Why you should care about storm water runoff

This litter was picked up a few days ago within the first minute of walking on Huntington Beach. As much as 70 percent of the pollution in our waterways comes from local residents. Photo by Brenda O'Reilly

[The Observer is excited to introduce our newest column, "Green Scene," which will shed light on sustainability topics that affect the quality of our lives in Bay Village and Westlake and offer easy, do-it-yourself tips for reducing negative impact on the environment.

Brenda O'Reilly, who has been a frequent contributor to the Observer as the co-chair of the Bay Village Green Team, also serves as a zero-waste consultant for Earth Day Coalition, chairs the Zero Waste NEO subcommittee for Earth Fest 2014, is a member of Zero Waste NEO and participates in Sustainable Cleveland 2019.]

We’ve all heard the term “storm water runoff”, but what does it really mean and why should we care? When it rains, you can see the water running off your driveway, your sidewalk, the street, and even your lawn, and then flowing down a drain. After that, it’s easy to lose track of what happens to the water, since it is below ground and out of sight.

But ... that water flows directly into our local streams and then into Lake Erie.

It’s amazing how easy it is for toxic chemicals and litter to flow into the streams and the lake. According to Amy Roskilly, Conservation Education Specialist with the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, it is estimated that 70 percent of the pollution in our waterways comes from local residents, largely from lawn chemicals, pet waste, leaking oil and gas, and litter. These materials often contain chemicals that are harmful to humans.

It’s not that one car’s oil leak or the chemicals placed on any one lawn would have much of an impact, but the collective impact is extremely significant. In fact, the collective impact of ongoing actions can be much larger than a single catastrophic event. To illustrate, a real life example was provided by Jay Manning, Director of the Washington Department of Ecology who was interviewed in the PBS Frontline special called “Poisoned Waters.” According to Manning, the storm water runoff into Puget Sound over a two-year period carries in the same amount of oil that was infamously spilled by the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska. 

So what can you do to protect our beautiful local waterways? First, get more educated on the topic. Over the past few years, an extensive study called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been underway to evaluate potential pollution sources within the Porter Creek watershed. Come and learn about how to reduce storm water pollution on your property and hear the results of the study on Thursday, Nov. 14, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, 28728 Wolf Road in Bay Village. The seminar is free and open to the public.

Have a "green" topic to suggest for a future article? Email it to bayvillagegreenteam@gmail.com.

Brenda OReilly

Co-Chair of the Bay Village Green Team

Read More on Green Scene
Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:29 AM, 11.12.2013