Extension and Ag Research News


Keeping Water Clean Everyone’s Job

The NDSU Extension Service’s water quality associate offers tips on keeping pollution out of the state’s lakes, rivers and other water.

Everyone needs to help keep North Dakota’s waters pollution-free, according to Roxanne Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension Service water quality associate.

“We may not be thinking of water quality when outdoor temperatures are hovering near zero, but this is a good time to reacquaint ourselves with the proper disposal of certain products so we can enjoy our favorite fishing spot or lakeside home in a few months and for future generations,” she says.

Here are some suggestions from Johnson on how to minimize pollution in lakes and streams:

  • Do not dispose of drugs in any water system, especially by flushing medication down the toilet. This includes any over-the-counter or prescription medication.
  • Protect riparian areas, such as wetlands, creeks and streams. Making sure vegetation along a river or stream remains in place is an important part of pollution control because the vegetation filters pollution before it reaches the water’s edge. Nature can help itself when allowed to do so, but draining wetlands, farming right up to the river’s edge and clearing the shoreline of vegetation removes this natural filtration mechanism.
  • Farm the land sustainably. Years ago, deep roots of native trees and prairie vegetation held the soil in place. This slowed the flow of water and allowed the soil to be drawn down rather than eroding to the river. Using farming practices such as no-till or minimum tillage can limit agricultural runoff.
  • Correctly dispose of hazardous household products, such as cleaning solvents, polishes, pool chemicals, insecticides and paints. Do not pour them down storm water drains, sinks and toilets. These products may contain harmful substances and don’t just go away. Many local sanitation, public works or environmental health departments have collection days each year for these products.
  • Use nontoxic household products whenever available. Check with the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroSense Web site at http://www.epa.gov/epp/pubs/products/index.htm for a listing of safe substitutes.
  • Properly dispose of unwanted agricultural chemicals and empty chemical containers. The North Dakota Department of Health has Project Safe Send, an annual collection of chemicals and containers that held chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides and fungicides that are old, unusable or banned. Examples include DDT, arsenic, dieldrin, chlordane and mercury seed treatments.
  • Remember boating etiquette. Do not throw garbage overboard or flush sewage or empty bilges into the water body. Water degradation also can occur at the marina from unsafe boat fueling, paint residues being sprayed off while cleaning and using toxic anti-fouling paint.
  • Keep business pollutants out of the water. Wastes used to be organic and easily absorbed by natural means. Today, chemicals are everywhere, and when people are careless, those chemicals end up in the water. Some of the more common business-related pollutants that may impact water systems are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which may leak from fluorescent lamp ballasts; oil; grease; lead; cadmium; and zinc. Business owners should make sure their business has a pollution prevention program and uses a closed-loop system to collect wastes.

“We can all make a difference in protecting our surface and ground waters in North Dakota,” Johnson says.

For further information, contact her at (701) 231-8926 or roxanne.m.johnson@ndsu.edu.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Roxanne Johnson, (701) 231-8926, roxanne.m.johnson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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