Keep it clean
If we keep runoff clean by reducing pollutants picked up when water runs over hard surfaces, we can help our community reach acceptable daily pollution levels entering the nearest water body to our home. This will make it safer for swimming and improve habitat and drinking water quality downstream.
Pick Up Dog Waste, Use a Certified Compostable Bag, Then Compost
Dogs, being carnivorous, have waste that is four times as dangerous (total coliforms and E.coli) as humans, but you can find it lying around any park or neighbourhood where it washes off lawns and sidewalks and is carried, untreated, directly to the nearest water body via the storm sewer. This creates a significant human health hazard every time it rains. Dog waste is often the primary cause of urban beach closures.
Please see tips for sustainable practices for dealing with pet waste in our Waterloo Region.
You can buy plastic pet waste bags to go in the garbage, double bagged. You can also dispose of dog waste wrapped in newspaper or kraft paper in your green bin. Finally, you can buy a pet waste digester from pet stores or easily make your own by making simple changes to a garbage can with a lid. (Watch this great How-to video from City Farmer.)
Put Your Driveway On a Non-Toxic Diet
De-icing salt might help keep your sidewalk and driveway clear of ice, but is a huge source of pollution when it washes, untreated into the nearest lake or river. Driveway sealants also contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that degrade and runoff, contributing to the overall burden in the nearest surface water. Consider your options carefully.
Use Natural Cleaning and Personal Products
What goes down household drains often ends up in surface water after a heavy rain via combined sewer overflows, sewage treatment bypasses, and leaking sanitary sewer pipes. It is also difficult for our sewage treatment plants to remove much of the chemical residues that go down the drain as they are designed to remove solid materials and kill bacteria.
You can help limit these hard-to-deal-with chemicals by using natural cleaning and personal products. Dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals properly, by taking them back to the pharmacy. Do NOT flush them down the toilet. You can find natural cleaning products almost anywhere, but don’t be fooled by greenwashing . Read the label. Know what you’re looking for. Gill Deacon’s new website has a handy wallet size card listing common ingredients to avoid.
You can also buy your own simple ingredients and use simple recipes and some elbow grease to get your house sparkling and germ free.
Wash Your Car at a Commercial Carwash
When you wash your car in the driveway the effluent (solvents, fuels, heavy metals) washes off the driveway and runs, un-filtered, directly to the nearest body of water via the storm sewer. Take your car to a commercial carwash where the waste water will be treated. Even better, look for the International Carwash Association WaterSavers sign of approval indicating the sustainable practices of individual car washes.
Spread Only Natural Fertilizers, Apply Only In Dry Weather
Fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. When applied in granular form on compacted lawns it is easy to lose most of it down the storm sewer the next time it rains. This can cause large amounts of algae to bloom and a proliferation of unwanted, invasive plants in your nearest lake or river. Apply composted organic matter to well turned beds and help the goodness soak into the ground the next time it rains. When applying to lawns, always aerate first.
Why not make use of your own organic waste to make wonderful, natural fertilizer? The Region of Waterloo provides free backyard composters to Waterloo Region residents.
Butt Cigarettes Out And Put Them In The Garbage
Cigarette butts (used filters) contain a deadly combination of hazardous chemicals and heavy metals such as cadmium, benzene, arsenic and lead that are partially filtered out during smoking. Cigarette butts dropped on paved surfaces (sidewalks, parking lots, driveways, streets) float away with the rain, down the storm sewer to the nearest body of water, and their contents slowly leach into our drinking water. Fish and other aquatic life often mistake them for food!
Just visit the sidewalks outside of busy coffee shops and bars to get an idea of how many are going to float away in the rain during the next downpour. So please butt out properly and put them in the garbage. Carry a pocket ashtray. If you own or manage an establishment where people smoke outside, provide an ashtray and sweep up butts left on the sidewalk. Read more at preventcigarettelitter.org.
Dispose of Hazardous Household Materials
Hazardous household wastes—such as paints, solvents, lubricants and others—must be disposed of properly. Many can even be recycled if they are delivered to a designated drop-off location with specialized staff. Please read the Region’s classifications and directions for disposal.
Sweep Grit From Your Driveway Into The Garbage
Street sweepers clean grit from our roads on a regular basis to keep pollutants from being washed into storm sewers and into the rivers. Sweep the grit from your driveway on a regular basis and put it into the garbage in order to keep additional pollutants out of our waterways.