Everything Gets Treated, Right?
Not necessarily. In many parts of Western New York, storm drains run directly to local lakes, rivers, and streams with no treatment at all. That means that the plastic bag or candy wrapper, cigarette butts, automotive fluids, pet waste, or yard chemicals you saw on the ground can be washed by rain or snow melt runoff into storm drains and right into our local waterways. By keeping streets and storm drains clean, you can prevent the trash, chemicals, and bacteria from going down the drain and popping back up in our waterbodies and beaches.
Check out this article about cigarette filters as litter.
What Can I Do?
- Dispose of any trash in the proper receptacle. Reuse or recycle it if possible.
- Pick up any litter you see as you are walking. Plan or participate in a neighborhood cleanup event. For information about shoreline cleanups in the spring and fall, visit http://bnriverkeeper.org/.
- When mowing your lawn, do not blow the clippings into the street. Sweep them up or mulch them into your lawn.
- Do not hose down your sidewalk or driveway into the street.
- Leaves and grass clippings in our waterways can contribute to algae growth. As this plant material decomposes, it uses up oxygen in the water and can kill fish and other aquatic wildlife.
- Automotive fluids (such as motor oil, gasoline, and antifreeze), even small amounts, will contaminate water and harm aquatic wildlife.
- Overspray from careless lawn and garden chemical application can also be washed into local waterways where it can cause increased algae growth, decreased oxygen levels, and can harm fish and wildlife
- Do not drain your pool or spa water into the street storm sewer inlets. Check with your local municipality before draining.
- Storm sewers and storm inlets are for rain and snowmelt ONLY! Never use them to dump or dispose of liquids or solid waste!
When you toss your trash on the ground, remember you're not just tossing your trash on the ground. Keep our streets clean from debris!
Don't cigarette filters and other waste products biodegrade?
Most plastics are not biodegradable. Even biodegradable plastics need the correct amount of sunlight and moisture to break down. In many cases, biodegradable plastics may just break down into smaller pieces of plastic, which can persist in the environment for quite some time. Paper bags can take up to 4 weeks to decompose and may clog storm sewer systems in the meantime. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, which is a synthetic fiber that can take 5 years to degrade. Most of these will be washed into our waterways long before they break down where they can contaminate our water supply and harm wildlife with toxins from the cigarette.
Keeping our water clean is everyone's responsibility. This is our home. This is the place that we live. We all have the tools to take care of our waterways.
Find out more information about how YOU can prevent stormwater pollution.