A recent report released by the San Francisco Estuary Institute showed that “contaminants of emerging concern” (CECs) have been detected in our waterways. These CECs include pesticides, pharmaceuticals and nutrients that can cause an impact on water quality. How do they get into the water that we drink?
Some of these CECs get into our watershed with little interference. Any substance that is sprayed or scattered on the ground—in our yards, on the road or on farms, eventually gets washed down the watershed. It is important to remember that storm drains do not get filtered, so anything that gets left on the ground (from litter, to pet waste, to plant food) will end up in the Bay. Even things that get buried (as in a landfill) can affect the water. Ground water soaks through the earth and flows to the Bay the same way water on the surface does.
There are also items in our homes that can affect the water. Household items such as CFL light bulbs (the twisty kind), batteries, medicines, electronics and cleaning products contain chemicals. They are safe to use in your house, but can be harmful to the watershed if not properly disposed of. Most pharmacies and police stations can safely disposed of unused medicines (which are not always removed by wastewater treatment), and many communities have household hazardous waste stations and e-waste collecting stations that properly dispose of or recycle products with hazardous waste. Find the right way to dispose of household hazardous waste where you live!
In addition to disposing of waste properly, you can do your part to keep chemicals out of the water (and your home) by finding alternatives to the chemicals that we use on a regular basis. Here are some less toxic recipes for household cleaners!