5 Ways to Reduce the Marine Impact of Your Wastewater

If you think your inland household wastewater doesn't effect marine life, think again. You can protect our oceans at home.

Posted by Steve Graham | May 17, 2011
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cmykcyba/stock.xchngThe massive flooding along the Mississippi River is not only a land-borne tragedy. In addition to the ruined homes and cropland, the floods are expected to be devastating to marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.

The flood will push record amounts of fertilizer, manure and residential wastewater into the Gulf of Mexico, expanding a dead zone that already covers 8,500 square miles. In this huge expanse of water, fish and other ocean life lack enough oxygen to survive.

The Mississippi watershed stretches as far west as Montana and as far north as Saskatchewan, so homes and farms far inland are contributing to the dead zone. Their impacts are not confined to record flood events, however. Chemicals, bacteria and other pollutants in residential wastewater are affecting marine life. In turn, the fish and other animals are building up toxic levels of mercury and other elements, making them unsafe for human consumption.  DIY Resource: http://www.networx.com/article/how-to-reduce-the-marine-impact-of-your

The average person uses 120 gallons of water per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Much of the water that runs through our toilets, sinks and tubs is treated, but treatment facilities do not necessarily clear out all chemicals and toxins. Here are some tips for keeping your residential runoff and wastewater from fouling the oceans — even from the middle of the country.

1. Take Care with Fertilizers

Fertilizer runoff is a major cause of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, and other similar dead zones. The fertilizer nutrients cause algae blooms to flourish, depleting oxygen and suffocating other marine life.

Have your soil tested and only apply fertilizer as recommended, and strictly following package directions. Take particular care to avoid using excessive phosphorus. Also take care when watering after fertilization to avoid runoff. Also aerate compacted lawns to encourage water penetration and minimize runoff.  DIY Resource: http://www.hometalk.com

2. Limit Toxic Chemical Usage

It is often assumed that the ocean is so large that most chemicals and toxins are dispersed to safe levels. However, new evidence shows they have not been dispersed. Moreover, they become concentrated at dangerous levels toward the top of the food chain.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the average American home contains 10 gallons of potential hazardous waste in various cleaners, solvents, pesticides and other products. Reduce your use of toxic chemicals.

Avoid chemical drain cleaners. Also look for phosphate-free detergents. Phosphates in detergents are another cause of algal blooms and dead zones.

3. Dispose of Pharmaceuticals Properly

Prescription and non-prescription drugs have been detected in water samples in a large percentage of U.S. streams and rivers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Don’t throw expired or unwanted medicines down the drain. Instead, find a local location for the National Prescription Drug Take-Back events.

4. Keep Motor Oil Out of the Drain

If you change your own oil, recycle the oil properly (as well as oil filters and antifreeze). Also fix oil leaks. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 200 million gallons of motor oil is spilled on the ground or poured down drains and sewers each year. Such residential and industrial land-based sources dump three times as much oil into the oceans than oceanic oil spills, according to the U.S. National Research Council.

5. Use Reclaimed Water

Look for ways to reclaim greywater from your home, and encourage your local government to use more reclaimed water for irrigation and other non-potable uses.

Limiting the chemicals and toxins in your wastewater (and reducing levels of wastewater) can help limit your impact on marine ecosystems.

Steve Graham is a Hometalk.com writer.  Read more articles like this one or get help with your home projects on Hometalk.com.

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