When Congress passed the Clean Water Act, the federal government demonstrated its dedication to improving and protecting our nation's waters. Prince William County shares that commitment. We are dedicated to meeting and exceeding the Federal and Virginia laws related to monitoring and improving our local waters.
Keep Our Waters Clean
There is a great deal of information about water quality and our local waterways. The truth is that our everyday lives do impact water quality.
There is no simple solution; there's no magic liquid we can pour into our local streams and rivers to make them clean. We also cannot expect one group to resolve the issue. Nor can we be satisfied with pointing fingers. There is not one group, one industry, or one community that causes the problem. We all cause the problems of pollution, run-off and erosion, but working together as a unified community, we can all be part of the solution.
Each person, each business, each organization can take steps to minimize their impacts on water quality. It will take all of us to improve conditions. Look for opportunities to volunteer and help at local cleanups and other projects along streams and creeks. You can also adopt a local stream or pond and conduct regular cleanups through the Prince Willam Soil and Water Conservation District. In addition, the District also helps citizens become certified for water quality monitoring under the Virginia Save Our Streams program. Learn more at https://www.pwswcd.org/
Car Washing and Vehicle Maintenance
Use commercial car washes when possible, since the wastewater is regulated/treated.
Washing your car and degreasing auto parts at home can send detergents and other contaminants through the storm drain system. Dumping automotive fluids into storm drains has the same result as dumping the materials directly into a water body.
If you wash or repair your vehicle at home, consider the following practices:
Use Phosphate free soaps and detergents.
Wash vehicle on grassy areas or in an area so that water, detergents, and dirt can be filtered through the soil.
Repair and prevent leaks from oil and other auto fluids by using oil pans/other systems of collection.
Use rags and absorbent materials instead of water to clean up accidental spills of vehicle fluids.
Visit environmentally responsible repair shops which properly dispose of used car parts and fluids.
Dispose of used oil and old batteries at proper disposal locations or the County Landfill.
Landscaping and Lawn Maintenance
Excess fertilizers and pesticides applied to lawns and gardens wash off and pollute streams. In addition, yard clippings and leaves can wash into storm drains and contribute nutrients and organic matter to streams.
Avoid overwatering your lawn.
Fertilize in the fall.
Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly and use only recommended amounts when needed. Use organic mulch, safer pest control methods and organic slow release fertilizers when possible. Test your soil first to see what is needed. Contact the Cooperative Extension for assistance at 703-792-6285.
Make sure excess fertilizer and pesticides are swept from impervious surfaces to prevent them from washing away during storm events.
Trim grass to no less than 3 inches, this allows proper root growth to help prevent sediment runoff
Compost or mulch yard waste, do not leave it in the street or sweep into storm drains.
Prevent erosion by maintaining vegetative cover, using mulch and correcting drainage problems.
Cover piles of dirt or mulch being used in landscaping projects to prevent materials from washing into storm drain.
Reduce areas of grass/turf and consider planting native plants. Planted in the right place, native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, they require far less water, saving time, money, and perhaps the most valuable natural resource, water. In addition to providing vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife benefits as well.
Consider using sustainable practices in landscaping such as permeable pavement, rain barrels, rain gardens, and vegetated filter strips
Please don't blow or rake your leaves into the neighborhood storm drain. It is that rectangular opening in the curb. It does not go to a local water treatment plant. It instead flows directly to local creeks and streams. The leaves and organic plant waste from your yard add harmful nutrients that can reduce oxygen in the water. This is bad for the living creatures and plants in the water. The leaves and plant waste may also carry excess fertilizers and chemicals that you may spread this fall to help your lawn next spring. Fertilizers can encourage the growth of algae, which can also be harmful to other water plants and animals. To learn more, please visit http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/publicworks/environment/Pages/Illicit-Discharge.aspx
For ideas on how to create compost using your leaves, grass clippings and yard waste, please visit: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/publicworks/trash/Pages/Compost-at-Home.aspx. You can also drop off leaves for composting at the county landfill or compost facility, learn more at www.pwcgov.org/trashandrecycling.
Surprisingly, pet waste can be a major contributor of bacteria and excessive nutrients to local waters. Some urban areas have found pet waste to contribute up to 50% of the total bacteria content in streams.
Remember to pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly. Bagging, then flushing or placing pet wastes in the trash is the best disposal method.
Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risk by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into storm drains, and eventually local water bodies.
Leaking and poorly maintained septic systems release nutrients and pathogens (bacteria and viruses) that can be picked up by storm water and discharged into nearby water bodies. Pathogens can cause public health problems and environmental concerns. Do not dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets as it can damage your septic system. Note: Prince William County requires the pumping of septic systems every 5 years.
Trash and Recycling
Proper storage and disposal of trash, recycling, and household hazardous wastes prevents these items from making their way into the storm drain system as storm water runoff, or washing directly entering the County’s water bodies.
Floating trash and debris have become significant pollutants, especially in waterways and oceans where large amounts of trash and plastic debris can concentrate in small areas. Floating trash detracts from the aesthetics of a landscape. It poses a threat to wildlife and human health (e.g., choking hazards to wildlife and bacteria to humans).
Household Hazardous Waste Disposal
Many products found in homes contain chemicals potentially harmful to both people and the environment. Chemical products such as oven cleaners, paint removers, bug killers, solvents, and drain cleaners are just a few common hazardous products in the home. Using alternative products instead of toxic substances drastically reduces the presence of toxics in storm water and receiving waters. Common toxic substances found in the home are cleaners, automotive products, and pesticides. Properly store and dispose of unused Household hazardous wastes at the County Landfill.
Take steps to prevent trash from making its way into storm system:
Store waste in proper containers in locations not subjected to storm water runoff
Ensure the trash is covered
Clean up remaining liquids and residues since they can still be washed away during rain events and create pollution
Swimming Pool Discharges
If not disposed of properly, the chlorine, bromine, algaecides, cleaning chemicals, and lack of dissolved oxygen in pool water can kill fish and other aquatic life in streams. In addition, releasing large volumes of water quickly can cause stream bank erosion.
According to county ordinance, only de-chlorinated, pH neutral, chemical-free, clean water may be slowly discharged to the storm drain system. Here are simple measures that can be taken to further protect the environment and prevent damage due to the release of large volumes of water.
Use removal agents or allow untreated water to sit for approximately 10 days to allow the chlorine or bromine to dissipate. Use a pool test kit to ensure that there aren't any detectable levels of chlorine or bromine before emptying the pool water. Check the pH to ensure it is at an acceptable level (7- neutral).
Discharge water into heavily vegetated area and control the rate of the water flow to help minimize erosion.