What's the point?

A stream within a watershed is impaired.  So,what's the point?

It is hard to pinpoint the origin of  non point source pollution, but not for point source. A point source pollutant comes from a single source such as a pipe that can be traced to its origin (i.e. industry or wastewater discharge). Point sources are controlled and permitted and under regulatory authority of the Ohio EPA. Non point sources pose a bigger threat to the environment because they cannot be traced to a single place of origin. Non point sources include, but are not limited to, sediment, fertilizers, bacteria, oils/grease, and trash.

The U.S. EPA lists the top water quality impairments as sediment (dirt), bacteria, and nutrients. 

  • Sediment is transported into local waterways when stormwater runs off unconfined (no erosion and sediment control measure present, i.e. silt fence or cover crops) at construction sites and farm fields. When dirt is disturbed and left unchecked in the environment, it's easily carried away by rain water. As dirt moves into a water way, lake, or pond, it piles up and makes the water body shallow. Residential landowners who share their property boundary with a stream also need to be aware how they contribute to sediment transport. When a homeowner mows up to a stream, they are stripping away the vegetation that is needed to hold sediment in place.  The more grass, shrubs, tress and other woody, deep rooted vegetation we remove from the stream's riparian area, the more we contribute to erosion problems and become a source of sedimentation. So, what's the point? The point is to leave the riparian area alone or compromise. If you would like to have a view of the stream in your back yard then consider mowing a small viewing area and not the whole length of the stream. 
  • Bacteria enters a waterway via stromwater runoff from: farm fields where manure has been land  applied, livestock having direct access to a stream, animal waste left behind, failing septic systems, and combined sewer overflows. Too much bacteria in a water system increases the oxygen demand and reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen for other aquatic life (i.e. fish, bugs, plants). So what's the point? The point with too much bacteria is its' end result can be in the form of a fish kill and/or problematic algal bloom. Bacteria can be controlled by simple practices- proper operation and maintenance (includes regular scheduled pumping) of septic systems; implementation of livestock exclusion measures; proper manure land application management; pick up animal waste and dispose of it properly; keep the wild wild and do not feed wild animals to encourage permanent residence near waterways, and alleviate combined sewer overflow infrastructure. 
  • Nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus are two of the most common non-point source pollutants that accelerate the growth of algae. Both nutrients are byproducts of agricultural and residential fertilizer (chemicals, manure) runoff and failing septic systems. Excess nutrients serve as catalysts for algae as they grow at a rapid pace as algae eat the nutrients. As the harmful algae continue to grow and die off, harmful toxins are released. When algae dies, the organic matter is decomposed by bacteria, which consumes dissolved oxygen. So what's the point with nutrients? The point is to be more diligent in how and when we apply fertilizers.  Always follow fertilizer manufacturer's guidelines for spreading and follow your nutrient management plan if you operate farmland. Septic systems should be properly operated and maintained with a pumping schedule established with a registered service provider.
 Look for more solutions to answer what's the point questions by going to the following agency links for helpful tips and resources:

Septic Systems: Mahoning County District Board of Health;
Erosion and Sediment Control and Nutrient management: Mahoning Soil and Water,   National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)