We all live in a watershed. As a resident of your community, you can become a community Eco-partner by pledging to make a few changes in your daily routine. Even a little less pollution at each home can make a big difference. If you live in the Victoria area - when you take the pledge we will provide you with a Community Eco-Partner house plaque or decal to recognize your efforts.
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The pledge consists of the following categories:
WHAT IS THE CONCERN?
Stormwater is run-off from
residential, commercial, and urban areas. Within your neighbourhood, a
system of pipes underground has been designed to prevent water from
flooding on paved (impervious) surfaces. Rainwater flows off
neighbourhood streets, driveways, yards, roofs, and decks before
entering an area such as Rock Bay and the Victoria Harbour. This means
heavy metals, oils, fertilizers, antifreeze, pesticides, yard wastes,
litter, and animal feces that accumulate within neighbourhoods, are
then transported to the Inner Harbour. Therefore, pollution from your
home and yard is washed down the storm drains and delivered to a local
waterway. This pollution is known as Non-Point Source Pollution (NPS)
because it enters a receiving environment from dispersed or poorly
Environmental testing within Rock Bay has identified elevated
concentrations of copper, lead, mercury, zinc, oils and fecal coliform,
which are transferred from our roads and neighbourhoods to the
waterway. This means a small amount of pollution from residential homes
and yards leads to a large pollution problem.
A problem arises when water absorbs toxins, disease-causing
bacteria, heavy metals and other pollutants en route to being
discharged into marine or fresh waters. Even in small quantities,
persistent substances such as pesticides and PCBs are toxic to humans,
plants and animals. When toxins used around the home enter the
surrounding environment, fish, wildlife, and humans can experience
reduced fertility, genetic deformities, and immune system damage with
an increased incidence of tumours, and in some cases death.
When there is an increase in green space and a decrease in paved
areas in the watershed, more water can be absorbed into the ground.
When the water is absorbed into the ground, the soil and plants can
naturally filter the water while replenishing ground water.
By pledging to change a small aspect of your daily activities around
the home, you will be taking a step towards improving the water quality
of an area such as Rock Bay and the Victoria Harbour.
Motor vehicles contribute significantly to direct and indirect
pollution of waterways. An indirect effect occurs when pollution from
vehicle emissions entering the atmosphere are eventually returned to
waterways. Vehicles have a direct effect by being in contact with paved
surfaces and are a major source of copper, lead, zinc cadmium and other
metals. Leaks of fluids, or the washing of a car on a paved surface
leaves contaminants on roadways and parking lots. Fluids such as oil
and antifreeze on their own are a concern, but as the fluids come in
contact with the internal components of an engine they absorb heavy
metals, and other harmful compounds. Therefore, fluids from a vehicle
contain many harmful ingredients.
In 1990, Canadians dumped 300 million litres of used motor oil in
the garbage or down the drain, the equivalent of 8 oil spills like the
1990 Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska (GVRD, 1990, from
Source to Sea).
To ensure that used oil is recycled, BC law requires all sellers of
lubricating oil to accept used lubricating oil in quantities up to 20
litres per person or larger quantities equivalent to the maximum size
of containers of lubricating oil sold on the premises.
Many products used
around the house and in the neighbourhood are considered to be
hazardous, having labels containing the words “Danger”, “Caution”, or
“Warning”. Cleaners, paint, and solvents are commonly used around the
home are regarded as toxic. By not properly disposing of toxic
products, the toxins end up in the local urban streams and marine
Some of these products may not evaporate or rapidly decompose and
remain in the environment for a long time. A small amount of toxic
material from many homes can create a large pollution problem,
especially when the contaminants accumulate and are combined in the
Biodegradability means that the product can be recycled by nature,
or be broken down into its smallest parts through the actions of
microorganisms. Most products biodegrade and attention should be given
to what products biodegrade into and how long of a time period will it
take to biodegrade. Just because something biodegrades doesn’t mean
it’s safe! Some products biodegrade into chemicals more harmful to the
environment, and can take 50 to 500 years to biodegrade. Therefore, it
is important to pay attention to the labels when purchasing products.
Children are more susceptible to pollutants in and around the home
because they have a smaller body size, they are in an early
developmental stage, they often play on the floor or lawn in an
exploratory behaviour, and they put many objects in their mouth.
Pet waste in the neighbourhood is often overlooked. Pet droppings
contain harmful bacteria, which spread rapidly within an aquatic
environment. When pet waste washes into the stormwater system it ends
up in the harbour and can take up large amounts of oxygen when it
decomposes. This threatens the lives of other plants and animals.
The more impervious or paved your yard is, the more run-off is
delivered to the urban stream and marine environment. When the ground
is pervious, water is able to absorb into the ground and a natural
filtering system can clean the water and slowly release it into the
Many people use chemical fertilizers as an easy way to ensure a
vibrant green colour, but quick release fertilizers, and weed and feed
products provide a heavy dose of fertilizer that may be beyond the
needs of your lawn. With excess watering, the chemicals on the lawn may
not feed the grass but may instead be washed off or leached into
aquatic environments. If you must fertilize your lawn, slow release
organic fertilizers are an option less likely to cause contamination.
Or just leave your grass clippings on the lawn as an inexpensive and
harmless way of fertilising your lawn.
Recent trends in lawn care include the use of lawn space to provide
natural habitat for local wildlife. This means transforming lawns into
native ecosystems. Using native plants result in less maintenance and
less use of herbicides and pesticides. Planting and growing native
plants has many benefits, such as drought tolerance, and attracting
local wildlife to pollinate plants.
Using herbicides and pesticides in the garden can be toxic to
wildlife, pets and humans. It is possible that herbicides and
pesticides can have a negative effect on bacteria and organisms such as
earthworms, ultimately reducing the growing capacity of the soil.
Alternative methods such as companion planting, and biological control
methods have proven to be just as effective, or more effective than the
application of synthetic herbicides and pesticides.