We spend a lot of time thinking about what goes in our garbage cans. These days, most people are recycling and, even more importantly, looking for ways to reduce their waste. But how often do you think about what goes down your drain?
Virtually every time you turn on a faucet, something is being washed down the drain alongside your waste water. Cleaners, soaps, food, chemicals and much more end up being washed away from our houses on a daily basis. In Minneapolis, this waste is transported through miles of pipes to a Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul. Even outdoors we are sending more than water down into the storm drains. These lead untreated water directly into area lakes, streams, and the Mississippi River.
After years of washing away our problems, we are starting to see an effect on water quality in our area. In the state of Minnesota, over 1,700 bodies of water are listed as "impaired" by the Pollution Control Agency. This list includes numerous concerns about the Mississippi River, where Minneapolis and surrounding communities get their drinking water.
Anyone can make some simple changes to help turn this trend around. Start with cleaning products used in your home. Make sure the cleaners you buy are non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources (not petroleum). One favorite, planet-friendly brand found at most local stores is Seventh Generation. You can also make your own with vinegar and baking soda. Mix a little warm water with either of these for an all-purpose cleaner.
You can make some simple changes outdoors as well. When you wash your car, park on the lawn to reduce runoff into the street and storm drains. Your yard will naturally filter and decompose the soap, and you will keep it out of the drinking water. If your lawn absolutely needs fertilizer, skip the harsh chemicals. If you can't allow your pets or children on it, do you really want it washing into the source of your drinking water? Use an organic product like Ringer Lawn Restore. For driveway and sidewalk weeds, try Burnout - a natural weed and grass killer made from clove oil, vinegar and lemon juices. Finally, stop salting the ice. A little sand can work wonders without killing and plants or animals in the spring.
My number one suggestion - use your common sense. If you don't want something to possibly become part of your drinking water, don't rinse it down the drain. It's as simple as that!