TAKE THE PLEDGE: COMMIT TO PERSONAL STEPS TO REDUCE NITROGEN POLLUTION
Nitrogen pollution is a leading cause of water quality impairment on Long Island.
Small steps can lead to big changes and there are plenty of actions we can take to reduce nitrogen in our waterways. Take this straightforward pledge and create a cleaner future for our most precious resource.
10 Things You Can Do to Reduce Personal Nitrogen Pollution
1. Be smart – fertilize your lawn responsibly.
First and foremost, avoid using any fertilizer. If you like how your lawn looks, fertilizer may be unnecessary. Fertilizer is the second-leading source of nitrogen contamination of Long Island waters; residential wastewater is the primary source. For those who do prefer to use fertilizer, the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) offers a range of eco-friendly tips for proper lawn fertilization and irrigation. The LINAP recommendations include best practices to help curb the pervasive over-application and misapplication of nitrogen-laden fertilizers. People think more is better – more fertilizer and more water. That notion is incorrect and has serious environmental impacts. Knowing when to fertilize and how to do it properly can protect water quality and result in a healthier lawn. The LINAP turf-grass fertilizer recommendations can be found here.
2. Keep grass clippings on the lawn and bag your leaves.
Lawn clippings and leaves contain nitrogen. When we blow them into the street and down the drain, they contribute nitrogen to the stormwater that eventually reaches our local waterways.
Grass is mostly water and so it takes a short period of time for clippings to decompose and provide natural, slow-release nitrogen for a thriving, healthy lawn. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn allows you to lessen the amount of fertilizer you apply by up to 25%, if you use fertilizer at all. Do not cut off more than the top one-third and keep the height of the grass at least three inches high, which encourages deeper healthier roots. Taller grass slows the rate of runoff and a deeper, denser root system will absorb more water (and prevent erosion and suppress weeds).
3. Replace your septic system or cesspool.
Suffolk County is currently offering incentives of up to $30,000 to homeowners who choose to replace their current wastewater systems (cesspools and septic systems) with innovative and advanced treatment systems under the Suffolk County Septic Improvement Program and New York State’s Septic System Replacement Program. These new systems have the ability to reduce nitrogen and as a result protect our water quality.
4. Sweep it up.
Sweep up any grass clippings or fertilizer spills on driveways, sidewalks, and streets. This will also help to keep nitrogen out of the stormwater (and out of our waterways)!
5. Direct downspouts into plant beds (rather than down the driveway).
Simply redirecting your gutter downspouts from your driveway to your lawn or garden (or your rain garden) can help reduce the volume of stormwater that carries nitrogen and other nutrients to local waterways during rainstorms. Rainwater will percolate through your soil rather than wash down the street to nearby storm drains. It is a quick fix that will make a big difference.
6. Plant trees and other native plants.
Plants help reduce runoff by soaking up stormwater along with the nitrogen that often comes along with it. So why not fuel the growth of plants in your yard rather than the algae in nearby lakes and coastal waterways?
Try replacing some of your lawn with a native plant garden. They provide a natural habitat that supports local ecology. Native plant gardens are low maintenance – they require minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall, little to no fertilizer (and pesticides), less pruning, and less of your time.
7. Leave a wide strip of deep-rooted plants along the shoreline.
Instead of planting (and mowing) turfgrass along the shore, plant a strip of native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs or trees. These plantings absorb and filter runoff that contains pollution, as well as provide habitat for wildlife.
8. Pick up pet waste and reduce “poo-lution” (even in your own backyard).
Dogs in Nassau and Suffolk counties deposit tons of waste on the ground every day. Animal waste contains nitrogen and bacteria that pollute our waterways when it rains. You can help by picking up after your pet on walks and in your backyard.
9. Drive less.
Burning fossil fuels, including the gasoline in our cars, releases nitrogen-containing compounds as well as carbon dioxide. This air pollution makes its way to the ground in rainwater and pollutes surface waterbodies. Combining car trips, carpooling, and using alternative transportation like the bus or a bicycle helps reduce air and water pollution.
10. Use a commercial car wash rather than washing your vehicle at home.
Commercial car washes are required to properly dispose of used water. At home, soapy water runs from your car into the nearest storm drain, carrying pollutants and nutrients like nitrogen to our waterways. If you do wash your vehicle at home, wash it on a pervious surface like grass (i.e. not your driveway or the street) and use a non-toxic and phosphate-free soap.
11. Spread the word!
Share these tips with your neighbors, friends and family via Facebook or other social media platforms.
TAKE THE PLEDGE TODAY!
It’s a simple, surefire recipe for helping to improve Long Island’s surface and groundwater.
Pledge to take one, two, three or more of these actions and be recognized as a leader in combatting Nitrogen pollution!
Bronze Status: pledge to take 1-3 of these actions
Silver Status: pledge to take 4-6 of these actions
Gold Status: pledge to take 6 or more of these actions