What can I do to improve water quality?
- Most proprietary household chemicals are safe to use and are environmentally friendly, when used according to the directions on the package. However, some have a harmful cumulative effect on the environment when they are over-used or incorrectly disposed of.
- Check the label for hazard warnings. The warning symbols are based on shape: the more corners a symbol has, the greater the risk. Read the label to find out how to use the product safely and what precautions to take.
- Buy only those environmentally hazardous products you really need, and buy them in quantities you will be able to completely use up, so that you will not have to worry about disposing of the leftovers later.
- Use “environmentally friendly” products now available in your supermarket and drugstore.
- The federal government endorses products that are environmentally friendly. Look for the Environmental Choice EcoLogo. Visit the Environmental Choice website for information on products friendly to keeping your water clean and friendly for you and the fish living in it.
- Oil, gasoline, paint thinners, solvents, photographic chemicals, weed or insect killers, as well as some drugs, can poison your septic system and possibly threaten water supplies for your whole neighbourhood – never put them down your drains.
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products – Avoid caustic drain openers and cleaners. Avoid detergents that are high in phosphorus.
- The waste water in a septic tank takes time to separate, but every time water goes in, water also goes out. For this reason don’t overload the system, spread your water use (like laundry) out, make a habit of conserving water and also reduce water use before large crowds are going to use your system. For a full booklet on septic systems, their structure, use and maintenance, from the Ontario New Home Warranty Program, click here.
- Empty the sludge and scum from your septic tank often enough so they don’t overflow into the surrounding soil.
Yard and Garden Care
- Don’t fertilize or apply weed killers to your lawn before rain (chemicals will wash into the sewer system).
- Apply recommended amounts of fertilizer or pesticide — do not over-apply.
- Use slow-release natural fertilizers and low-toxicity pest control products.
- Adopt alternative pest control methods, such as: hand pulling weeds, snipping and discarding infested leaves, dislodging insects with insecticidal soap or a water hose, practising companion planting – for more information, visit the Ecological Agriculture Projects website.
- Sweep or soak up chemical spills on driveways and sidewalks.
- Bag, mulch or compost yard waste. Don’t sweep leaves, grass and other debris into gutters.
- Select plants and grasses that grow easily in your local area and require less water, fertilizers and pesticides.
- In cities and towns, control sprinkler run-off by watering only when necessary and aim sprinkler heads away from paved surfaces.
- Sweep your driveway instead of hosing it down.
- Wash your vehicle using non-phosphate, biodegradable detergents.
- Dry up oil or antifreeze spills with absorbent materials such as sand or kitty litter, then sweep up and place in the garbage.
- Drain oil, lubricants and antifreeze into containers and seal them.
- Take used lubricants to a designated gas station or hazardous waste depot for disposal.
Interior and Exterior House Care
- Purchase non-toxic, biodegradable, recyclable products for cleaning and painting.
- Clean rain gutters frequently.
- Do not rinse paint cans, brushes, detergent pails or other cleaning containers on your driveway or on the street.
- Firmly seal and store all used chemicals, and dispose of excess material at a recycling or hazardous waste facility.
- Power boats can pollute the water through gasoline leaks and spills. Consider using a sailboat, rowboat, canoe or kayak. If you use a powerboat, keep the engine in good repair to avoid leaking oil, gasoline and solvents.
- For cottages, make sure you have a proper sewage disposal system.
- While camping, always bury biodegradable waste at least 60 meters (200 feet) from any water source. Use only biodegradable soaps, and take your non-biodegradable garbage with you for proper disposal.
- Read up on environmental issues
- Be willing to change your attitudes, behaviour and expectations
- Write away for more information on environmentally-friendly products and methods.
- Urge and support federal, provincial and municipal action on environmental issues.
- Join and support local and national environmental groups that work to solve environmental problems (like Manitoulin Streams); they are always in need of more volunteers and different talents.
- Boycott environmentally harmful products and let the stores know why.
- Attend public hearings, participate in advisory boards, address review committees, request information – as a citizen, you have these rights and should seize these opportunities.
- Inform your friends and educate your children.