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Good Stormwater Practices for Campus Maintenance Activities
In recent years sources of water pollution like industrial wastes from factories have been greatly reduced. Now, more than 60 percent of water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil, fertilizers from lawns and gardens, and improper disposal of wash water, maintenance chemicals, and cooking oils and grease. All these sources add up to a big pollution problem. Following a few simple good practices can have a positive impact on campus streams.
Grounds and Athletics Maintenance Good Practices
Activities that are routinely conducted as part of maintaining campus grounds and athletic fields include mowing, irrigating, leaf blowing, mulching, planting, fertilizing and treating with herbicides and insecticides. All of these activities can have a profound impact on the water quality in campus streams and downstream lakes and rivers that make up our watershed.
What's the problem with fertilizer?
Fertilizer isn't a problem if it's used carefully. If you use too much fertilizer or apply it at the wrong time, it can easily wash off of a lawn or garden into storm drains and then flow untreated into Jordan Lake. Just like in a garden, fertilizer in lakes and streams makes plants grow. In water bodies, extra fertilizer can mean extra algae and aquatic plant growth. Too much algae harms water quality and makes boating, fishing and swimming unpleasant. As algae decay, they use up oxygen in the water that fish and other wildlife need. This is already occurring regularly in Jordan Lake, and the UNC campus water runs off to Jordan Lake.
- Sweep or blow it
- Granular pesticides, fertilizer, fallen leaves and grass clippings left on sidewalks, streets, and driveways wash into storm drains. So sweeping or blowing pesticides, fertilizer, leaves, and grass clippings back onto lawn or naturalized areas is a good idea.
- Test soil
- A soil test will tell you what, if any, fertilizer is needed to grow grass or other plants. Use fertilizers sparingly. Many plants do not need as much fertilizer or need it as often as you might think.
- Buy low and slow
- Choose a fertilizer with low or no phosphorus. Most lawns already contain enough phosphorus. Check the label and select an organic or slow-release fertilizer. A slow-release fertilizer is one with at least half of the nitrogen in "water insoluble" form. Slow-release fertilizers provide a steady supply of plant nutrients over an extended period of time. Excess phosphorus and nitrogen are the cause of excessive algae growth in Jordan Lake.
- Mow high
- Make the lawn cheaper and easier to maintain by mowing high and 3 inches, is the rule. Tall grass promotes root growth and shades out weeds. Let grass clippings fall back on the lawn. Clippings recycle nutrients back into the soil, so fertilizer needs can be reduced by 25% or more.
- Make pesticide and fertilizer-free zones
- Keep pesticide and fertilizer applications at least 20 feet away from the edge of streams and storm drains.
- Watch for rain
- Do not apply pesticides just before or during a rain storm.
- Clean carefully
- Only wash equipment or containers at an EHS (919-962-9752) designated location that flows into the sanitary sewer system. Never wash equipment or containers in parking lots, storm drain inlets, or paved areas. Stormwater flows untreated to campus streams and Jordan Lake.
- Pick up trash
- Clean trash and other debris from curb inlets and catch basins and keep it from reaching our campus streams.
- Call EHS for lawn chemical disposal
- If you have lawn or gardening chemicals that you no longer need or want, please call EHS at 919-962-5507 and we'll come and get them.
Building Maintenance Good Practices
Areas where building maintenance is conducted or where maintenance materials are stored can contribute contaminants to runoff when good housekeeping measures have not been taken to prevent these discharges. Cleaning paint brushes and rollers over storm drain grates, allowing power washing liquid to flow into a storm drain, or disposing of any chemicals to the storm drainage system are all toxic to aquatic life and fish.
- Store Dry
- Store chemical substances such as paints, solvents, detergents, and deicer under cover when not in use or during rain.
- Clean Up Spills
- Any chemical spills should be cleaned up immediately so that the spill can't reach a storm drain.
- Clean Up Paint
- Clean paint brushes with latex paint in sinks connected to sanitary sewers or in portable containers that can be emptied into the sanitary sewer. Clean paint brushes with oil based paints over a container and dispose of the material by contacting EHS at 962-5507.
- Collect and Contain
- When pressure washing buildings, roof tops, and other large objects collect the water and dispose of it to the sanitary sewer. One way to clean exterior floors and collect the water at the same time is to use a wash system similar to this one with a built-in vacuum system. EHS has a "Vacu-Boom" available for use on campus. Contact us to borrow this waste water capture system.
- Gather Paint Chips
- Use a ground cloth beneath outdoor painting, scraping and sandblasting work and dispose of the collected material by contacting EHS at 919-962-5507.
- Call EHS for maintenance chemical disposal
- If you have maintenance chemicals that you no longer need or want, please call EHS at 919-962-5507 and we'll come and get them.
Housekeeping Good Practices
Remember all exterior drains and most interior floor drains are not connected to the sanitary sewer system, but instead are storm drains that lead directly to campus streams and ultimately to Jordan Lake. Discharging dirty wash water, oils and grease or cleaning chemicals into one of these drains pollutes campus streams and Jordan Lake.
- Use Sinks
- Dispose of wash water by pouring it into an interior sink. This water goes to a wastewater treatment plant. Wash water that is dumped outside or into inside floor drains goes into campus streams and makes its way to Jordan Lake.
- Containerize Cooking Oil
- Do not dump cooking oils or grease down the drain. Save these in a sealed container for proper disposal or recycling. You can call EHS at 919-962-5507 for information on how to do this.
- Clean Trash Cans Inside
- Do not wash trash cans outside. Wash them inside over a sink.
- Collect and Contain
- When cleaning building loading docks or other large exterior flat surfaces, collect the water and dispose of it to the sanitary sewer. One way to clean exterior surfaces and collect the water at the same time is to use a wash system similar to this one with a built-in vacuum system. EHS has a "Vacu-Boom" available for use on campus. Contact us to borrow this waste water capture system.
- Call EHS for housekeeping chemical disposal
- If you have housekeeping chemicals that you no longer need or want, please call EHS at 919-962-5507 and we'll come and get them.
Vehicle Maintenance Good Practices
Vehicle maintenance activities can contribute contaminants to runoff. Vehicle maintenance activities include, but are not limited to, changing vehicle oil, washing vehicles, checking fluids, and refueling. Dumping antifreeze, oil, and vehicle wash waters causes pollution of campus streams.
- Store Under Cover
- Store materials such as oil, antifreeze, and batteries under cover with secondary containment to catch any leaks.
- Clean Up Spills
- Any chemical spills should be cleaned up immediately so that the spill can't reach a storm drain. Keep a spill kit with absorbent materials on hand.
- Keep a Clean Shop
- Clean floors and work surfaces in vehicle maintenance areas with brooms, shovels and shop vacuums, not with water hoses. For heavy duty jobs, use a wash system similar to this one with a built-in vacuum system. EHS has a "Vacu-Boom" available for use on campus. Contact us to borrow this waste water capture system.
- Use the Car Wash
- Wash vehicles at the UNC Service Station car wash so that the wash water goes into the sanitary sewer system and not the creek. When you wash a car on a driveway or street, even biodegradable detergents are toxic to fish and aquatic life.
- Keep Them Running Smoothly
- Perform regular maintenance on vehicles to prevent leaks of oil and antifreeze.
- Call EHS for vehicle maintenance chemical disposal
- If you have vehicle maintenance chemicals that you no longer need or want, please call EHS at 919-962-5507 and we'll come and get them.
The three photos and accompanying text on this page were originally produced by the Washington State Department of Ecology, King County and the cities of Seattle and Tacoma.