How to Reduce Soil Pollution

By Laura Bramble

Soil pollution is widespread and impacts our food and water supply. Excessive or dangerous pesticides and herbicides can enter our food directly, kill valuable microorganisms in our soil, and enter our water via runoff. Excessive fertilizers can run off into water and cause algae blooms that choke our water and kill fish. Dangerous chemicals from trash and landfills can enter our soil and seep down into the underground water supplies that provide most of our drinking water. Poorly maintained underground storage of oils, gas, toxic chemicals, and human waste, such as septic tanks, can pollute our soil and enter the water table. Fortunately, there are things we can do to mitigate the damage.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Minimize the amount of trash going to our landfills and aggressively recycle, especially trash like batteries, tires, and plastics that leach harmful chemicals and heavy metals. Do not burn trash, particularly plastics or tires, because the residue in the smoke will drift down and pollute the soil.

Dispose of household chemicals properly. Avoid dumping open containers of products such as paint thinner, cleaners and solvents, oil, and automotive fluids.

Compost lawn clippings, yard work refuse, and fruit and vegetable scraps, or use them as mulch. This reduces the amount of nitrogen from decay that enters our storm drains and water.

Properly maintain all underground storage tanks, like oil, septic, and sewer lines. Have your septic tank pumped on schedule and look for signs of leakage, such as soggy areas in the yard, odor, slowing and backups in the home, and excessive plant growth over a particular area. Most septic systems need pumped every three to five years.

Be diligent about picking up and disposal of trash. Dispose of animal waste into a septic or sewage system as promptly as possible--do not leave it on the lawn or place it in a storm drain.

Use organic, biodegradable herbicides and pesticides whenever possible. Do your homework and get information about chemicals before you put them on your lawn. Use them sparingly.

Plant native species and plan your plantings in a way that minimizes runoff. This will help reduce the amount of water and lawn chemicals needed to maintain your yard.

Use fertilizers at the proper time and do not water immediately afterward to reduce fertilizer runoff. Have a soil analysis done to ensure you use the right fertilizer for your plants' needs.

Water your lawn as infrequently as possible, making sure to water more deeply and in the morning when it is cooler. This prevents nutrients from leaching out of the soil during excessive watering and reduces the need for fertilizers, while encouraging a deeper root system in your lawn.

Be aware of environmental regulations and lobby for better control of industrial pollutants, such as chemicals and heavy metals from mining, refining, and other heavy industry. Support companies with nonpolluting and environmentally sustainable practices by buying their products and services over competitors. Even if it costs a few dollars more, the long-term savings are huge.

Tips

Consistent small actions have as much long-term benefit as large infrequent action. You do not have to do it all, but do all that you can.

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