What You Can Do
Good water quality depends on us, and we depend on good water quality. And ensuring good water quality starts with individuals like you! There are many things that you can do around your home and in your everyday life to help manage stormwater and control nonpoint source pollution in order to protect water quality. Consider the impact on our local waters if everyone took these simple steps. Why not start with yourself? Click on each image below to learn how these things affect water quality and what you can do about it.
- Minimize Minimize Impervious Surfaces
Minimize Minimize Impervious Surfaces
An impervious surface is any solid structure that prevents rainwater from entering the ground. Examples of impervious surfaces include roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks and patios, rooftops, and even highly compacted soils.
In undeveloped areas, most rainwater infiltrates the ground during a storm, while the rest flows across the surface of the land or evaporates back into the atmosphere. In highly developed, urbanized areas, very little water can penetrate the ground because of large expanses of impervious surfaces. Thus, in urbanized areas, more water is forced to run off the land, carrying with it serious threats to both water quantity and quality.
Anything that falls on an impervious surface is exposed to the elements and can be washed away in a storm event. This includes oil from your car, misplaced fertilizer from your driveway, animal wastes, excess dirt, pesticides, and household cleaning products. During a storm, any of these substances that are on an impervious surface will be dislodged and sent to the nearest storm drain which leads directly to a pond, stream, or river without being treated first. These untreated pollutants impair water use by both humans and wildlife. Thus, impervious surfaces also threaten water quality.
What can you Do?
Creating more pervious surfaces, and minimizing the use of impervious surfaces, at your home or business can help mitigate the impact that urbanization has on the important portions of the water cycle that involve water infiltration into the ground, pollution filtration by soils, recharge of groundwater supplies, and control of flash flooding by slow release of water into streams and rivers via groundwater flow. Below are some suggestions for counteracting the impacts of impervious surfaces.
Reduce impervious surfaces on your property by:
- Using alternative driveway/sidewalk materials (grass pavers, mulch, gravel, swept sand pavers, uncemented brick, or pervious concrete).
- Simply reducing the surface area of your driveway or sidewalk.
- Greenscaping your rooftop with planting.
- Scoop Your Pet's Poop
Scoop Your Pet's Poop
The Issue of Pet Waste
Bacteria naturally exist in our local waterways. However, when their concentrations become too high, they can threaten human and animal health. A common source of bacteria in local waters is animal waste. In forested areas, bacteria from wildlife waste are filtered by soils. In urban areas, however, the high amount of paved, impervious surfaces compared to natural, forested areas means there is less opportunity for filtration of bacteria and other contaminants by soils and pervious surfaces. Thus, stormwater is more likely to wash animal waste and bacteria from these hardened surfaces into local waterways. In high concentrations, the bacteria can make people and animals that are exposed to the water sick. Bacteria also contaminate shellfish (oysters, mussels, clams). Shellfish are filter feeders, meaning they get their food by taking small particles out of the water, including bacteria if it is present. When humans consume that shellfish, they can become ill. SC DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) often issues shellfish bed closures following large rain events because the bacteria that wash into waterways increases the risk of human illness from shellfish consumption at that particular time. In addition to wildlife, pet waste is a large contributor to bacteria in stormwater. If you think that your pet’s once-a-day business does not have much of an impact, consider the thousands of other cats and dogs doing their daily business. SCDHEC estimates that in Charleston alone, cats and dogs produce up to 10,000 pounds of waste each day, which is essentially 10,000 pounds of raw sewage that people are exposed to via waterways. Contrary to popular belief, pet waste does, not fertilize the yard or help your grass grow, but rather, creates an unnecessary bacterial hazard.
What Can You Do About Pet Waste
There are some simple solutions to managing bacteria in stormwater. A major step is to pick up your pet’s waste. When you take your dog for a walk, be sure to carry plastic bags with you, pick up the waste with the plastic bag, wrap it securely and dispose of the bag in a trash can or other secure receptacle. You can also dump the waste in your toilet, or bury it at least 6 inches deep in your yard (away from waterways or wells). Do not put pet waste in your compost pile. Bag and dispose of kitty litter in the garbage, rather than dumping it outside. Join CWSEC’s 2020 Spokesdog, Finnigan on his mission to spread the word about the importance of picking up! Think your dog has what it takes to become a CWSEC spokesdog? Please visit the Grand Strand’s Canines for Clean Water Spokesdog contest FaceBook page HERE for more details on the next contest.
Another source of bacteria comes from high populations of birds that are attracted to South Carolina’s many stormwater ponds. These ponds are common in residential and public areas, and feeding the birds is a popular activity. However, feeding encourages the birds to aggregate in larger-than-normal numbers, which generates high and localized concentrations of waste and bacteria. In an effort to protect water quality, it is best to not encourage these high concentrations of resist feeding flocks of geese and ducks that are attracted to these ponds. Remember, keep wildlife wild.
Many towns have enacted local laws and ordinances to address pet waste issues. With increases in bacterial contamination of local waterways, it is evident that picking up pet waste is not only a good practice to keep our parks, sidewalks, or neighbor’s yard clean and avoid people stepping in pet poop. Pet waste ordinances consider the health of people, of our drinking water and of our seafood resources. Along with ordinances, some cities have enacted expensive fines for those found in violation of pet waste ordinances. To assist park and beachgoers with cleaning up after their pets, pet waste stations like the one on the previous page are becoming more common. They provide plastic bags, garbage cans for disposal, and signs notifying people of the ordinance and the risk that pet waste poses to human health. These are a few examples of signs from various parks, notifying people of the ordinances and possible fines.
You Should Also Know
To protect yourself, make sure that you are aware of local shellfish bed closures issued by DHEC if you are planning to collect shellfish. Do not swim in beach swashes (stormwater outfall points), as the waters are likely contaminated with bacteria and many other potentially harmful substances, and do not swim in stormwater ponds. Do not allow children or pets to play in or drink from these waters.
While some states require signs to be posted at boat landings, docks, and beach swashes to notify the public of unsafe water conditions related to bacteria or other contamination, this is not necessarily the case in South Carolina. While some areas may be permanently closed due to consistently high bacterial concentrations and may have signs posted nearby, temporary closures following rain events are not identified by signs. Therefore, it is important that you check for yourself before harvesting fish or shellfish. It is also important to note that other waterways that may not necessarily be used for shellfish harvesting, but that are commonly used for recreational swimming or boating are not required to have signs notifying the public of danger from bacterial contamination. If you have concerns or questions regarding these issues, contact your local DHEC office.
- Maintain Vegetation. Plant Trees & Buffers.
Maintain Vegetation. Plant Trees & Buffers.
Plants Can Help.
Plants serve humans in many ways, not the least of which is protecting water quality. The ability of plants to prevent pollutants from entering freshwater ecosystems is unmatched by any method or material humans have contrived. Plant communities have the ability to adapt to changing environmental stresses and overcome negative impacts while beautifying the landscape. Vegetated buffers are so helpful for protecting water quality that many coastal communities are now requiring them through buffer ordinances. In spite of the vast services and benefits that plants provide to us, we have a tendency to view naturally vegetated areas as “weedy” or “unkempt”, which contrasts with our tendency towards well-manicured landscaping. The result is often grass that is planted, fertilized and mowed right to the edge of ponds, streams and rivers. The lack of vegetation along the edges of these waterways allows pollutants to be easily transported into the waters.
Planting a vegetative buffer around the edges of waterways can have a dramatic impact on water quality by filtering out pollutants and slowing runoff.
What is a Buffer?
A buffer is something that reduces the impact an object has when it comes into contact with another object. When pertaining to stormwater, a buffer is a structure that reduces the impact that pollutants coming from the land have on freshwater ecosystems. Buffers do so by moderating the amount of material that is washed from the land into ponds,lakes, streams, and rivers during a storm event.
Manmade structures such as silt fences, hay bales, mulches, and rock dams are often employed to prevent pollutants from washing off theland and entering surface waters. These materials, while somewhat effective at hindering pollutant transport, are expensive, static, and unsightly. They require regular maintenance and often need repair after major storm events.
Vegetated buffers present several advantages over artificial buffers. A well established vegetated buffer:
- is effective at preventing erosion and removing most types of water-born pollutants,
- can withstand major storm events and overcome catastrophes, and
- improves land values by improving the landscape’s appearance.
How do Vegetated Buffers Work?
Vegetated buffers preserve water quality in many ways, but their main function is to slow stormwater runoff and encourage the water to infiltrate the ground. In this way, vegetated buffers are able to:
- Remove excess nutrients from lawn fertilizers and animal wastes,
- Prevent erosion and filter sediments,
- Reduce harmful pathogens, and
- Trap harmful chemicals and litter on land.
Other benefits that accompany vegetated buffers are:
- Flood control,
- Reduced aquatic weeds and water temperatures due to shading,
- Improved wildlife habitat,
- Saved money in reduced maintenance expenses,
- Beauty and a sense of privacy, and
- Increased land values.
Designing a Vegetated Buffer.
When planning a buffer, remember “wider is better.” Increasing the width of a buffer increases the distance a pollutant must travel to reach the water.
The Simplest Buffer: One of the easiest and least expensive ways of growing a buffer is to leave a shoreline uncut or unmanicured. Allowing grass or other native vegetation to grow tall will provide some protection against land-born pollutants.
More Complex Buffers: The most efficient and sustainable buffers are composed of a diversity of native plants, including trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses. Native vegetation requires less watering, fertilization, and other maintenance, and plant diversity helps uptake a variety of pollutants before they can reach the adjacent waters.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For a list of plants that are suitable for use in buffers, follow this link to SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control.“Document about Backyard Buffers”
For more information about vegetated buffer ordinances, follow this link to the SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control.“Document about Buffer Ordinances“
- Maintain Your Car.
Maintain Your Car.
Car Maintenance and Water Quality
Many homeowners choose to service their automobiles, boats, and other motorized vehicles at home. Responsibly servicing a vehicle at home is an excellent way to reduce maintenance costs and ensure reliable performance of that vehicle. However, this regular maintenance can pollute ponds, streams, and groundwater when done improperly and homeowners are often unaware of the impacts that home vehicle service has on their local waters. The most harmful pollutants associated with motor vehicles are the lubricants and internal fluids such as motor oil, brake and steering fluids, transmission fluid, and antifreeze. All of these compounds are extremely toxic to aquatic ecosystems, even in small concentrations. For instance, a single pint of motor oil can form a slick the size of a football field. Considering that most vehicles contain approximately 4 quarts of motor oil, the used oil from a single vehicle has the potential to contaminate 8 football fields of surface water. The simple activity of washing the car can dramatically impair freshwater resources because soaps and detergents are frequently washed into storm drains which drain to nearby lakes and rivers. These solvents alter water chemistry and pollute freshwater resources. Dirt and debris are washed into the storm drains along with the soaps and solvents, as are heavy metals from brakes and engine parts, and residues from various chemicals and fluids. Working on your car in the driveway or street allows for spills and deposits of these substances. Some people wash them away with water hoses, which easily transports them into nearby storm drains. Spills that aren’t cleaned up are washed away by stormwater during the next rain event. Worse, many people unknowing of the consequences dump car-based chemicals and fluids directly into storm drains for disposal.Not only does improper home servicing of vehicles threaten local water resources, but overall improper maintenance can have similar impacts. Without proper inspection and upkeep, your vehicle is likely to deposit heavy metals, fluids, and oils on driveways, parking lots, and roadways where these pollutants can be picked up by stormwater. Over time, even a small leak or maintenance need can have widespread impacts on waterways. Considering how many vehicles there are on our local roads and filling up large parking lots, the impact of improperly maintained vehicles becomes an even greater concern.
Tips on Maintaining your Boats and Vehicles to Protect Water Quality!
If you regularly work on your car or boat at home, take some of the following precautions to minimize the chance that fluids and chemicals are released into lakes and rivers. To avoid contamination of waterways from soaps, residues, and heavy metals from car washing, wash vehicles over a pervious surface such as in the yard or over gravel where water seeps into the ground rather than in the driveway or road where the soapy water flows into storm drains. Most car soaps will not harm turf. Another solution is to wash vehicles at designated car washes that are equipped to dispose of soapy wastewater.
- Dispose of used oil and fluids at a solid waste convenience center or recycling center. NEVER POUR USED AUTOMOBILE FLUIDS DOWN A STORM DRAIN!!!
- Dispose of used filters and dirty rags at a convenience center or recycling center.
- Change fluids over absorbent material such as newspaper or cardboard.
- Check for engine leaks regularly, and repair them at the first sign.
- Remove any stains or spills from your driveway using sawdust or cat litter, and discard in the trash.
Although the soaps and engine fluids associated with motor vehicle maintenance can be very toxic to freshwater resources, they cannot cause problems if they remain contained and are disposed of properly. Next time you wash your car, change its oil, or consider whether to get your engine serviced, consider the impact of vehicles on lakes and rivers, and take steps to prevent car-based pollutants from making their way into our local waters.
Simply spreading a cloth or other material underneath your work area to catch spills and unseen chemical deposits when working on a vehicle can go a long way toward protecting nearby waterways from polluted runoff.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
See the CWSEC “ Never Put Anything Into a Storm Drain” Fact Sheet
Auto Maintenance for Stormwater Pollution Prevention
Waste Reduction Resource Center, Auto Repair and Fleet Maintenance Resources
Auto Repair and Fleet Maintenance Resources
EPA Auto Repair and Fleet Maintenance Pollution Prevention
EPA Auto Repair Prevention
- Minimize Fertilizer Use.
Minimize Fertilizer Use.
Fertilizer's Impact on Water Quality
An excess of nutrients, called eutrophication, can be detrimental to water quality and aquatic life. High nutrients can result in unwanted plant growth such as algae blooms. Some algae can be toxic to animals and humans. Red tides are one example, but coming into contact with some common pond algae can also expose you to harmful toxins. Thick layers of algae can also block sunlight from reaching the bottom of a pond or river, creating a dark and turbid environment for fish and other animals living in the water. Sunlight blocking algae blooms can also inhibit the growth of other important plants. Furthermore, excess plant growth means excess decomposition. As plants break down, oxygen in the water is consumed by bacteria and other microorganisms. In some instances, large algae blooms coincide with fish kills as dissolved oxygen becomes too low to support the breathing needs of fish. Fertilizers that we apply on land are a common source of the excess nutrients that are present in waterways. The most common chemicals found in fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (N?P?K), with nitrogen and phosphorous being particularly problematic for water quality. Reducing fertilizer use, or properly applying it only when necessary, can be highly beneficial to water quality.
Lawn Care Tips to Protect Water Quality
- Have your soil tested to determine the appropriate amount and type of fertilizer or other soil amendments to apply to suit the nutritional needs of your soil and plants? You can contact your local extension service for soil testing. You may find you need lime, sulfur, or other soil amendments rather than nitrogen or phosphorous.
- If you use a landscaping service, require them to test your soil before applying fertilizers.
- If you must use fertilizer, use one that provides nitrogen in a slow-release form. Nitrogen is available as an either slow or fast release. Slow-release nitrogen is not water-soluble and will provide a slower, more consistent, controlled release of fertilizer. This helps avoid the need for frequent fertilization and also limits the amount of fertilizer that leaches into groundwater. Fast release nitrogen, on the other hand, is water-soluble and is released shortly after application, causes rapid growth, and necessitates frequent mowing and more frequent reapplication of fertilizer.
- Use only the recommended amount of fertilizer. Be sure your spreader is properly calibrated to deliver the appropriate amount. Also, be sure to apply fertilizer at the appropriate times during the year.
- Do not apply fertilizer near ponds, wells, or waterways. Leave strips of unfertilized vegetation around waterways to intercept fertilizer runoff from other areas. See our Vegetation and Buffer fact sheet for additional information about vegetation near waterways. If you must apply fertilizer in these areas, use a drop spreader rather than a rotary spreader near water sources and storm drains to decrease the risk of fertilizer contamination.
- Do not apply fertilizer on hard surfaces. Sweep up spills on sidewalks and driveways.
- Properly store your fertilizer in a secure, dry, sheltered location. If fertilizer is exposed and gets wet, it can over-fertilize a local area and contaminate groundwater, or can be washed away into waterways via storm drains.
- Use native vegetation in your landscaping. Native species of plants are adapted to local soil and climate conditions and are less likely to require additional fertilizers for healthy growth. Not only is this beneficial for the plants and waterways, but less watering and fertilizing can save you a lot of money.
- Finally, consider alternatives to traditional fertilizer. For example, using a mulching mower to mulch grass and leaving clippings will reduce the amount of fertilizer needed. (Note: contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not contribute to thatch accumulation on lawns, but rather contain valuable nutrients that are beneficial to your lawn when left on the ground rather than bagged). Use iron instead of nitrogen to green your plants without the negative impacts associated with nitrogen. Ask your local extension agent or nursery for other organic and alternative landscaping products.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service provides a number of services and can help you implement some of the suggestions mentioned in this fact sheet, such as soil testing and providing guidance on proper fertilization and watering.
Local Clemson Extension Office – Horry County
Horry County Extension Office
For more information about maintenance for Bermuda Grass, see this Clemson Fact Sheet:
Bermuda Grass Fact Sheet
For more information about maintenance for Centipede Grass, see this Clemson Fact Sheet:
Centipede Grass Fact Sheet
For more information about general lawn fertilization, see this Clemson Fact Sheet:
- Never Put Anything in a Storm Drain.
Never Put Anything in a Storm Drain.
The Truth About Storm Drains.
Contrary to popular belief, water that flows into our storm drains is not piped to a water treatment facility and cleaned before it is returned to our streams and rivers. In coastal South Carolina, storm drains direct water into stormwater ponds, which then connect to streams and rivers, or the drains dump water directly into receiving water bodies. These are the same water bodies that are the source of our drinking water. If there are contaminants in the water that enters storm drains, then they too will be washed into local waterways. Take note of curbs and gutters near your home or business. If they are present, they likely lead to a storm drain nearby. They will transport anything that is washed or dumped into them from nearby properties, such as your yard or the street, into a nearby waterway.
Best Practices for Car Washing.
- Wash your car over your lawn or a gravel area, rather than in the driveway or street. Water from car washing carries many pollutants such as oils and heavy metals. Rather than allowing this polluted water to run down curbs and into a storm drain, if you wash it in your yard, the soil and gravel act as filters and remove some of these pollutants, keeping them out of our streams and rivers.
- An even better alternative is to wash your car at a car wash. The drains at car washes collect the water, clean it, and then recycle it for reuse within the car wash. The high pressure hoses also use less water than your home water hose, so car washes save water, and prevent car-based contaminants from entering local water bodies. If you must wash your car at home, in addition to washing it over grass or gravel, remember to use biodegradable, phosphate-free, and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Empty remaining water from a bucket into a toilet or sink rather than dumping it outside.
Keeping Containments Out of Your Storm Drain
- Don’t use a water hose to wash contaminants such as oil spills or antifreeze off your driveway. Use kitty litter or other absorbent material to soak up chemicals, sweep up the mixture, bag it and throw it away.
- Sweep up other debris, such as leaves or pine needles, with a broom rather than using a water hose.
- Keep litter (paper, plastic, etc) and yard debris (leaves, grass) clear from storm drains. Litter is easily carried into storm drains and waterways by wind and rain.
- Be sure that items are secured before placing them outside for curb-side trash and recycling pick up, and that household items are properly stored in closed sheds or garages.
- Never dump anything directly into a storm drain!
- Take chemicals (motor oil, household pesticides, etc) to appropriate disposal facilities at your local landfill, and pour common, non-toxic household cleaners such as detergents down a sink drain that is connected to a sewer or septic system rather than outside.
- Build a Rain Garden.
Build a Rain Garden.
What is a Rain Garden?
A Rain Garden is an appealing landscape feature that can be installed easily by a home or business owner to manage stormwater and protect freshwater resources. A rain garden is designed to receive water from impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways, and sidewalks and encourages infiltration of stormwater. These landscape features intentionally hold stormwater so that it can percolate into the ground to be used by plants and replenish groundwater supplies instead of allowing the water to become runoff that flows into the street, down a storm drain, or into a drainage ditch.
Rain Garden Requirements
Installing a rain garden requires:
- A suitable area at least 3 meters from the house between a rainwater source (such as a gutter downspout) and a rainwater destination (such as a storm drain or ditch)
- Materials, including:
- Adequate soils that drain well (To test drainage, dig a hole 12 inches deep and fill it with water. If the hole retains water for longer than 48 hours, the soil will need to be enhanced. A good rain garden soil mixture that provides adequate drainage contains 50-60% sand, 20-30% topsoil, and 20-30% compost. If the hole never drains, the water table is too high, and a rain garden is not an appropriate landscape feature),
- native plants (The most effective and sustainable rain gardens contain a mosaic of plants including perennial grasses and herbs, small shrubs, and even trees),
- And a dense, heavy mulch (such as pine bark nuggets or hardwood mulches)
- Earth-moving tools (shovels, hoes, and augers to excavate and plant),
- A willingness to retain some stormwater on your property to protect water quality in our lakes and rivers.
More elaborate designs may require additional piping to convey water to the rain garden and disperse water below ground.
How to Build a Rain Garden
The size required for a rain garden depends on the size of the impervious surface draining to the garden and the ability of the soils to drain surface water. The average rain garden should be about 1/20th the size of the area draining into the garden. For instance, if the rain garden is intended to receive water from a 2,000 square foot rooftop, the garden should be at least 100 square feet or 10ft X 10ft. In more poorly drained soils, the size of a rain garden should be increased.
Once a site has been chosen, the garden will need to be excavated to approximately 12 inches and then backfilled with the amended soil mix to a depth of 6 inches. In well-drained soils, only compost may need to be added. In slowly draining soils, a mixture of sand, topsoil, and compost will need to be added to the excavation. Soils that do not drain and would require the use of underground piping are likely not suitable for a rain garden and other treatment practices should be considered, such as rainwater harvesting and reuse for irrigation.
After excavating and amending the soils, plants can be installed. Fertilizer should be applied at first installation to help plants become established. Also, plants will need to be watered regularly through the first growing season. Once the plants are established, very little fertilizer or additional water will be necessary. Native plants are adapted to the local soil types and rainfall amounts and require little maintenance after establishment.
For more detailed information on constructing a Rain Garden, please download Clemson Carolina Clear’s Rain Garden Manual at Rain Garden Manual
- Don't Be A Litter Bug.
Don't Be A Litter Bug.
The Issue of Litter
Litter is easily carried from the land into streams, rivers, and beaches by stormwater runoff through curb, gutter, and storm drain systems. In spite of decades of messages from anti-litter campaigns, litter continues to be a major environmental concern, threatening water quality, human health, and wild life, as well as creating unsightly road and waterways. Litter creates choking and entanglement hazards for wildlife, and hazardous materials leach into waters threatening drinking water health and the health of humans and animals that come into contact with the water or chemical. Most litter in our waterways comes from land-based sources. The most common sources of litter are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists who do not use proper receptacles, improperly covered commercial dumpsters, commercial and recreational marinas lacking proper waste receptacles, construction and demolition sites, trucks with uncovered loads that allow litter to blow out onto roadways, and household trash that is scattered before or during collection. Litter often results when people feel a lack of connection to a community or a lack of pride in a place of business or residence. For the Grand Strand, litter generated during the busy tourist seasons becomes a major issue for the year-round residents. However, residents must also take responsibility for some of the litter issues along our local roads and in our local waterways. There are many simple steps you can take to protect our local environment from the negative impacts of litter.
What Can You Do About Litter?
Participate in a beach or river clean-up. Every year, several times a year, local organizations such as the Waccamaw Riverkeeper® Program and Murrells Inlet 2020 sponsor beach, river, and roadside clean-ups. You can take part in these and help rid the local waters of accumulated litter, or you can sponsor your own clean-up in your local park or neighborhood and encourage your neighbors to join you and take pride in their community. You can even choose to adopt a spot, such as the front of your business or entrance to your neighborhood to consistently maintain a litter-free zone. Lead by example, and these efforts may encourage others to do the same.
Properly dispose of any litter or garbage. If you are not near a proper trash receptacle, secure your litter until it can be properly discarded. This may mean carrying a plastic drinking cup around with you during a summer trip to the beach, or leaving a fast food bag in your car until you stop at a gas station. Whatever the situation, carrying trash with you is always better than throwing it out of the car window, on the ground, leaving it on a park bench, or discarding it anywhere else than a proper trash or recycling bin. If everyone took this simple step to put litter in its place, many of our unsightly litter issues would be resolved. Use ashtrays, trash cans, or pocket ashtrays for the disposal of cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in America and are the most common item reported during beach, river, and roadside clean-ups. Since most states now have bans against indoor smoking in offices, restaurants, and even bars, the majority of smoking occurs outdoors, and without adequate cigarette receptacles in place, cigarette litter is becoming a greater problem. Research has found that smokers who would never consider littering other items are still likely to litter cigarette butts, not considering them a litter item. Remember that littering lighters, cigarette packages, matches, and cigarette butts are no different than littering paper or plastic. Encourage fellow smokers to take responsibility for their cigarette litter as well.
Do not use advertising methods that promote litter such as leaving flyers on car windshields or doorknobs. Such flyers become a nuisance when they blow away or uninterested customers throw items on the ground upon return to their vehicles.
Properly empty and maintain receptacles at all times. Ensure that doors on commercial dumpsters are closed to prevent scavengers from spreading trash. Business owners should provide ample waste and cigarette receptacles inside their businesses, and at business entrances, exits, loading docks, picnic areas, parking lots, sidewalks, or anywhere else that people gather.
Avoid placing trash for curbside pick up outside too far in advance if the weather is rainy or windy, which increases the chance that trash will blow away. Make sure that trashcans have lids that can be securely fastened or use bungee cords to hold them in place. Secure all bags and use twine to secure loose trash or tie paper into bundles for curbside trash collection.
Recycle! A large percentage of litter that is collected during clean-up events is recyclable material such as glass or aluminum. You can help reduce the amount of litter generated and save landfill space by recycling glass, plastic, aluminum, paper, and any other recyclable material.
Be sure that large events have large and well-marked trash receptacles. Local governments should plan ahead for the tourist season or busy holidays like July 4th to make sure that additional waste generated at these times does not end up in our local waterways. Citizens should encourage event organizers and their local governments to take action towards reducing the amount of trash and the impact left by these large events.
Report litter offenders. If you see litter being thrown from a vehicle, record the license number and color of the vehicle and the date, time, and location of the incident and call the Georgetown Litter Hotline at 843.545.4887 or Horry Co. Litter Control at 843.915.5450. For illegal dumping, also report the date, time, location, and description of the problem.
- Maintain Your Septic System.
Maintain Your Septic System.
Septic Systems and Water Quality
A properly maintained septic system is an efficient, inexpensive, and convenient device for treating and disposing of household wastewater. When functioning properly, these systems promote a sustainable environment by treating waste water on?site and recharging ground water. On the other hand, failed or broken septic systems create unhealthy situations for humans and wildlife and threaten water quality throughout the watershed.
A septic system receives waste water from all of the plumbing in a house, including the sinks, showers, toilets, the dishwasher, and the washer machine (see Figure). This household waste water carries dirt, food, grease and oil, soaps and detergents, and bodily wastes. To deal with all of these contaminants, the common septic system is composed of two major parts, the septic tank and the drainfield. The tank is a concrete box designed to separate oils and solids from the water. The drainfield is an area of ground perforated with pipes that receives water from the tank and allows for the regulated release of waste water into the ground. The drainfield is where waste water is filtered and purified of chemical contaminants and harmful microbes.
Be On The Lookout!
Homeowners will reduce the chance of septic system failure by regularly checking and maintaining their septic systems. Home owners should remain vigilant for:
- Excessive moisture or standing water in the drainfield,
- Noxious odors in the yard,
- Dead turf or other plants over the drainfield,
- Depressions around or over septic tank
- Slow or plugged drains
- Back-up of gray water through sink drains or toilets
Prolong the Life of Your Septic Tank!
There are numerous ways that a homeowner can prolong the life of their septic system and reduce maintenance and repair expenses. These include:
- Conserve water by installing low-flow toilets and showerheads and changing behavior.
- Do not add napkins, paper towels, applicators, and other such litter to domestic wastewater.
- Reduce the use of garbage disposal and compost meal leftovers.
- Do not pour grease, cooking oils, or household chemicals down the sink drain.
- Know where the tank and drain fields are located.
- Install a watertight concrete riser over the septic tank to simplify access.
- Periodically have the solids pumped out of the septic tank.
- Maintain adequate vegetative cover over the drain field.
- Keep surface waters away from the tank and drain field.
- Do not drive vehicles over the tank or drain field.
- Do not build over the tank or drain field.
Even the most efficient septic tanks require some maintenance. Over time, septic tanks will fill with solid wastes which must be removed. The frequency of tank cleanings depends mostly on the size of the tank, the amount of waste entering the tank, and the type of waste entering the tank. A septic tank should be pumped by a licensed professional when 1/3 of its capacity has been filled with solid wastes. The following table depicts the average frequency that a tank must be pumped, but these time frames may vary from one location to another.Table 1. Estimated Septic Tank Inspection and Pumping Frequency in YearsTank Size (gallons)Number of People Using the System1246890011 yrs5 yrs2 yrs1 yr<1yr1,00012 yrs6 yrs3 yrs2 yrs1yr1,25016yrs8yrs3yrs2yrs1yr1,50019yrs9yrs4yrs3yrs2yrsSource: Adapted from “Estimated Septic Tank Pumping Frequency,” by Karen Mancl, 1984. Journal of Environmental Engineering. Volume 110.
Page source: Septic Tank Maintenance Tips
- Report Erosion & Sediment Problems.
Report Erosion & Sediment Problems.
Sediment in Our Waterways
Fine-grained sediments such as silt, clay and sand have the potential to dramatically affect water quality. These small particles can be suspended in the water, making it cloudy and muddy. Not only is this visually unappealing, it can negatively affect aquatic life. Suspended sediments can harm fish eggs, make it difficult for fish to breathe, reduce the amount of light available to stream beds and vegetation, and increase water temperature. Sediment transport by rivers is a natural process and important for carrying nutrients and replenishing sediment supplies to coastlines and estuaries, but sedimentation resulting from land-based human activities is unnatural. Human sources of sediment transport into waterways include construction sites, dirt roads, and even mud and dirt that collect on tires and vehicles which get deposited onto paved surfaces and carried away by stormwater. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep sediments stabilized and out of our waterways. Construction companies and others doing any type of land disturbing activity such as forestry or local public works service doing road repairs are required to implement practices that prevent sediment runoff from those work sites. However, violation of these requirements is common, and enforcement is often difficult. Enforcement often depends on reports from concerned citizens who notice their local waters have become filled with sediment, or who notice the erosion and sedimentation directly from a construction site. If you notice any of these issues, you can take some of the following actions.
What You Can Do
If you notice sediment or erosion issues on a construction site, report the issue to the project manager. All development projects are required to have project information on site, including the construction permit information and contact information for the company and project manager, and you as a citizen have the right to request that information. You can also report the issue to your local regulatory authority (SC DHEC) or your local stormwater hotline. Regulatory agencies are grateful for reports such as these, as it is difficult for them to maintain a constant presence in the field and identify all violations or sediment problems on their own. Remember that it is the company’s responsibility to implement sediment control measures, and lack of control means a negative impact on your water resources. For those concerned about reporting such activities, it is important to know that you have the right and responsibility as a citizen to report issues just as the companies have a responsibility to protect our waterways.
Best Management Practices to Prevent Erosion and Sedimentation
Two of the easiest and most common practices to prevent erosion and sedimentation from a construction site are the installation of siltation barriers and the maintenance of vegetation. These are useful for large construction sites and small, homeowner renovation or landscaping projects.
- Silt Fences & Hay Bales: Silt fences come in many forms, but often look like long sheets of black plastic stretched between wooden or metal posts, and are designed to hold sediments behind them. When properly installed, they function well, but improper installation resulting in blowouts and sediment washing under or over them is common.
- Vegetation, Seeding, and Blankets: One of the best erosion prevention practices is the maintenance of vegetation, or rapid planting and seeding immediately following soil disturbance. The root systems of trees and vegetation are excellent sediment stabilizers and should be preserved when possible during construction. When vegetative disturbance cannot be avoided, plan ahead to install erosion control blankets and seed or plant the area as soon after a disturbance as possible. There are many types of erosion control blankets that are made of straw, wood, coconut fiber, and other biodegradable plastic fibers formed into a mat. These blankets or mats are available as large rolls that can easily be unrolled to cover the exposed sediment. Some are seeded and the mats themselves simply need to be watered to promote grass or vegetative sprouting. Others can be covered with mulch or compost and then seeded, and the mats simply help stabilize the ground until future planting occurs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To Report Erosion and Sediment Issues on local roadways, from construction sites, or in waterways:
Department of Health and Environmental Control
927 Shine Avenue Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
Georgetown County 843.545.3524
Horry County 843.381.8000
Myrtle Beach 843.918.2000
N. Myrtle Beach 843.280.5500
Atlantic Beach 843.381.8000
Surfside Beach 843.913.6360
Briarcliffe Acres 843.381.8000
- Compost or Contain your Yard Waste.
Compost or Contain your Yard Waste.
The Role Compost Plays in Promoting Water Quality
Many homeowners spend vast amounts of time and money looking for chemical solutions to their landscaping needs, especially when it comes to soil amendments and fertilizers. The addition of chemicals to yards threatens nearby waterways when these chemicals runoff. Another impact of landscaping is the generation of yard waste, such as leaves, sticks, and grass clippings. Yard debris that is allowed to blow away into storm drains can impair downstream water quality because as these materials decay in water, oxygen is consumed and nutrients are released which can lead to algal blooms and low oxygen conditions that threaten aquatic life (see “ Fertilizer Use” Fact Sheet). Many homeowners responsibly bag these materials and place them at the curb for municipal pick up. However, tons of these materials make their way to landfills annually, taking up valuable room and wasting the opportunity to return the organic products and their nutrients to homeowner yards. However, by using microorganisms to convert excess plant matter into a useable soil amendment, homeowners can reduce the need to purchase expensive fertilizers and topsoil, and can diminish their impacts on freshwater resources. This is done through composting, which is an excellent way to recycle organic yard debris and kitchen scraps, as well as create a high-quality product for your yard.
What Can you Do?
Starting a compost pile in your backyard is a great way to reduce the amount of biodegradable material that makes its way into local landfills or blows into storm drains, and can reduce the time, money, and impacts on water quality that result from the need for chemical fertilizers and soil amendments. This fact sheet will walk you through the process of how composting works and how to get your own compost pile started.
What Exactly is Composting?
Composting is controlling the natural decay of organic matter by providing the right conditions for microorganisms to convert yard trimmings and kitchen scraps into a product that can be returned to your landscape and garden. Tiny organisms (mainly bacteria, fungi, and protozoa) break down garden organic materials in a moist, aerobic (oxygen-demanding) environment. The final product is a dark, crumbly form of decomposed organic matter, which can be used to improve the soil. When added to soil, compost breaks up heavy clay soils, helps sandy soils retain water and nutrients, and releases essential nutrients. Compost also contains beneficial microscopic organisms that build up the soil and make nutrients available to plants.
What Materials Can I Compost?
Most plant material can be used for compost. Organic trimmings in your landscape, such as fallen leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, flowers and the remains of garden and house plants make excellent compost. Compost made from grass clippings treated with herbicides and pesticides is not recommended for use in vegetable gardens. Kitchen scraps, such as fruit and vegetable peels and trimmings, crushed eggshells, tea bags, and coffee grounds and filters can also be composted. Woody yard trimmings can be run through a shredder before adding to the compost pile.
What Materials Should I Avoid Adding to My Compost Pile?
Organic materials that should not be added to your compost pile include meat, bones and fatty foods (such as cheese, salad dressing and leftover cooking oil). Do not add pet or human wastes to a compost pile. Weeds that have not gone to seed can be added to the compost pile. Weeds with large storage roots like nutsedge, Florida betony or greenbriar should be left out and dried in the sun before composting to reduce their chances of survival. The high levels of heat produced in the center of the compost pile can kill many pests, such as weeds with seeds and diseased or insect-infested plants. However, it is very difficult to mix the contents thoroughly enough to bring all the wastes to the center, so some disease organisms may be returned to the garden with the compost. Therefore, if you intend to reuse your compost in your garden, you should avoid placing diseased plant scraps in your compost pile.
"Essentials" of Composting
Organic materials for composting all contain nutrients that provide energy and growth for microorganisms. These organic materials each have their own ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) in their tissues (Table 1). These C:N ratios are important because the tiny decomposers need about 1 part of nitrogen for every 30 parts of carbon in the organic material. If the ratio is greater than 30:1, nitrogen will be lacking and materials will decompose more slowly. Leaves, straw, and sawdust are high in carbon, while grass clippings, manure and vegetable scraps are higher in nitrogen. It helps to think of these materials as greens and browns. Greens, such as grass clippings, are high in nitrogen. Browns, such as leaves or sawdust, contain high amounts of carbon. Be aware that anything organic will decay (as long as it is organic, the critters will eat it); however, it may take a long time to make compost when the C:N ratio is too high. For example, a pile made solely of sawdust will take years to decay. Adding more greens, such as grass clippings or vegetable scraps, will speed up decay and produce compost in less time. Experiment to find the right combination of materials for your compost pile.
Moisture and Aeration
The microbes in your compost pile need a certain amount of water and air to survive. Microbes function best when the materials are about as moist as a wrung-out sponge and are provided with plenty of air. Too much moisture will force out the air and suffocate the microorganisms. Too little moisture will slow down decay. Whenever you add water, be sure to mix the material to distribute the moisture evenly. Turning the materials in your pile supplies oxygen to the composting critters. A lack of oxygen in a compost pile can lead to an odor problem due to the production of ammonia and methane gases. Decomposition without oxygen also causes the production of chemical compounds that are toxic to plants. Organic matter that has been allowed to decompose without oxygen (for example, “composting” in closed garbage bags) should be exposed to air for several days to complete the composting process and to destroy any plant toxic compounds.
Surface Area and Size of the Compost Pile
The more surface area the microorganisms have to work on, the faster the materials will decompose. You can increase the surface area of your yard trimmings by chopping them up with a shovel or running them through a shredding machine or lawnmower. A large compost pile will insulate itself and hold in the heat created by the tiny organisms. Piles smaller than 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet have trouble holding this heat, while piles larger than 5 feet x 5 feet x 5 feet prevent enough air from reaching the center of the pile and the microbes. In addition, turning a large pile is a chore. If your pile is large, you will have to turn it more often. If the pile is small, you will get a good batch of compost during warm months.
"Fast" Compost Method
This method can produce compost in a couple of months or less but is labor-intensive and requires frequent turning. Start your pile with a layer of browns, and then add a layer of greens. If the greens are not fresh, sprinkle in some blood meal or cottonseed meal, poultry manure, or other nitrogen sources. Mix well and add water if necessary to moisten. Adding a layer of garden soil, old compost or manure to each brown-green layer will introduce more critters to speed up the process. Continue adding and mixing layers of greens and browns until you either fill the bin or run out of materials. Slant the top of the pile to the center to catch rainfall. You may want to cover the pile with a plastic covering or tarp to regulate the amount of moisture entering your pile. The cover should not rest on the pile because it may cut off oxygen. Periodically, check the moisture content of your pile. The compost should feel damp. Check the interior temperature of your pile and when the temperature reaches 140 °F or begins to fall, it is time to turn the pile. You will need to turn your pile every three to five days. Once your turning causes no rise in temperature, and the material appears dark and crumbly, your compost is ready.
Temperature and Time
As a result of the decomposition process, the interior temperature of the pile should peak between 90 and 140 °F or higher. A hotbed (or long-stemmed) thermometer can be used to check the interior temperature of the pile at least 12 inches from the surface. The intensity of the process depends on the amount of nitrogen in the materials. The time required to produce compost depends on the kind and coarseness of the materials, the volume of the pile, and availability of moisture and air. It can take a month, a year or longer.
Think of compost as a soil amendment and not as a fertilizer, since the nutrient level of compost is low and released over time. Mix compost with soil to enrich the flower and vegetable garden. It can be used to improve the soil around trees and shrubs, as a top dressing for lawns, or as a mulch. Screen compost by separating the larger particles and any uncomposted materials from the finer ones and add it to the potting mix for houseplants. No more than one quarter to one-third by volume of the potting mix should be compost. Soaking compost in a burlap or cheesecloth sack steeped in water can make compost “tea.” The weak nutrient solution can be given to young plants.
"Slow" Compost Method
Slow composting is the least labor and time-consuming way to compost; it is ideal for people who do not have a large amount of yard trimmings to compost all at once. This method can take from six months to two years or longer to produce compost, so be patient. The ingredients are the same as those for a “fast” compost. Add greens and browns to your pile whenever they become available. Turn the pile occasionally to mix the materials together to prevent the materials from clumping together and to avoid anaerobic decomposition. You will know that your materials are decaying without oxygen by the foul odor: a telltale sign for you to turn the pile. Look for ready-to-use compost near the bottom of the pile.
Table 1: Average Carbon to Nitrogen ratios for organic materials.