Understanding stormwater pollution
The Maitland Stormwater and Lakes Management Division frequently gives presentations to school children explaining how individuals can find a way to positively impact their environment, but often times the most difficult concept for them to grasp is that everything we do is connected. Similarly, Floridians do not automatically deduce that even the smallest actions they take can have serious implications downstream. Though only a small percentage of parcels in Maitland are considered “lakefront,” every single property is somehow connected to a water body, and the pollution we generate will inevitably find its way there.
To properly understand these connections, you must go back in time to the beginning of stormwater control. Initially, stormwater was perceived as a flooding nuisance, and the most effective method of control was to direct stormwater away from a home/roadway as quickly as possible. Since gravity causes water to flow downhill, the most logical terminal point is a low spot, which in Florida typically means a lake. While initially effective, as decades passed regulators began to realize that water quality was not only impacted by visually obvious polluters like factories, but also by nonpoint source pollution. The EPA defines nonpoint source pollution as coming from many diffuse sources caused by rainfall moving over and through the ground. This means any material or chemical that is applied to your property and carried to a roadway or water body via stormwater. While the city has begun to systematically install retrofits that capture untreated stormwater before it reaches a lake, there is still a very long way for all of us to go.
So, what can you do to ensure that your property is not a source of pollution? There are a few very simple behaviors that can have an exponential effect to improve both your local environment, and those downstream.
Properly dispose of leaf litter and yard debris. Not only is blowing yard debris into the street a violation of city code that creates an immediate eyesore, but it is also a primary source of nutrient pollution in our surface waters.
Pick up after your pet. Pet waste that washes into city streets is a human health hazard that contributes to downstream nutrient and bacterial pollution.
Wash your car in the yard, not the driveway. Oil, chemicals, and debris from your vehicle are easily transported from a driveway to the road, and even organic detergents are a source of nutrient pollution.
Apply fertilizer only as needed in compliance with the regulations of Orange County. Phosphorous-free fertilizer is mandatory in most cases, and a product must contain a minimum of 50 percent slow-release nitrogen.
Properly dispose of paint, chemicals, and other hazardous materials at the landfill. Storm inlets and drains are not a location to rid yourself of chemical waste. Always remember that storm drains eventually drain to a lake, not a wastewater treatment facility.
If you have any questions about this article, or anything related to the City’s stormwater and lakes management programs, please contact Marissa Williams at 407-539-6203 or [email protected]