Friday, February 20, 2009

Confessions of a Serial Polluter

I take it for granted that sailors are "for the sea" in the sense that we care about the waters in which we sail, and that we want to keep our oceans and coastal waters clean and free from pollution for our own benefit and for all the wildlife that live in those waters. So kudos to Scuttlebutt for bringing our attention this week to this list of ways to avoid Non Point Source pollution courtesy of an organization called Sailors for the Sea.

Aaarrggh. Another damned list.

The list reminded me at first of those irritating lists being circulated recently in the
socio-networky-blogo-sphere such as the BBC's Top 100 Books or Top 100 Places You Must See Before You Die that always come with a request that you put X's against the items you have read/visited/whatevered and forward the list to your 25 best socio-networky-blogo-spherical "friends" so that they can do the same and so on and so on ad infinitum. I never take part in these latter day chain letter time wasters, but instead usually leave a snarky comment such as "How can you have a list of Top 100 Books without including Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People?"

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, the list of how to avoid creating NPS pollution and killing the oceans. This seems like a worthy cause so I thought I would see how I am doing with Sailors for the Sea's recommendations. The easiest way to do this seemed to be to group the items into categories according to how well I am doing.

2 items didn't apply to me. Of the rest I think I can claim that I am doing a good job on 8, making an effort but could probably do better on 3, and am a miserable failure on the remaining 7. Geeze, I never thought of washing my car on the lawn and I don't even know what a "bioswale" is!

Here's my list. How are you doing?

PS Please do not forward this list to your
25 best socio-networky-blogo-spherical "friends".
    Doing a Good Job
  • Dispose of household hazardous materials—antifreeze, paint, oil, etc.—properly, NEVER down the storm drain as the chemicals will end up in a water system.
  • Compost your food. By keeping it out of the trash cycle—parts of which can inadvertently become caught up in runoff and end up in our ocean—you create earth-nourishing mulch
  • Let mowed grass clippings remain on the lawn where they can serve as a source of nutrients and reduce the need for fertilizer, and reduce erosion that, in turn, slows runoff
  • Collect fallen leaves and begin or add to a compost pile to create nutrient-rich mulch, reducing the need for fertilizer
  • Situate sprinklers so the water lands only on the lawn, not the driveway, street, or sidewalk
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle in order to limit the amount of items entering our trash cycle
  • Sweep sidewalks rather than hose them
  • Keep your cars in tip-top shape, being especially mindful of oil and antifreeze leaks

  • Making an Effort but Could Do Better
  • Avoid using pesticides and chemical fertilizers: favor instead organic compost, mulch or manure, which are free of pollutants
  • If using fertilizer, test the soil’s pH to ensure proper use and amount. Never fertilize if rain is expected, as much of it will wash away into a storm drain rather than absorbing into the ground
  • Use native plants for landscaping as these require less water and fewer pesticides

    Miserable Failure
  • Switch to low-phosphate cleaning supplies
  • Invest in bioswales that capture rainwater runoff before it enters the sewers, and improves water quality by filtering it
  • Volunteer to label the storm drains in your neighborhood to inform your neighbors that storm drains flow directly to our lakes and rivers
  • Keep storm drains free of litter, leaves, and other debris that can easily end up in our waters. Whenever possible, install screens over them
  • Take expired medicines either to a pharmacy or hazardous waste source for proper disposal
  • Wash your car on the lawn, so that the grass can filter some of the runoff phosphate, or, better yet, take your car to a commercial car wash that is set up to capture and recycle the water several times before sending it to the sewer system for treatment
  • Join Sailors for the Sea and help us reduce NPS:

    Not Applicable
  • Schedule regular inspection of your septic system—every 3 to 5 years—to ensure proper operation and avoid leakage
  • Always pick up after your dog


Anonymous said...

By coincidence I discovered 'clean boating' this morning. The Florida Dept of the Environment have a list of good tips for boaters:

Why isn't the disposal of batteries on the list? So many of them are needed in our daily life - doorbells, remote controls, etc. - and not everyone uses rechargeable ones. Where are responsible people supposed to dispose of batteries?

Final words: Don't give up. Whatever we can do to prevent pollution of our fragile environment, we must keep doing. Whenever we lapse, we must not beat ourselves up too hard but simply try to look after our world better in future.


Shopping City Chaplaincy said...

Dam! I guess I need to get a dog then

Carol Anne said...

Ann, you can dispose of batteries at any Radio Shack or Kmart. The Radio Shack in my neighborhood sometimes offers a discount on new batteries when you bring in the old.

In the desert, we always wash our car on the lawn -- although in our case, we don't have a big enough lawn to have an effective bioswale. And we make sure to use non-phosphate detergent when doing so. In fact, we make a point of using non-phosphate detergent for the laundry (less irritating residue in the underwear) and for the dishes (fewer annoying deposits in the dishwasher).

One area we don't currently do well in is making sure our vehicles don't leak oil. One of them does, rather severely. Unfortunately, that oil leak meets the insurance company definition of "totaled" -- the cost of the repair exceeds the value of the vehicle. It would be nice to be able to afford a new vehicle that doesn't leak.

Carol Anne said...

BTW, the city of Albuquerque already labels the storm drains that lead to the river -- not all of them do.

Pat said...

In our part of the world we're quite water-aware and many homeowners are "Xeriscaping" their yards, replacing grass and other growth with plants that demand less water. Some xeric yards are attractive though other homeowners don't really get the concept and do a lazy version that we call "Zero-scaping".

Replacing a vehicle with a major oil leak with one that doesn't would, unfortunately, only move the problem a few miles across down, as the buyer of an older vehicle most likely would also not find it cost-effective or affordable to do major repair work to stop the leaks. Perhaps we could bring the truck to a community college or other school's auto shop training program.

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

Glad to hear that you are becoming more aware of what goes into the water you are sailing in. I believe its every sailors responsibility to take care of the seas- after all if we dont, who will?
Sailors for the Sea has some great ideas. Ive also made a website called 'Friends of the Water' at which gives some tips on reducing water pollution, the SF watershed and other resources.
Hope you can find some benifit from it.
BTW- bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides (less than six percent) and filled with vegetation, compost and/or riprap. The water's flow path, along with the wide and shallow ditch, is designed to maximize the time water spends in the swale, which aids the trapping of pollutants and silt. Depending upon the geometry of land available, a bioswale may have a meandering or almost straight channel alignment. Biological factors also contribute to the breakdown of certain pollutants.

A common application is around parking lots, where substantial automotive pollution is collected by the paving and then flushed by rain. The bioswale, or other type of biofilter, wraps around the parking lot and treats the runoff before releasing it to the watershed or storm sewer.

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