Sediment Pollution

Sediment is the number one pollutant to waterbodies worldwide and the cause of a variety of problems in lakes and ponds. Sediments create turbidity and fill up pond and lake basins, thus reducing their recreational use. Algae causing nutrients and heavy metals can piggyback on sediments, getting a free ride to the lake or pond. Excessive heavy metals can make lake sediments toxic, preventing rooted plant growth and decreasing the number of aquatic organisms living in the sediments.

The soundest approach to curtail sediment pollution is to prevent sediments from getting into a stream, lake, pond, or reservoir in the first place.

Another important action is to protect streambanks and lake shorelines from eroding. Streambanks and shorelines contribute sediments directly to a lake or stream, and the best erosion control programs on upland areas can be undermined if erosion is not checked on streambanks and lake shorelines.

Homeowner Projects
Homeowners can’t expect the city or village to handle all sediment problems. Homeowners can have a positive impact of their own. A lengthy list could be compiled, but here are 10 projects that will prevent sediment or other pollutants from running off your property and into the aquatic ecosystem.

  1. Test your soil for fertilizer requirements (most university extensions or garden Centers have inexpensive soil testing programs). You may be surprised to find you don’t need to fertilize at all.
  2. Use native and adapted plants that have low fertilizer needs.
  3. Keep your grass two to three inches in height and mow often enough so that clippings can be left in place.
  4. Seed bare soil and cover it with mulch as soon as possible to minimize erosion.
  5. Substitute safe solutions for harsh chemicals whenever possible. For example: use equal parts of boric acid and powdered sugar to kill roaches, pour boiling water deep into problem ant hills to control ants, use a garden hose to knock aphids and spider mites off plants (spray every three days for nine days to interrupt their egg cycle), and plant marigolds, mint, or garlic on the garden fringe to repel plant pests.
  6. Compost leaves and grass clippings (if you decide to collect them).
  7. Direct roof downspouts to broad grassy areas so that water can soak in, and consider using the old rain barrel to catch roof runoff; the water can be used later to water your lawn, flowers or garden.
  8. For waterfront properties, grow a ‘buffer strip” of natural vegetation along the water’s edge; it will filter pollutants and help stabilize the shoreline.
  9. Taking buffer strips a step further, consider “landscaping for wildlife”. This alternative emphasizes shrubs, flower gardens, and trees – and cuts down on the amount of lawn you have to maintain.
  10. Be observant and implement your own projects. For example, washing your car on the grass rather than the driveway or street allows soapy water to soak into the ground, rather than run off, picking up other pollutants on its way to a stream, lake, or pond. (The soapy water won’t hurt the grass.)

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