We must do more to protect water sources

Johnson City Press • Feb 10, 2014 at 8:47 AM

“Only rain down the storm drain.” That’s the message state and local governments want Tennesseans to take to heart. Storm water pollution continues to be a serious problem in this state. That’s why public works officials have stepped up efforts to call attention to the problem.Johnson City residents have probably seen evidence of this campaign in their neighborhoods, where green and blue decals have been affixed to storm water drains.“No dumping — Drains to creek,” and “Don’t pollute — Flows to waterways,” are just a few of the messages on the decals. These modest public service reminders are part of an education program required of municipalities under a federal storm water abatement law.The message is simple: Bad things that are dumped into the storm sewer can end up in nearby creeks, rivers and lakes. You’d think people wouldn’t need to be told that.Think again.There are still some backyard mechanics who dump their old motor oil or radiator fluid down a storm drain, and many homeowners don’t exercise the care they should when using fertilizers and insecticides and other chemicals on their lawns.There are also a few older houses in the area that still drain the water from washing machines into the storm sewer.Federal storm water regulations require local governments to set up monitoring points on creeks and streams that are suspected of being polluted.Subdivision regulations are now aimed at containing runoff from construction sites. Developers are expected to use barriers (grass ditch lines) to clean pollutants before they get to streams. This is particularly important for reducing the amount of sediments that reach water sources.State officials hope public education efforts like putting decals on storm drains will help get the word out that nothing but rain should go down a storm drain. All the trash and sediment seen in area creeks, however, suggest there is still much more work to be done.

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