Healing the Wekiva River Basin

       

 

The pollution problems in the Wekiva River basin are numerous and varied ranging from commercial and industrial waste to major residential pollution. Problems stem from over use of synthetic fertilizers, toxic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hydrocarbon burning mowers, edger’s and blowers, poorly maintained and misused septic systems, toxic roof, boat and auto wash chemicals to name a few.

To focus on one or two of these pollutants will not cure the problem. We need to look at all of the major pollutants and come up with cost effective ways to minimize them and help nature neutralize existing pollutants. Cost to the property owner needs to be considered in each case balanced against the gains in pollution control.

Controlling the use of pollution contributing products used in the Wekiva River Basin can bring about changes very rapidly. Educating the public on how to restore natures balance along with carefully planned legislation limiting harmful products can go a long way to resolving pollution problems.

We have taken nature so far out of balance that it cannot, without help, heal itself. Nutrient buildup and toxic pollution in the ecosystem can be reduced by controlling what is put on and into the soil. Then by incorporating and keeping proper levels of pollution free organic matterial in the soil nature will heal most of the problems.

Good healthy soil contains a certain proportion of organic material in all stages of decomposition. This organic material will give soil the needed beneficial soil biology that can absorb and breakdown nutrients and toxic chemicals from over use of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and poorly operating septic systems.

 

Let’s look at several causes of nutrient buildup and ways to control them:

 

Septic Systems:

The newer high efficiency septic systems are very good and are a major advancement over older systems. But making owners change out existing septic systems becomes a major financial burden on the property owner and could cause as many or more environmental problems than it can cure

The removal of the old septic system and installation of the new systems will cause major contaminations if it is not done correctly. This added pollution could offset the benefits of the new systems for many years.

Much of the pollution seen from the existing septic systems is not because the systems cannot control pollutant runoff but because they are misused and/or overloaded. Proper maintenance and education on the proper use and maintenance of a septic system can go a long way to reducing what nutrients they put into the environment. The other problem is septic system overload caused by to many people in a residence for the size of the septic system installed.

For all new systems and remodeling older systems the plumbing piping should be broken into two systems with only the brown water portion going through the septic system. All other water should be redirected into a drywell system separate from the septic system.

When a septic system is pumped out it takes time before the digestive biology recovers to a level high enough to handle the load. In this case untreated sewage goes into the drainage field and clogs its ability to dissipate treated waste. The natural biology in septic systems cannot handle grease, fats, and other non-human waste. There are organic products on the market now that ad the necessary biology that can digest these materials.

 

Fertilization:

Our propensity is to over fertilize, using high N-P-K synthetic fertilizer where 70 to 90 percent passes though the plat root zone unused. It then enters the environment and ends up in our groundwater, lakes, ponds and streams. Studies have shown that a major portion of nitrogen pollution is from residential sources.

Even slow release fertilizers, which are being touted by many, can be a major pollutant. The heavy rains we get can wash it into low pockets or into the storm water system. Some counties in Florida have put into effect laws to limit the use of synthetic fertilizers during the heavy rain months (Sarasota County) to reduce runoff.

For those with sprinkler systems “Fertigation” can be an effective answer with many benefits. Fertigation is where you fertilize with every watering in much the same way as nature does. By installing a non-mechanical injection system into your irrigation system and using organic fertilizers with proper organic soil amendments you can reduce pollution to a minimum. With proper installation, which would include a rain sensing system, you can reduce overall water usage by as much as 50% and reduce fertilizer runoff by as much as 70 percent or more.

For those without sprinkler systems there are many very good organic fertilizers on the market now that can and will reduce nutrient runoff and everything in the bag is regulated to be organic.

The other thing that you need to do see make sure that you give your yard all of the nutrients it needs to prosper. Most fertilizer do not have all of the trace elements needed and some of them that list trace elements as an ingredient have them in a form that is not plant available. Good local retail nurseries can aid you in selecting the right products.

Water:

Over 50 percent of our residential water is used for landscaping, most of it to water lawns.  Commerical properties and common areas are mostly planted as grass needing large amounts of water.

To reduce water usage you need to look at the height you cut your grass, the amount of times and how long you water and what your soil is like. Never cut you grass shorter than 2 ½ inches, the roots need this much top to provide needed food for deep healthy roots. Water less frequently and longer, this allows the roots to go deeper thus making the grass more drought tolerant.

The type of soil you have will make a difference in the amount of water needed. Heavy soil hold more water than sand.

 

Buffer Zones:

No fertilizer – No Chemical buffer zones around water and environmentally sensitive areas can work to reduce nutrient runoff if properly managed. These areas can work as filters if the organic content of the soil is kept high enough to keep soil biology functioning at a proper level. The major factor in having proper quantities of soil biology is having high amounts of organic carbon in the soil. The biology needs carbon as a food source. Humates added to these areas is the best way to get the organic carbon level up to stimulate soil biology. Humates will also help lock up and breakdown fertilizer and many toxic chemicals before they can reach these sensitive areas. The higher the quality of the Humate the more it can do for you. Some will have a full array of trace elements and live soil biology to continue fortifying what is naturally in the soil.

 

Yard Profiles and Usage:

Until the last few decades we have had an abundance of water in many areas of the country and did not worry about what we wasted. We have been taught to contour our yards so that storm water will flow off of our property to become something that government takes care of for us. In our move to “Go Green” Home builders need to look at designing lots to where water is retained in landscape to later filtrate into the ground or into cisterns for later use. Using proper types of plantings can make a major difference in water usage and nutrient runoff.

The blowing of lawn clippings into the street is a major area of pollution that can easily be controlled by making people responsible for their debris. Here is an area where composting can be a major player in the overall picture. Adding organic material back into the soil is very critical in balancing nature’s needs. Without a continuous supply of fresh compost the soils organic content goes down and with it goes the soil biology that keeps nutrient balance.

 

Environmentally friendly Yards:

Rethink the plantings in your yard so that you can cut water usage. Native plantings can be very tastefully done and are very good for many reasons. They give food for local insects that are needed for pollinating flowers plus they provide shelter and food for native wildlife.

Trees can give shade your house if planted wisely. Trees can reduce home cooling needs, give home to birds and the leaves make great compost.

 

Reduce use of Chemicals:

Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides all contribute to the overall problem by killing many things that nature needs to balance the ecology. Healthy plants do not need as many pesticides and there are many natural ways to reduce the need for fungicides.

 

Summery:

Reducing the amount of nutrient runoff along with harmful pesticides, herbicides and fungicides can be done at a reasonable cost if approached by using natures own cures. This requires an educated public. A great example of what natural

methods can do is seen in the attached article http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/main/6435908.html about the oldest indoor ecosystem and how they restored it after hurricane Ike.

 

Suggestions:

Septic systems – 1) Do not use harsh chemicals in the system, 2) Do not overload the system, know the size of your system and stay within its capacity limits, 3) Where possible reroute sinks and clothes washers away from the septic system, 4) Regularly add fresh biology to your septic system.

 

Compost – every bit of organic material that is removed from the area is lowering the organic level in the soil which means less biology. Fresh organic material needs to be added on a regular basis.

 

Organics – Use natural organic products for fertilization, insect control, fungus control and controlling weeds. Companion planting and draught tolerant planting can make a difference. The use of ‘Companion Plantings’ can reduce the amount of harmful insects.

 

Fertigation – The introduction of fertilizers and soil amendments through your irrigation system every time you water goes a long way to reducing nutrient runoff..

 

Plant Native and Non-invasive – Lawns are very heavy feeders and use copious amounts of water. Look at native plantings and do a home vegetable garden. Many vegetables make great landscaping plants. Check the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) list of plant species considered to be harmful to the environment. http://www.fleppc.org/list/list.htm

 

Protect our pets, children and wild life – Go Organic

 

                                                    

If you have any questions please contact jloepp@turfprousa.com  or call (407)340-7639

                  

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(3011AB) 9/17/2010

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