Friday, February 18, 2011

As Snows Melt, Stormwater Pollution is Rising

To the Editor:

This Winter in northern New Jersey we received a rather large amount of snow. In a short time Spring will be upon us and then the rain will come down. If Spring's precipitation is anything like this Winter's than we're going to be in for a lot of water going back into our water bodies. But with all the salts and melting agents that are carelessly thrown around in haste to clear roads, parking lots, drive ways and sidewalks, do we actually understand what we're letting get washed away? There is a term for this type of runoff. It's called stormwater pollution, and it can be a serious problem.

This type of pollution is a problem because it tends to pick things up on its way down the drain, gutter, pipe or basin it flows into. Literally any trash on the streets can be swept away: cigarette butts, plastic, Styrofoam, rubber, glass, and anything else you can find on the sides of roads can contribute to stormwater pollution. I have seen beds of cigarette butts on street corners that dip out into the road. The idea of water taking in the properties of the tars, Acetone, and Formaldehyde, among many other hazardous chemicals in cigarettes, can make a person question if the water coming out of his faucet is being filtered to the fullest extent.

This of course does not even include the salts and melting agents that are spread around when snowfall hits. Nor does it include any fertilizers or pesticides used for landscaping, or oil, gasoline, antifreeze, or any miscellaneous auto fluids that soak into roads and driveways. Combine all of these ingredients and shake up it well, then pour it down the drain and let it flow into rivers or soak into areas around waterbeds and you have the makings of a serious problem. A problem that will visit you in the middle of the night when you wake up to get a quick glass of water from the tap. Or when you get up in the morning and take that eye opening shower to start the day.

Now, what can we do about stormwater pollution? It really seems the most effective way to deal with it is to limit the use of chemicals and implore people to clean up their trash. Obviously the latter part of that is much harder to do and involves confrontation on a level that some people might not be comfortable with. Calling a town or neighborhood meeting would be helpful to illustrate the potential danger of this type of pollution. Getting the word out in any way would be helpful, be it word of mouth or by distributing friendly neighborhood fliers to put a spotlight on the issue.

There are other solutions for the chemical side also. If a hard rain is predicted to fall it would be wise to not disperse any fertilizer or pesticides. Also, there are alternative forms of pesticides available that do not pose as much of a threat to the environment. Being careful with salt and melting agents is another good way to avoid further pollution.

Most of the pollution problems done to the environment are initiated by careless behavior that undermines and disregards nature. We have to remember that we, too, are a part of nature and it is in our own best interest to keep the environment in its natural state if we want to live safer, healthier lives.

Graig Mihok

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