Doing Your Part: Pollution Prevention

Environmental problems evolve slowly and tend to sneak up on us with damage usually being done before we realize anything is wrong. It is hard for us to imagine that a drip of oil or a bit of dirt will harm our water supply, but even small amounts can pollute a vast amount of water. One quart of oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of water. Tasks you perform daily may have a potential impact on what is washed down the storm drain. Here are some things to watch for and incorporate into everyday assignments or procedures.

How can I help?

There are a few common guidelines you can follow that can greatly reduce the impact of storm water on our waterways:

  • Do Not Put Anything Down A Storm Drain! Remember, these drain directly into waterways without treatment.
  • Just because something is organic does not mean it is safe for the environment. Unnatural quantities of material like dirt, grass clippings and leaf litter can all cause adverse effects on stream integrity by changing the benthic substrate, reducing the amount of available light, and changing oxygen contents of the stream.
  • Wash your car at commercial carwashes or on grass with environmentally friendly detergent. Commercial carwash drainage goes into the local sewer system for treatment. Washing your car on the grass allows the water to percolate through the soil, taking advantage of nature’s own water treatment system.
  • Do not litter. Not only for the fact it reduces the aesthetic appeal of your surroundings which ultimately reflects upon you, it is harming organisms that can not do anything about it besides adapt or die.
  • Report any violations you see on campus to the University Office of Environmental, Health & Safety or by calling 608-785-6800.
  • Volunteer your time with organizations dedicated to environmental issues
  • Fix faulty sprinkler systems and do not overwater lawns.
  • Properly dispose of chemicals, oil, paint, antifreeze and other toxic materials. Reuse and recycle where possible. Refer to Environmental Bulletins for information on proper recycling of hazardous materials.
  • Wash outdoor items with biodegradable soap or at a commercial car wash that filters and recycles wash and rinse water.
  • Use decorative rock and plants to reduce soil erosion in landscaped areas.
  • If you drive a car, keep your vehicles well maintained and fix leaks promptly.
  • Use a drip pan or absorbent materials like kitty litter to clean up spills and dispose of in the trash.
  • Have your vehicles serviced at a local auto repair shop for proper disposal of used oil and fluids.
  • If you service your own vehicle, collect and dispose of the fluids at a local household hazardous waste drop off station.
  • Always pick up garbage and trash and properly dispose of or recycle it.


Pet Waste

Pet waste not picked up in parks or lawns is a major source of harmful microbes (E. coli) and nutrients that break down with water contact and travel into storm drains. In as few as 2-3 days, the waste from four dogs in a one-sq. mile lake is enough to close it for swimming.
  • Regularly remove pet waste from your yard.
  • Use a plastic bag to pick up pet waste while walking your pet.
  • Properly dispose of pet waste: bag it and placing it in your household waste.


Preventing Spills

Taking a few simple precautions to prevent a spill will eliminate the headaches that come with cleaning up after one! Remain in attendance when tanks and open containers are being filled. Use secondary containers whenever carrying materials from one location to another. Use a funnel when transferring liquids from one container to another. Place trays under open containers and the spouts of liquid storage containers.

If improper dumping or discharge is observed on University property, immediately notify the University's Police at 608-789-9999(Emergency) or 608-78-9000(Non-emergency).


Training for Staff

Because many of the activities that protect water quality need to be performed continuously, employee education is key to any successful pollution prevention initiative. Staff education activities should include:

  • Train employees to routinely inspect equipment and activities for opportunities to prevent pollution.
  • Make water quality protection part of new employee training by assigning experienced workers to train new ones.
  • Conduct a routine walk-through of work areas to identify potential problems.
  • Review procedures once a year with employees. Incorporate this training with "worker right-to-know" training for hazardous materials or worker safety training programs.
  • Display signs describing water quality protection activities where employees and visitors will see them.
The best way you can help keep our waterways healthy and clean is by preventing pollutants from reaching them in the first place and by educating yourself and friends about the importance of storm water management.