How You Can Make a Difference
Together, Maine’s industries and municipalities have done a great job cleaning up industrial pollution, sewer discharges and other major sources of contamination. Now the main polluter of clean water is us. Every time it rains, the rainwater washes off our driveways, roofs, lawns, parking lots, roads and other surfaces carrying with it contaminants to our streams, lakes, ocean and groundwater – this is called non-point source pollution. Each and every one of us can help, and here’s how.
1. Prevent soil erosion.
Eroded sediment from disturbed sites, roads, trails, driveways and other areas is the single greatest threat to water quality n our watershed. It carries nutrients, fills in our streams and ponds and damages fish habitat. To prevent soil erosion, minimize disturbed areas during construction projects and seed and mulch bare areas as soon as possible.
2. Create and maintain shoreland vegetated buffers.
A strip of bushes and trees, known as a buffer, can act as a sponge and filter out contaminants that wash from your driveway, roof, and yard. It can also prevent soil erosion. Since water flows downhill, it is important for the buffer to be planted down slope of your home in order to filter the runoff from your yard. Native shrubs and vegetation will tend to be more hardy and last longer as a measure against soil erosion. Do not clearcut buffers along the water as they are needed to stabilize banks and to shade the water to keep streams cool for fish.
3. Minimize or avoid use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Overfertilizing your lawn and garden can result in an excess of phosphorus and other nutrients that can cause algal blooms in our lakes and contaminate ground water. When using fertilizer, read and follow the directions on the label – applying only the amount recommended. And try using lime and organic mulch or compost as an alternative to fertilizer. If you want to keep weeds in check without chemicals, there are organic ways to control weeds, too.
4. Keep your lawn small.
Large lawns might look nice to you and me, but Mother Nature sees them differently. Lawns shed more water than forested areas, thus increasing the amount of water leaving your yard and carrying contaminants to nearby streams, lakes, or ocean. To protect water, keep your lawn small. The bonus – a small lawn is easier to mow and a nice habitat for wildlife! Please consider lowering your expectations of lawn perfection and raising your lawn mower blade instead.
5. Dispose of chemicals and petroleum products properly.
Ensure that hazardous wastes don’t damage our water or groundwater resources. Chemicals should not be poured down the sink or dumped in your backyard. Recycle antifreeze and oil. Let solvents evaporate in their containers and then dispose of the residue. Use and dispose of chemicals according to the directions on their labels and use safe alternatives.
6. Maintain your septic system.
Septic systems need attention. Inadequate septic systems account for 5-10% of all phosphorus that reaches some lakes. In addition, toxins, nitrates, nutrients, bacteria and viruses from inadequate septic systems can seep into nearby wells. This pollution also flows into our streams, harms lakes, and on the coast causes clam flats to be closed. Here are some useful tips:
- Don’t use septic additives.
- Don’t pour grease or food down your sink.
- Pump your system every two to three years.
- Most importantly, if your septic system was installed before 1974, consider replacing it.
Also, watch for signs of a failing septic system such as sewer odor, staining water, or patches of bright green grass growing above your septic tank. and don’t forget to maintain your heating oil tank, too!
7. Get involved – Join the Spruce Creek Association!
If you would like to join our efforts to provide stewardship for the Spruce Creek watershed, and contribute your time, or if you would simply like to support our efforts with your name and signature, please join us – anyone can join and membership is free! And don’t forget to check out the Calendar of Events to see what’s going on in the town – and the region!