New Years Resolution Got You Down? Try A Pollution Diet Instead.

Resting along the banks of the White Clay Creek (c) Stewart Whisenant

Resting along the banks of the White Clay Creek (c) Stewart Whisenant

Exercise more, eat better, quit a bad habit... for many of us the start of a new year originates several, often broken, resolutions. Perhaps a different approach is warranted. Working together with a refined outlook, we can collectively take smaller, more attainable steps to achieve a larger goal – clean water for all.

As residents of the White Clay Creek watershed, we depend on clean water for drinking, thriving wildlife, and recreation. All the ways we use the watershed lands impact the overall health and quality of the water. This land-water connection is important to remember, especially when we think about the different sources of pollutants, including where they come from, how they get into our water, and what we can do about it.

More than two-thirds of White Clay stream miles are listed as impaired for various pollutants, such as sediment, nutrients, and bacteria. Municipalities will need the help and cooperation of citizens to protect and improve water quality in local streams.
— Shane Morgan, Watershed Management Plan Coordinator

Have you ever wondered how the streams within our watershed are regulated in respect to different types of pollutants? Have you considered how regulators decide how much of all the different pollutants out there are allowed in our waterbodies and the White Clay in particular?

The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the principal piece of federal legislation that governs water pollution. Its main objective is to make sure all of the nation’s waters are clean enough to support recreation and aquatic life. To meet this goal, the CWA created programs designed to regulate and reduce the amount of pollution entering waterways. States are required to monitor waterbodies and report those not meeting water quality standards. Once a waterbody is listed as impaired, the CWA requires the state to develop what are known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for the pollutant(s) of concern. It's up to the municipalities to implement practices to reach or maintain these water quality standards.

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is the maximum amount of a specific pollutant a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards. So for instance, if you were on a diet you would have a goal to reach a specific daily caloric intake in order to reach or maintain a healthy weight. Similarly, the municipality has a goal to meet specific pollutant load reductions to reach or maintain healthy water quality standards.

Setting pollution limits (TMDLs) is the first step towards improving water quality. Once pollution limits are established, further efforts must be identified to reduce the pollutant loads (sources). Management through grants, partnerships, and voluntary actions by citizens are integral in the successful implementation of TMDLs (pollution diets). Local governments rely on these collective efforts to meet their clean water requirements.

Let’s make 2016 the year of clean water for all and pledge to help the White Clay with its pollution diet. However small the action, collectively, we can make an impact.

Simple steps can you take to help your community with its pollution diet:

  1. Keep litter off the streets so it doesn’t wash into storm drains and ultimately into local creeks.

  2. Dispose of hazardous household wastes and prescription drugs at designated collection sites.

  3. Only apply fertilizers and pesticides strategically, sparingly, responsibly, or not at all.

  4. Install a rain barrel or rain garden to capture and soak in stormwater.

  5. Scoop the poop, then trash it. Pet waste carries with it bacteria that is harmful to human health.

  6. Plant more native trees, especially along the creek instead of mowing up to the banks. Trees shade the water for aquatic life, hold stream banks together, and provide habitat.

  7. Create wildlife habitat by planting a low maintenance landscape using native plants.

  8. Wash your vehicle at a car wash or on the grass, rather than on a driveway or in the street; service your vehicle regularly to prevent oils and other fluids from leaking into storm drains.

  9. Pump your septic system at least every three years to prevent bacterial contamination of water.

  10. Only drain pool water that has been tested as chlorine free over grass. Untested water should never be drained over grass or pumped to storm drains.

  11. Support your municipality in its efforts to curb pollution. It’s up to all of us to work together.