Waterwise Wednesday: Project Pollution Prevention

Photo © Jameswimsel


House projects, both indoors and out, create potential pollutants that can get caught in storm runoff when used or disposed improperly.


1. Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recyclable, and recycled products whenever possible to reduce detrimental environmental effects.


2. Follow label directions for substances like paint, solvent, or cleanser that can contain toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Use the smallest amount possible, absorb any spills immediately and dispose of the waste safely. Store substances properly to avoid leaks and spills.


3. Clean paintbrushes in a sink, not outdoors, to prevent VOCs and other toxins from flowing into the storm system. Filter and reuse paint thinner when using oil based paint. Properly dispose of paint by pouring out and drying on scrap carpet or taking unused paint to Environmental Services.


4. Sweep and properly dispose of construction debris like concrete and masonry.


Waterwise Wednesday: Hazardous Household Cleaners

Photo © Johanna Goodyear

Household cleaners we use to sanitize, degrease, whiten and wash can also harm water. The “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)” – Phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia are common ingredients in cleansers.

Phosphorus composes 30 to 40 percent of dishwasher detergents. Ammonia is included in products for degreasing, sanitizing and removing allergens. Nitrogen is found in glass cleaners, surface cleaning products, and floor cleaners.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia cannot be removed by waste treatment processes. Instead they enter waterways, build up and cause accelerated and excessive growth of some types of plant life including algae. The dense vegetation clogs waterways, crowds out animal life and other marine plants.

The large amount of plant material also depletes oxygen in the water as it decays. The lack of oxygen in water suffocates freshwater marine life, further degrading the water with decay.

Choose, or make, cleansers free of VOCs. So when you clean your home, your water stays clean too.