Preventing Pollution at Home
Clean Water Tips
We can all help to reduce pollution to local waterways.
Dispose of Chemicals Properly
Remember to use and dispose of chemicals wisely! Never pour household hazardous waste down the drain, onto the ground or into a storm drain. This could contaminate soil, groundwater or nearby streams and rivers. A lot of the common products used at home contain hazardous and toxic chemicals. Here is a list of some of the most common products and link to proper disposal options: motor oil, pesticides, left over paint, household cleaners, medicines and car wash residue.
Reduce the Use of Lawn and Garden Chemicals
Common chemicals used to fertilize and control bugs often contain chemicals that are harmful to waterways. These chemicals soak into the ground and contaminate groundwater or run off into storm drains and into local streams, rivers and lakes. If you use chemicals, always follow directions on the label. Properly dispose of leftover chemicals with other household hazardous waste.
Maintain your Septic System
Many households use septic systems for the treatment of their wastewater. When functioning properly, the wastewater is treated by your septic tank and drain field before it filters into the ground. It is important to properly maintain your septic system. Improperly functioning or failing septic systems do not adequately treat sewage leaving your home. This untreated sewage can create a health hazard and pollute local waterways. Do not flush medications or dump paints or lawn chemicals down the drain. Keep your drain field maintained; do not cover with sheds, patios or tree plantings that can damage pipes. For more information on septic system maintenance, visit the links below:
Properly Dispose of Unused Medications
Unwanted or unused medication should never be flushed down the toilet or dumped down the drain where they can harm the environment. When unused or unwanted medications are not disposed of properly, they can impact aquatic environment, especially fish. Recent studies show that pharmaceuticals are showing up in waterways and drinking water. Please visit the links below for resources on where you can dispose of leftover medication.
Pick Up After Your Pets
We often don’t think about the waste that our pets leave behind. Pet waste doesn’t just decompose. It adds up and contributes harmful bacteria and nutrients to local waterways when not disposed of properly. Bring a plastic bag on your next dog walk; it’s easy to pick up pet waste and place in a trash bin. Help do your part, be a good neighbor and keep our waterways clean.
Keep Riparian Areas Healthy
If you have a stream in your backyard or neighborhood, you have probably noticed how waterways react when we get large rainfall events. Streams often become muddy, erode unstable banks and cause local flooding. Trees and vegetation are critical in these areas. They hold stream banks together and provide a filter for the extra water during rain and intense storm events.
Don’t Drip and Drive
Got a leaky car but not sure what to do until you can get it into the shop? Prevent pollution by keeping drips and leaks cleaned up when you’re parked at home. Oil doesn’t dissolve in rain water and a little bit can travel a long way to reach and pollute our streams and groundwater. Here’s how to keep it clean:
- Use a dry absorbent, such as some types of kitty litter, to soak up oily spots or green antifreeze puddles.
- Try using a spill pan or drip sheet under your car to collect your leaks. Or park over a dry piece of cardboard until you can get to a shop and get it repaired.
To report spills, dripping oil or oily sheen on public streets, call Public Works Operations Services at 360-487-8177. For urgent concerns after hours, please follow the prompts.
Pressure Wash the Proper Way
If you’re planning to have your carpets cleaned, your home painted or your driveway washed, before you sign an agreement make sure your contractor will be properly disposing of the waste.
Moss thrives in the Pacific Northwest courtesy of our rainy, mild winters. When you use moss-killing chemical treatments on your roof, those chemicals don’t just stay there. Rain that runs off your roof ends up in our streams or groundwater untreated, and the chemicals that kill moss can also kill fish.
Pools and Hot Tubs
Need to drain your pool or hot tub? Do it right to protect our streams and groundwater.
Private Stormwater Facilities
Do you know where the storm drains in your neighborhood go? Sometimes, the storm drains have been set up so rain runoff flows directly to our creeks and rivers. Often, however, they make a stop at a biofiltration swale or other stormwater facility first. If you have a stormwater facility in your neighborhood, it may look like a grassy, wide ditch or it may be a rain garden with plantings such as grasses and shrubs.
Some neighborhoods even have private ponds for their runoff. If you have one of these in your neighborhood, maintenance usually falls to the Homeowner’s Association and may be part of the common areas tended by a landscaping company.
The most important part of a neighborhood stormwater facility is keeping it working for flood control and water quality. For maintenance tips and photos to help with proper care of your stormwater facility, please visit www.stormwaterpartners.com. You’ll find videos, troubleshooting tips and fact sheets to share with neighbors.
If you have questions about other steps you can take at home to keep waterways clean, email CityWaterProtection@cityofvancouver.us.