or dispose of it in a waste can.

* Sweep up leaves and grass clippings rather than using a hose or leaf blower, and compost or recycle them.

*Clean paint brushes in a sink, not outdoors.

* Don't dump paint or paint thinners down a storm drain.

* Keep your septic system well maintained and have it pumped every three to five years.

* Direct downspouts onto the lawn, away from the house and paved surfaces

* Consider creating a rain garden or collecting stormwater in a rain barrel for future use.

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Implementing as many of these suggestions as possible at your post or residence will benefit the environment. For more information on preventing stormwater pollution, go to www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater, or contact the Office of Safety, Health and Environmental Management in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations.

Certified Industrial Hygienist Michael C. Quinlan works in the Office of Safety, Health and Environmental Management.
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Title Annotation:Safety Scene
Author:Quinlan, Michael C.
Publication:State Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2011
Words:457
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