Keep the Wipes Out
Baby wipes are convenient and save time, until they cause inconvenient and costly plumbing issues in your home and our sanitary sewer system due to clogged pipes and sewage backups. Wipes of all types can make family clean ups a snap. Just remember to dispose of baby wipes in the trash along with surface cleaning wipes, paper towels, cotton balls and swabs. When it comes to deciding what to flush down the toilet, Stick to the three P’s: pee, poo and toilet paper. Wipes have to go in the trash.
The problem with wipes is that they will not disintegrate in water, so they damage pumps, pipes and other equipment at wastewater facilities, resulting in expensive repair and replacement of equipment. No wipes are flushable, even if the packaging says so. Wipes have sat in their packaging for months, yet when you pull them out they are wet. If they don’t disintegrate while being removed from the package that is a good indication they will not disintegrate when flushed.
Some wipes contain plastic in their weave, and when they get a little beat up they release microplastics that are not going to be removed by the treatment process. Those microplastics can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life.
When consumers flush a wipe, it travels through their plumbing and lateral sewage line to the main sewer line and then heads downstream, traveling through a network of pipes and pump stations on their way to the wastewater treatment facility. Once at the pump station, wipes clog the pump station equipment, resulting in greatly increased maintenance and potential pump failure.
The solution is simple, don’t flush wipes — any kind of wipe.
Clear Storm Drains to Protect Your Property and Our Water
Heavy rains and fall leaves can cause high water and increase pollutants reaching our streams and rivers. When it rains, water washes over roofs, streets, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and land surfaces. Along the way, it can pick up a variety of pollutants, such as oil, pesticides, metals, chemicals, and soil. This polluted stormwater drains into the storm system that eventually discharges into our rivers and streams. These pollutants can endanger the quality of our waterways, making them unhealthy for people, fish, and wildlife. No matter where you live, there's a drainage system in place to help rainwater find its way to the river.
Q. What is a storm drain?
A. The metal grates in the street that connects to piping that carries rain and snowmelt to nearby creeks, rivers, wetlands, or groundwater.
Regularly clearing your storm drains of leaves and debris helps reduce flooding and property damage while protecting watershed health and the quality of our drinking water. The Oregon Environmental Council and Water Environment Services offer these tips:
- Find the storm drain grates in front of your home or business and clear them of leaves and debris.
- Use a rake or pitchfork to clear leaves, limbs, and debris from the storm drain. Do not try to remove the grate, only the debris on top of it. Dispose of leaves in your yard waste container or compost bin. Or spread the leaves on your garden to protect and nourish perennials.
- When leaves fall into the street, rake them at least one foot away from the curb so they won’t block the path of rain water. Please do not rake or blow leaves from your yard into the street.
- Never dump anything into a storm drain. It’s against the law.
Water Pollution Prevention: A Guide for Property Managers
The following best management practices are recommended to prevent water pollution at apartment complexes and multi-family housing units
Report spills and inappropriate discharges of wastewater into the storm system by calling WES: 503-742-4567. For significant hazardous material spills, call 9-1-1, and ask the dispatcher to notify WES.
Maintain Storm Drains
Property owners are responsible for maintaining storm drains and stormwater facilities (swales, ponds, etc.) on their property. Clackamas County Water Environment Services (WES) Storm Drain Cleaning Assistance Program (SCAP) offers low-cost storm drain cleaning: www.clackamas.us/wes/swm.html#stormdrain
Keep Waste Area Clean
Uncovered solid waste, recyclables, and chemicals can be sources of stormwater pollution. Please cover or move these materials inside. Sweep and pick up additional debris instead of hosing or pressure washing pollution into the storm system.
Pick Up Dog Waste
Dog poop that is left on the ground can wash into storm drains and contaminate our streams and rivers. Please consider providing a dog waste bag dispenser with biodegradable bags to encourage tenants to pick up waste immediately and dispose of in a garbage can.
Paints and Stains
Store all chemicals in closed containers and clean up all spills immediately. Use ecofriendly paints and stains. Look for products that do not contain zinc, copper, or other pollutants, which enter the environment with stormwater runoff. Select SAFER CHOICE products: www.epa.gov/saferchoice/products
Wash Vehicles Off-Site
Stormwater systems in this area drain to the nearest creek or river. Please don’t wash vehicles in parking lots or streets. Encourage tenants to use a commercial car wash that recycles water and discharges to sanitary sewer.
- Reduce the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers
- Remove invasive species by hand or via mechanical means
- Add Smart Controllers to irrigation systems to reduce water use
- Plant native plants, which tend to be naturally resistant to pests & drought
- Replace turf with "eco" lawns that utilize multiple plant varieties
- Hire EcoBiz Certified Landscapers: www.ecobiz.org
To reduce the amount of pollution entering our rivers and streams, slow down your stormwater and allow for water infiltration into the soil. Go the extra mile: Install a rain garden or parking lot swale to infiltrate stormwater on-site.
RiverHealth Stewardship Grants provide up to $30,000 for projects which improve watershed health (example: installing a parking lot swale or rain garden). For more information, visit: www.clackamas.us/wes/watershedhealth.html
Use Natural Controls to Manage Moss
- Reduce shade by pruning branches
- Use a stiff bristled brush or broom to remove moss
- Correct acidity problems with lime after soil test
- Correct drainage problems
- Avoid pressure washing when possible
- Avoid powdered soaps during rainy season
- If using chemical controls, disconnect downspout to retain roof runoff onsite
Clean Up After Your pet
Clackamas County has almost 100,000 dogs of all shapes and sizes. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that a dog excretes 0.75 pounds of waste per day. That adds up nearly 13,000 tons of pet waste in our county per year!
Reasons to Scoop
- Polluted storm runoff carries pet waste and other pollutants directly into waterways.
- Animal waste adds nitrogen to the water. Excess nitrogen depletes the oxygen in water necessary for beneficial aquatic vegetation, wildlife and fish.
- Animal waste may contain harmful organisms such as Giardia, Salmonella and E. coli that can be transmitted by ingesting contaminated water.
- Roundworms and hookworms deposited by infected animals can live in the soil for long periods of time and be transmitted to other animals and humans.
- Cleaning up after your pet is always the right thing to do.
Grab a bag before your next walk, and tell your friends to do the same. Our water will be much healthier.
Fats, oils and grease (FOG) are found in common foods and food ingredients such as meat, fish, butter, cooking oil, mayonnaise, milk, gravies, sauces and food scraps. If poured down the sink drain or into your garbage disposal, FOG could build up over time by sticking to the sides of sewer pipes. This could eventually cause an expensive sewer backup into your home or the public wastewater system. The results of a grease-blocked sewer pipe can be:
- Sewage overflows in your home or your neighbor's home causing expensive and unpleasant cleanup that often must be paid for by the property owner.
- Sewage overflows to streets or landscaping that can get into streams and rivers causing possible contact with disease-causing organisms.
- An increase in operation and maintenance costs for the public sewer system and the treatment facilities, which could lead to higher sewer rates for customers.
By following a few simple steps, you can help prevent sewer backups by:
- Pouring cooled fats, oils and grease into a covered, disposable container and tossing it into your garbage instead of down sink drains.
- Soaking up remaining FOG with paper towels and placing in the trash.
- Scraping food scraps into your compost or trash before washing dishes.
- Using sink strainers to catch any remaining food waste while washing dishes.
Yard and Garden Chemicals Can Contaminate Our Community’s Water and Harm Wildlife
Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can help control pesky weeds and insects, but every pesticide (including organic) has some level of toxicity to non-targeted, beneficial organisms, such as honey bees, earthworms, aquatic bugs, fish and people.
Chemicals sprayed on a windy day can drift onto neighboring property or into a creek. Pesticides applied before it rains can wash into a storm drain that connects to a local waterway. Local studies have shown that when pesticides enter the waterway, they create a toxic environment for aquatic organisms. Pesticides in the water can decrease the quality and availability of water for drinking, swimming, and fishing. These impacts are often the result of the overuse and misapplication of pesticides. When used sparingly, and according to the product label, you can minimize the adverse effects caused by pesticides.
You Can Help Prevent Water Pollution and Maintain A Healthy Environment
Grow vegetation wisely
- Plant native shrubs, flowers, and trees that thrive with the soil conditions, rainfall, and climate in your area, with little-to-no chemical additions.
- Mow your lawn at the tallest height suitable for the variety of grass planted because the roots of your lawn grow deeper as the grass grows taller. During a drought, deeper roots can better reach water.
- Aerate your lawn to create space for beneficial organisms to enhance the soil and reduce compaction to boost root growth and increase the capacity of the soil to hold water.
Know your pest
- Research the insect or weed and find out the best controls for your situation. For example, some weeds spread further when cut. Timing—when the control is applied—may be important for specific pests.
- Look for information from OSU Extension Service, Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District, or Metro.
Consider using natural alternatives to manage pests and weeds
- Use horticultural oil sprays or diluted liquid soaps.
- Use botanical insecticides, which include naturally occurring plant extracts.
- Physically remove weeds by digging or pulling, unless dealing with a weed that re-grows from fragments.
- Spray vinegar to kill targeted weeds.
- Lure yellow jackets into narrow-necked bottles with juice or sugar water.
If you must use a pesticide, use the least toxic and...
- Identify the pest and use a target-specific pesticide.
- Carefully read the label and follow the instructions, especially weather conditions: don’t apply when windy or rainy.
- Only apply pesticides where needed and clean up any spills.
- Call a certified professional pesticide applicator.
Dispose of unwanted/unused pesticides by taking them to a Metro hazardous waste facility. Never on the ground, in the trash, or down a drain.