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Storm Water Pollution Prevention

Homeowners - there are a variety of methods to prevent storm water pollution

Storm water runoff is one major source of Long Island’s surface water pollution.  Unfortunately, it often leads to beach closures after heavy rainstorms due to unsafe bacteria levels. However, there are a variety of practices that homeowners can adopt to prevent storm water pollution.  Check out the list of options below to get started.

Storm water runoff is precipitation or snowmelt that does not seep into the ground but flows over impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, roofs, sidewalks or over bare, compact soils and sometimes lawns.  Storm water becomes polluted as it flows over these surfaces and picks up all sorts of contaminants such as chemicals, nutrients and bacteria.  The water eventually makes its way into sewer systems or drains directly into surface waters.

Homeowner methods for storm water pollution prevention:

Install a rain barrel.  Rain barrels hook up to your home’s gutter system and collect and store precipitation that runs off of the roof.  The water can be used for gardening. 

Reduce pesticide and fertilizer use.  Fertilizers contain phosphorus and nitrogen, which promotes the overgrowth of algae in the waterway.  If discontinuing fertilizer isn’t an option, switch to an organic brand. 

Create a rain garden with native plants.  Lawns aren’t particularly effective at handling storm water and are often treated with chemicals and fertilizers.  Replacing an area of lawn with native plants, which require less fertilizer and usually less irrigation will help to allow precipitation to soak into the ground while plants help filter out pollutants.  Planted areas generally soak up 14 times more water than lawn areas.

Create a vegetated buffer.  If you live along the water’s edge (even if you have bulk heading), vegetative buffers are excellent in preventing storm water pollution.  Buffer areas, planted with native vegetation, reduce the velocity of runoff and are effective at trapping upland sediments, pesticides and pollutants.

Reduce impervious surfaces.  Any reduction in the amount of impervious surface on your property will help reduce runoff.  Replacing paved driveways, walkways or patios with permeable pavement or materials will allow precipitation to soak into the ground. 

Pick up after your pet.  It sounds trivial, but it’s not.  Pet waste, especially deposited on beaches and around shoreline communities can contaminate surface waters due to excessive nutrient and bacteria content. 

Dispose of hazardous materials properly.  Never dispose of chemicals such as paints, oils, pesticides or cleaners down storm drains, lawn areas or even house drains.  Take advantage of your town’s hazardous waste drop off days or contact your local municipal waste department for information regarding proper disposal.  

To stay informed on how you can help protect surface water quality, sign up to become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership - sign-up here.

By: Jenn Hartnagel, Group for the East End

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