Repeat Offender Polluters

  • Published
  • By Darrell Davis
  • 460th Civil Engineer Squadron
Some of the biggest repeat polluters in America are not always major corporations. They are always in the news because they have caused some significant spill incidents throughout the history of the Industrial Revolution. What most people don't know is every time you litter a little, it adds up to a lot.

It doesn't take a major accident to release hazardous substances into the environment. Often common day-to-day activities can have a significant impact on the world around us. Look at what's stored under your kitchen or bathroom sinks and what might be on the shelves in your garage or storeroom. Do you use or dispose of those items properly?

The level of harm to you and the environment depends on whether or not the chemicals or solutions are utilized properly. Most household chemicals contain small amounts of potentially hazardous substances that are neutralized during use or will break down into harmless elements over time. However, some solutions contain toxic substances that can linger in the environment for a very long time. But no matter what it is, if it is used incorrectly or in great quantities, the impact, collectively, can be serious.

For example, how many people on your block might use concentrated lawn fertilizer?  How many on your street? In your subdivision?  In the city as a whole? What are the chances that everyone follows the manufacturer's directions for the use of that fertilizer? If it says use one tablespoon of fertilizer for every gallon of water and you've got a five-gallon spray applicator, how many folks actually grab a measuring spoon and measure the amount needed into that five-gallon container? Probably not that many people actually measure out what is called for, so collectively, the impact on the environment is amplified when too much of a chemical is used.

If fertilizer is over-applied it just sits there until it rains. It then runs off into the gutters, then the storm drain, and eventually it makes its way to a body of water where it feeds algae and other microorganisms that can multiply exponentially and cause "dead zones" where fish and other aquatic life cannot survive.

This applies to incorrect use of household cleaning products, too, as well as fertilizers, pesticides, and other yard chemicals that can cause problems down the sewer line.

Whether you live in the city and are connected to a municipal waste water collection system or in a rural area with a septic system that serves just your residence, both types of treatment systems have something in common. Food solids in the waste water are digested by aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, plus some other microorganisms that can only be seen with a microscope.

The result of high concentrations of chemicals in the waste water harms the population of these helpful organisms in the waste treatment systems. This causes a reduction in the efficiency of the treatment of the waste water which, in turn, can impact the quality of our streams, rivers, lakes and the oceans. In the case of a rural septic system, the solids don't get digested, they build up in volume in the treatment tanks, and can eventually back up into your house.

To lessen the impact on our environment, please read the directions and use the recommended amounts of yard chemicals, pesticides, and household cleaners. Your actions can help keep our environment clean and habitable for all.