Litter and any illegally dumped waste is a serious threat to the environment and our own personal health. Litter is transported into storm drains and often ends up in area rivers and bodies of water. For example, trash strewn around campus flows through storm drains and into Waller Creek, which is a tributary to the Colorado River, a source of our drinking water.
People litter for many reasons, often because they lack a sense of ownership, they believe that someone else picks up their litter, or the area is already littered. This should not be the case for our University community. In the spirit of building an environmentally safe campus community, litter prevention campaigns and education programs are the answer to our problem.
Despite prevention campaigns and education programs, we can always expect some level of littering or illegal dumping activity within our community. But combating the problem through education is the answer. People must be aware of the environmental repercussions of litter and illegal dumping. People must also be aware of what steps to take in order to take a proactive hand in the elimination of littering and illegal dumping.
Some examples of taking a proactive hand in litter control include calling a hotline established by EHS to report illegal dumping at (512) 471-3511, or becoming involved in the Longhorn Recycling Roundup. In addition to these programs, The University has a recycling program housed by the Facilities Services.
As a proactive member of our community, you could also join an on or off-campus group to become informed about the issues that affect our environment. There are many resources available for anyone interested in taking a stand against litter.
Determining nonpoint source pollution is important in eliminating it. The informative table below lists some sources of pollution, their impact on the environment, and proposed solutions which are useful in conjunction with those outlined in the EHS Storm Water Management Program.
Non-Point Source Pollution
Pollution Sources, Impacts, and Solutions
|Soaps and detergents to wash vehicles
|All detergents destroy the external mucus layers that protect fish from bacteria and parasites. They also lower the water's surface tension, making pesticides and chemicals more easily absorbed by the fish. Some detergents contain phosphates that promote algae growth. When algae decomposes, it uses up the available oxygen of aquatic life.
|Silt and sediment from construction sites
|Sediment collects in drinking water reservoirs, leaving less room for water storage. Sediment and grit also smother bottom dwelling aquatic life, clog fish gills, and block sunlight needed by underwater plants.
|Cleared vegetation, tree trimmings, grass clippings, leaves, and acorns
|The debris clogs storm sewers, which increases the risk of flooding. Large collections obstruct water flow and cause creek bank erosion. As this organic matter decomposes, it uses up the oxygen intended for aquatic life survival. Decomposing organic matter also creates foul odors and taste in drinking water.
|Transports fertilizers, pesticides, dirt and grime to local storm sewer or waterway. Fertilizers and pesticides can kill aquatic life. Oil can contaminate drinking water.
|Misuse / overuse of fertilizers
|Fertilizers contain large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus - primary nutrients for algae. As it decays, the algae use up the oxygen necessary for aquatic life to survive. Some fertilizers also release ammonia, which is toxic to fish.
|Misuse / overuse of pesticides
|While designed to destroy pests, “broad spectrum” pesticides also poison “good bugs”, birds, and other wildlife. Pesticides also seep into groundwater, contaminate drinking water, and destroy soil by killing essential organisms from microbes to earthworms. Many pesticides are also toxic to humans.
|Poorly maintained dumpsters
|Liquid wastes can drip out, leach into groundwater, and enter creeks. Un-bagged trash is easily carried to storm sewers and waterways by wind or rain. Open or overfilled dumpsters easily allow wind or rain to carry trash to waterways. Trash and debris clog storm sewers and waterways, which may cause flooding. Dumpsters in poor condition attract flies and rodents whose waste contaminates collected rainwater that cannot be discharged to creek.
|Mop water, floor wax, cleaning agents, and painting equipment wash water often kill plant life when dispersed on grass. The plant life holds the soil in place preventing erosion. Waste entering storm drain is toxic to aquatic life and can render water unusable for drinking.
|Particularly plastic items that float, spoil the beauty of creeks and lakes and can be harmful to fish and birds that mistake them for food. Litter can also clog storm sever lines increasing the risk of property damage from flooding.