The Three Rivers: Reducing Your Pollution

Feb 25, 2015

Water not absorbed by the land can collect pollutants around your home and drain directly into the water supply.
Credit North Carolina DENR

There are some large-scale sources of water pollution in Northeast Indiana, but  what we all do at home can make a big impact, too.   We continue our series “The Three Rivers” with a  look at what precautions every resident of Fort Wayne can take to reduce water  pollution. 

There are more than 20,000 drainage inlets around Fort Wayne. City Utilities' Frank Suarez says “these pick up the water whether it’s runoff from your roof, from your drive way,  from the rain, from melted snow.”

Suarez says this drainage system is vital to  preventing flooding. 

Some of that street water goes into what’s called a combined pipe – it mixes  with sewage and heads to the wastewater treatment plant. That’s a problem  because when it rains, too much liquid fills the system and it can overflow straight  into the rivers. To combat that the City is undertaking lots of projects to separate the pipes – less  raw sewage dumping straight into our rivers, more street runoff dumping straight  into our rivers.   

Suarez says there are lots of things residents should keep in mind to reduce their  contribution to water pollution. 

“Sometimes we’ll wash our car in the driveway, we let some of that extra detergent  and stuff runoff into the storm water drains," says Suarez. "We just need to be aware of what  we’re doing and what kind of product we’re using.”

It’s not just the dirt from cars, though. Oil or grease dripping onto the driveway  you hose down and pet waste you don’t pick up can get into the water. And the  illegal dumping of chemicals or debris into inlets can land you a fine. 

And then there are pesticides and fertilizers -

“We just need to be careful that we’re not spraying it too far," says Suarez, "that we’re not  putting a lot of it onto the concrete. One it’s a waste, it’s costing us more to not be  efficient. And then it washes off into our storm drains, and that goes into the river  eventually.”

Some people have drainage issues in their own lawns and experience standing  water. “Our rain garden program helps that, it also helps the whole community because  it reduces what’s going into our storm drain,” says Suarez.

The City has helped dozens of homes, schools, and businesses put in rain gardens.  They use native plants with deeper roots that absorb more water, and help control  soil erosion. 

Overall, Suarez says picking up some new practices can do a lot to reduce  sediment in waterways, improve the water quality, and protect the fragile wildlife  habitat.