Last Sunday night, we got what we call in this area a good-old gully washer.
There was a lot of run-off from the rain. I heard reports of more than 2 inches of rain in areas of Columbia County.
Euchee Creek was out of its banks Monday and Tuesday mornings. There was a lot of water moving in the area's watersheds. This water is called stormwater. Stormwater is precipitation from rain that flows over the ground. As it flows, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants and deposits them into our stormwater sewer system.
Columbia County has two sewer systems. The first is the sanitary sewer system that handles household wastewater. This sewer system goes to a wastewater treatment plant, where the water is treated before being released back into our streams and rivers.
The second is the stormwater sewer system. This system has many storm drains, underground pipes and drainage ditches. Anything that enters the stormwater sewer system is discharged into our creeks, streams, lakes and rivers. This water is untreated and can affect the quality in these bodies of water, which we use for swimming, fishing and for our supply of drinking water.
There are a number of things that we can do to help reduce the amount of pollutants entering our surface water. The first is to have the soil surface covered with plant material, such as grass, trees, shrubs or mulch. This will slow the flow of water and keep sediment, fertilizers and pesticides out of the storm drains and bodies of water. When plants are established, water infiltration into the soil is increased. Therefore, less water enters the storm sewer system.
When we use fertilizers and pesticides, we need to make sure they are being used in the right amounts. A fertilizer program should be based on the results of a soil sample. Over-fertilization can lead to an increase of nutrients into our creeks and rivers.
Also, we need to make sure that we put the fertilizers and pesticides in the area where they are supposed to go. When using a mechanical spreader, sweep the granular fertilizer and pesticide particles off the paved areas and back into the grass or shrub areas. When these particles are left on hard surfaces, they move with the water into the storm drains.
Properly disposing of yard waste will improve the quality of the water in our creeks, streams and rivers. Organic matter in our bodies of water can reduce oxygen levels in the water as they decompose. It also causes the waterways to fill and reduces the amount of water these waterways can handle.
So, what should be done with yard waste? First, it can be used as mulch around plants. This will improve the growing conditions of plants, conserve moisture and improve the infiltration of water into the soil. Another option is to compost the yard waste. The compost can be added to the soil and will improve the root zone of plants. The one thing not to do is to put the yard waste down the storm sewers. Besides lower water quality, putting yard waste down storm sewers clogs the sewers and can cause streets to flood.
Besides yard waste, fertilizers and pesticides, there are other products that we use every day that can lower the quality of water. Motor oil, gasoline and antifreeze can become pollutants if not disposed of properly. We can reduce the amount of these products entering the water supply by fixing leaks and taking the used product to a recycling center, instead of pouring it down a storm drain or on the ground.
What can be done to reduce the amount of water that enters the storm drains? Using porous sidewalks and driveways allows water to infiltrate instead of running off. Rain gardens also help. (I will discuss rain gardens more in a future article.) Rain barrels are becoming more popular as we continue to experience droughts.
Storm sewers are an important part of our infrastructure and we need to keep them as clean as possible. It is illegal to dump waste products into the storm sewers. You can report illegal dumping to the Columbia County Stormwater Utility Department at (706) 855-RAIN (7246).
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.