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Do you know where rainwater goes when it rains? If you think it is naturally filtered through soils, you are only partially correct. While soils do absorb water, once the maximum absorption has been reached, excess rainwater is forced to flow down slope in search for the next available exit. On its journey, stormwater picks up all sorts of unwanted hitchhikers like: cigarette butts, motor oil, antifreeze, fast food bags, sediment, pet waste and excess fertilizer. To help combat pollutants from entering the bay, contractors and engineers construct preventive measures such as drainage swales, retention ponds and porous pavement to help counteract the impact of urbanization on our waterways. These preventative measures are commonly referred to as Best Management Practices (BMPs). A more detailed list of common BMPs is available at the EPA's website. To ensure these pollution control devices are maintained and functioning as designed, the city inspects them regularly. For private BMPs, the City requires BMP maintenance agreements be signed by private land owners where structures have been installed. To keep track of BMPs around the city, a database is maintained and updated as needed. Ultimately, the City will use this database as a resource to schedule required inspections. To learn what you can do to become part of the solution to rainwater pollution please refer to the following eco-friendly tips:
- Scoop the Poop! Pet waste increases levels of bacteria within waterways leading to water pollution and fish kills.
- Don’t Over-Fertilize! Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions. Getting your soil tested is a simple way to determine how much fertilizer your soil actually needs. This often results in less fertilizer use, which not only saves the waterways, but saves you time and money. For more information on affordable soil testing, please visit the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Lab website
- Bag that Grass! Grass clippings and leaves should be raked, bagged and disposed of in the trash; composted or spread on your lawn. If dumped in waterways, they contribute to excess nutrients resulting in algae blooms and fish kills.
- No Dumping Allowed! Dispose of used brake fluid, oil, antifreeze, grease, paints and other chemicals properly, not in storm drains or down sinks or toilets. Take them to your closest Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA) plant to be recycled.
- Contain Those Spills! Spilled brake fluid, oil, grease and antifreeze should never be hosed into the street as it can eventually reach local streams and lakes. Pour kitty litter on the spill and after it absorbs, sweep it up and put it in the trash.
- Put an End to Cigarette Butts Cigarettes contain harmful chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead which, if disposed of improperly, can leach into stormwater and affect the quality of water and marine life.
- Don’t Drip and Drive! Vehicles carry many fluids which are toxic to our environment. When automobile fluids drip, the next rainstorm is sure to wash them down the drain and into our waterways. Keep your car well maintained and dispose of fluids properly.
- Recycle Rainwater! With increasing utility fees, many homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their consumption rates. To reduce your next water bill, install a rain barrel to catch water coming off of your roof. This water should not be consumed; however, it is good for watering lawns, plants, and gardens or for giving your car a quick bath.
- Wash your Car on the Grass! Washing your car on the lawn ensures that any runoff containing detergents or other cleaning agents can be naturally filtered through your soil instead of being washed down the nearest storm drain.
- Subscribe to AskHRGreen.org! As an initiative of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, AskHRGreen.org encourages environmental stewardship among all residents in the 16 southeastern Virginia cities and counties.