Think About Personal Pollution is a campaign to improve water quality through individual efforts — one yard and one landscape at a time. The goal is to slow the flow of water from yards, and reduce runoff that may be carrying silt, oil, fertilizer, pet waste, pesticides and other chemicals into local waterways. The campaign helps us understand our impact on water quality, so that we make small, easy changes in a few things we do in our daily lives. By slowing the flow from our lawns, roofs and driveways, all of us working together can address stormwater runoff problems and protect our lakes, rivers, springs and the Floridan Aquifer.

A few simple practices can keep water systems healthy.

  • Slow the flow of water from your yard.

  • Keep your yard at home - Manage soil to minimize erosion.

  • Plant a Rain Garden (for info, visit www.tappwater.org.)

  • Use fertilizers and pesticides carefully. They belong on your yard, not in your lake.

  • Protect the shoreline of lakes and streams.

  • When changing your oil or filling the lawnmower, capture every drop of oil or gasoline.

  • Clean up after pets — pet waste contains bacteria that contaminate waterways.

  • Maintain septic tanks.

What is Stormwater Pollution?

When it rains, some of the rainwater soaks into the ground, and part of it flows over the ground and directly into creeks, streams or rivers. This water that runs off into the river is called runoff, or sometimes stormwater runoff. Clever, huh? Sometimes this stormwater runoff gets polluted. Pollution is anything that harms natural resources, whether it is air, soil, or in this case, water. Sometimes the pollution is something you can see, like trash floating on top of the water. Other times you can’t see the pollution at all, like when motor-oil from a car washes into a nearby creek. Polluted runoff is the number one cause of water pollution in the United States and also in Florida. 

Why is stormwater pollution a concern?

It is of concern because contaminants from human and animal activities are carried directly into rivers and streams as water from a storm or garden hoses and sprinklers drain from streets, parking lots and lawns carry the trash, chemicals, and dirt through storm drains, and then straight into our local waters. Anything that is dumped or dropped on the ground or in the gutter contributes to stormwater pollution. Much of it is not biodegradable and is harmful to marine life and cleanliness of our water that we swim in and drink.

Is stormwater treated before it reaches the lakes?

In many areas of Tallahassee stormwater is treated prior to being discharged to our lakes and streams.  The City of Tallahassee directs stormwater into treatment ponds, of which several incorporate innovative technology to more efficiently treat water.  Some of the area stormwater facilities such as Lake Elberta and Capital Cascades are also community amenities with parks incorporated into their design.  However, the cost of treating all the stormwater would be so high that it would exceed available resources.

The following video is an example of how the City of Tallahassee strives to protect our water resources.   [Insert Weems Pond video]

Is there a difference between a storm drain and a sewer drain?

Yes! They are two completely separate drainage systems. The sewer system takes all household wastewater from toilets, showers, and sinks and routes it through your plumbing system and directs it to a treatment plant where the water is then filtered and decontaminated.

The storm drain is intended to route rainwater quickly off the streets during a heavy storm. Unfortunately, it takes all the pollutants (runoff) along with it.  Chemicals, trash, debris from lawns, parking lots and streets, either intentionally or accidentally spilled, goes straight into our waterways.

The effects of pollution

Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals and people.

Sediment (a fancy word for dirt) can cloud the water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment also can destroy aquatic habitats.

Excess nutrients (primarily contributed by lawn fertilizer) can cause algae blooms (slime). When algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms can’t exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels; they suffocate.

Bacteria and other pathogens (primarily contributed by dog waste that no one picked up with a plastic bag) can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, often leading to beach closures.

Debris – plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts — washed into waterbodies can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds.

Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.

Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.

Each of us can have a major effect on the quality of our local water!