When you think of pollution in our coastal waters, what comes to your mind? Pollution from Industry? Vehicle emissions? Sewage treatment plants? Surprisingly, the leading cause of water pollution comes from general sources of pollution or “non-point sources” such as lawn fertilizers, pesticides, automotive fluids, litter, human and animal wastes, sediment, nutrients, and many more stormwater runoff pollutants. These pollutants are washed off the ground and streets by rainwater and flow as runoff into our rivers, lakes, streams, and eventually into the gulf. Such pollution can threaten human health; contaminate drinking water; lead to fish kills; result in the loss of spawning areas for aquatic species; cause the loss of aesthetic value of streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans; and lead to the loss of recreational value of our coastal waterbodies.
Although each person’s contribution may not seem like much, the total effect has become a major pollution problem. The water that enters the storm drains is not filtered in any way before it heads to the nearest receiving waters. For The City of Foley’s residents, storm sewer systems drain directly into tributaries of the Bon Secour River or tributaries of the river. These storm sewer systems are needed in municipal areas due to the increased percentage of impervious surfaces such as rooftops and pavement which cause a city block to produce almost 10 times more runoff or “stormwater” than a wooded area of the same size (Environmental Protection Agency). Stormwater is the water which does not infiltrate the ground but instead it t
ravels across the surface into the nearest waterbody, taking with it any pollutants that may be present (non-point source pollutants).
The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, the City of Foley and City of Gulf Shores are sponsoring a watershed project to help better characterize the Bon Secour River and the Oyster Bay Watersheds and identify areas of water quality concerns – one of which is stormwater runoff. The entities are working hard to develop a comprehensive watershed plan to improve the overall health of the watershed. The general public and all stakeholders in these watersheds are encouraged participate in the planning process.
The Watershed Planning approach will follow EPA guidance and address key elements and values deemed important to coastal Alabama. The project is designed to address issues such as the following:
- Improved Water Quality and Biological Health;
- Green Infrastructure Planning and Education;
- Shoreline and Streambank Stabilization;
- Environmental Awareness;
- Groundwater and Flooding Issues;
- Non-point Source Pollution; and
- Stakeholders Concerns.
An increased percentage of impervious surfaces such as rooftops and pavement can cause a city block to produce almost 10 times more stormwater runoff than a wooded area of the same size. (Source: U.S. EPA)
To be engaged in the watershed planning process, please attend one of the community meetings in December – – Civic Center in Foley on Wednesday, 12/2/15 at 5pm or the Gulf Shores Activity Center in Gulf Shores on Thursday 12/3/15 at 5pm.
Even if you are unable to attend the meetings, you can make a difference every day. Below are some tips you can follow to help the City of Foley in its effort to reduce stormwater pollution:
- Never pour unwanted chemicals on the ground.
- Follow the instructions when using fertilizers and pesticides.
- Dispose of excess fertilizers and pesticides at hazardous waste collection centers.
- Do not over-water your lawn or garden. Over-watering may increase leaching of fertilizers to ground water.
- Wash your car only when necessary; use a bucket to save water and try a phosphorus-free detergent. Alternatively, go to a commercial carwash that uses water efficiently and disposes of runoff properly.
- Clean up after your pets. Pet waste contains nutrients and pathogens that can contaminate surface water.
- Recycle used oil and antifreeze by taking them to service stations and other recycling centers. Never put used oil or other chemicals down storm drains or in drainage ditches. One quart of oil can contaminate up to two million gallons of drinking water!