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The Hazards of Dumping Yard Waste Into Streams
By Dale Frazier of G.O.A.L.
There seems to be a common belief that dumping grass clippings and yard waste into our local woods and streams is a “natural” way to dispose of them. In fact, there are many detrimental effects associated with this practice. Dumping grass clippings, leaves, and branches can be devastating to the health of these areas. Our natural systems quickly become overloaded with high concentrations of these materials, as a result, they break down slowly, clogging storm drains and making our streams stagnant. This backup of debris also contributes to local flooding when it rains.
When dumped materials do decompose, bacteria deplete the water of dissolved oxygen (DO) and release excess nutrients into the water. Dissolved Oxygen, (DO) is the amount of oxygen in a given quantity of water. Low DO levels kills the macroinvertebrates that consume the leaves that enter our streams naturally and keep our water clean. Macroinvertebrates in turn serve as food for the fish and turn into Damselflies, Dragonflies, and other important members of the ecosystem. Once they die from low DO, our streams fallow and we end up with brackish, foul smelling, dead, mosquito breeding grounds. Excess nutrients cause algae blooms that further depletes DO levels. Grass clippings from a lawn that has fertilizers applied to it intensifies the effect. Do not use more fertilizer than you need (check with a soil test), if at all. During a rain lawn chemicals runoff from your yard and wash down into storm drains, local streams and the Delaware River.
In addition to degrading water quality, when these yard wastes decompose in large piles they can create heat that can reach temperatures high enough to start fires when not properly aerated or turned over. Fires are illegal in most areas and can result in fines. Properties close to areas used for yard waste dumping have experienced fires and high mosquito and tick populations which can carry Lyme disease or west Nile Virus.
Grass clippings and leaves can be better utilized as a natural compost in gardens, flower beds, and mulched directly into your lawn or you can dispose of at a local composting facility.
Inform your neighbors of these issues. If you see any one dumping items on our shared greenbelts do not confront them, discreetly take down license plate information, and contact your local police department. After all, this is illegal dumping and it damages the ecology.
For more information on this and other environmental concerns contact your local Municipality’s Environmental Advisory Committee, (EAC) or visit www.LtownGoal.com.
G.O.A.L. has operated since 2009, mostly financed by our very own volunteers. Bristol Township, Falls Township, Middletown Township and Tullytown Borough have all benefited greatly from our efforts. We need your financial support now, before the start of 2015.
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