Pollution Prevention

The Problem

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.

The Solution

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

Pollution SourceImpactSolutions
Soaps and detergents to wash vehiclesAll 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.
  • Wash with plain water
  • Use biodegradable soaps and wash over large grassy areas
  • Wash car at a car wash that is connected to sanitary sewer lines
Silt and sediment from construction sitesSediment 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.
  • Innovative and site-specific BMPs
  • Stricter monitoring and education programs
Cleared vegetation, tree trimmings, grass clippings, leaves, and acornsThe 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.
  • Sweep leaf litter and collect in bags. Recycle matter for compost
  • More frequent street sweeping
Excessive irrigationTransports fertilizers, pesticides, dirt and grime to local storm sewer or waterway. Fertilizers and pesticides can kill aquatic life. Oil can contaminate drinking water.
  • Fix malfunctioning sprinklers and faucets
  • Water only when necessary and for appropriate amounts of time
Misuse / overuse of fertilizersFertilizers 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.
  • Limit the amount of fertilizer used.
  • Use of drop spreaders instead of broadcast method
  • The City of Austin Grow Green Program
Misuse / overuse of pesticidesWhile 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.
  • Protect storm sewers and areas not needing treatment
  • Substitute with nontoxic products
  • Use sparingly and only as a last resort. Follow the instructions; more is not better
  • Many products are not allowed to be used near or by water drainage areas, follow all instructions and protect storm sewers and areas not needing treatment
Poorly maintained dumpstersLiquid 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.
  • Get lids to cover dumpsters
  • Build roofs over dumpsters
  • Limit dumpster access to trained personnel
Custodial wasteMop 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.
  • Restrict use of agents to trained personnel
  • Contain wash water and dispose of properly. Non-hazardous agents may be discharged into sanitary sewer system upon EHS approval
LitterParticularly 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.
  • More recycling bins
  • Volunteer litter pickups