JeffCO H2O: A Dirty Little Secret

Spring is here, and with it comes the start of the growing season.  Maybe you have plans to reconfigure your landscape, install some new plants, or build a patio or deck in your yard.  Since most improvements or changes to the landscape involve some type of land disturbance, it’s important to factor in how to prevent soil from being exposed to the elements while your project is being implemented. Soil pileSoil and the things that live in it and because of it make up a complex web of interdependency.  Without soil, most living things would cease to exist.  Wind and rain can leach away valuable nutrients that nourish plants from bare soil.   Rain also can erode soil,  creating sediment in creeks and streams which kills aquatic wildlife and fills in streambeds, causing flooding.  Soil particles attract and bond with yard chemicals, so these chemicals tag along with eroded soil and can end up in local waterways where they harm water quality, aquatic plants, and animals.  If you have dug up the soil for a small project but can’t complete it right away, you can cover the exposed soil with a tarp and secure the edges, or install a layer of mulch to help hold soil in place until the project can be completed.  If you are going to implement a project that involves digging up, filling in, or grading large amounts of soil, you may be required to obtain a land disturbance activity permit and implement some additional BMPs.  To find out if the project you are planning to implement within unincorporated Jefferson County requires a permit, call 325-8741.  If you live in an incorporated area, contact your municipality to learn about permitting requirements.

What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Lunch & Learn Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens – This free series of seminars starting in May and running through October offers fresh and practical ideas and techniques for your landscape and garden.  No reservations are required; light refreshments provided.

 Do Dah Day – May 14 – Rhodes and Caldwell Parks, Birmingham – Go to dodahday.org for information about this fun, family friendly event.

Rain Barrel Workshop – June 18 –  Learn how to build a rain barrel or purchase one to take home, and start enjoying the benefits that storing and using rainwater can bring.  Preregistration required by June 8.  Click HERE for more information.

Step Away from the Spray! – Stop by Storm Water Management (B-210 Courthouse Annex) to pick up a free mosquito dunk kit which targets mosquito larvae growing in standing water, or invite us to speak at your next community or organization meeting in unincorporated Jefferson County.  These biologic dunks target and kill mosquito larvae in standing water, they can’t accidentally kill pollinators like bees or butterflies, and they do not harm people, pets or wildlife.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

JeffCoH2O: You’ve Got WHAT Under the Sink???

old paint

Or maybe it’s that stuff collecting dust in the corner of the garage.  You know what we’re talking about: rusting cans of paint (did you really paint the walls that color?), fertilizer that’s so old it has hardened into a brick, drain cleaner that they don’t even make anymore, unlabeled jars of something you can’t remember saving.  Just know that you are not alone!  The average American household stores a whopping 100 pounds of household hazardous waste within the home.  The problem is that when it’s time to do some spring cleaning, many of these products should not be thrown away in the regular household trash, or may need to be handled in a specific way first.  Bringing those items that will be accepted to a Household Hazardous Waste Day event is a great option for proper disposal.  But the best long term solution is to carefully plan out what you need to accomplish a task or complete a project, buy the least toxic product available, and only purchase what is needed to get the jobUnder the sink done.  If you buy a product in a large quantity, be sure that you will be able to use it all over a set period of time.  It’s also important to pay attention to how the container should be discarded when it is empty.  In some cases, empty containers that contained chemicals such as pesticides should carefully be rinsed and the resulting diluted product properly used before the container is recycled or discarded according to package directions.

What’s Happening?

AL People Against a Littered State (PALS) Spring Cleanup – Want to make a difference in your community?  Consider organizing or participating in a volunteer roadside litter cleanup.  Last year, 1009 volunteers participated in 35 cleanups, removing 65 tons of litter and trash from roadways in unincorporated Jefferson County.  Several of these volunteers received statewide awards for their efforts.  Cleanup resources such as flyers, gloves, bags, safety t-shirts, traffic control and trash disposal are available for FREE to unincorporated Jefferson County Communities.  Call 325-8741 to learn how your community can participate.

Household Hazardous Waste Day – March 19 – McClendon Park, Legion Field – 9 am – 12 noon (or until capacity is met) – It’s estimated that Americans generate an astonishing 530,000 tons of household hazardous waste every year.  Now’s the time to root through your garage, peek under the kitchen sink, and gather up items for proper disposal at Household Hazardous Waste Day.  FREE and open to all Jefferson County residents.  Find out what items will be accepted by visiting facebook.com/JeffersonCountyAL or by calling 325-8741.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H2O:Fixer Upper Downer

Updating your home can be an exciting and worthwhile endeavor.  When the work is done and you are admiring the results, it’s easy not to give much thought to the impact paint, demoed materials, new construction materials, and the cleanup process might have had on the environment.  Paint, solvents, dust, adhesives, and other by-products of construction can wind up in the local stormwater drainage system when left outside uncovered and exposed to rain.  With a little research and planning, your home improvement project can have great results as well as be stormwater friendly.  Choosing materials with the least overall impact to the environment is an important part of the planning process. Some considerations include the sustainability of the material sources; the energy used in their extraction, manufacture and transportation; their potential health effects; and the disposal options available.  For example, low VOC water based paint is the least toxic formulation and requires just soap and water to clean brushes, containers and spills. Leftover water based paints can be stored in jars with tight lids for touch-ups, taken to a household hazardous waste day for disposal, or allowed to dry out (adding some clean cat litter can help) and placed in the regular trash.  In a renovation, old cabinets, doors, windows, appliances, counter tops, fixtures, and many other materials can be kept intact and donated to a charity for reuse or, if in bad shape, recycled at a location which properly disposes of these items.  If you are doing the work yourself, you can save money by looking for ways to repurpose materials by deconstructing rather than demoing them whenever possible.  Brick from a fireplace redo can be repurposed as a garden walkway, and old kitchen cabinets can have a second life in the garage as a storage unit.  During construction, it’s important for both debris and new materials stored outside to be kept covered to protect them from rain and located away from paved areas to avoid the leaching or washing of materials into the storm drainage system, since some construction materials contain metals or chemicals that must be kept out of waterways.  If you plan to hire a contractor for your remodel, be sure to ask if they use products with the least impact to the environment; plan to reduce waste by reusing or salvaging materials and recycling debris; and will properly handle, contain, and dispose of adhesives, solvents, and other construction waste.

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Plan out your next home remolding or DIY project the right way, so that you do not end up with a mess like this!

What’s Happening?

 AL People Against a Littered State (PALS) Spring Cleanup – Want to make a difference in your community?  Consider organizing or participating in a volunteer roadside litter cleanup.  Last year, 1009 volunteers participated in 35 cleanups, removing 65 tons of litter and trash from roadways in unincorporated Jefferson County.  Several of these volunteers received statewide awards for their efforts.  Cleanup resources such as flyers, gloves, bags, safety t-shirts, traffic control and trash disposal are available for FREE to unincorporated Jefferson County Communities.  Call 325-8741 to learn how your community can participate.

 Tree Seedling Giveaway – February 25 – Linn Park FREE tree seedlings ready for planting 8 am – 3 pm.  For more information, call 787-5222.

 24th Annual Plant Dig – February 27 – New Georgia Landfill – Dig up FREE plants from 8 am – 1 pm.  Call 781-0598 to learn more.  A free workshop is offered on February 20 8am -10am at Birmingham Botanical Gardens to learn how to identify and harvest the plants at the plant dig.  Visit bbgardens.org for details.

 Household Hazardous Waste Day – March 19 – Legion Field – McLendon Park – This FREE event is open to all Jefferson County residents 9 am – 12 noon or until capacity is met.  Click HERE for a list of items that will be accepted.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H2O: Blue: It’s the New Green!

 

Blue futureFor years, ‘green’ has been the buzz word for all environmentally friendly practices.  But recently, attention has zeroed in on water resources, and with good reason.  Environmental and economic experts predict that by 2050, more than half of the world’s population and economy will be located in areas which will experience severe long term water shortages, placing human health, food supplies, and economies at risk.  Whether you buy into these predictions or not, the western US recently experienced a drought which already has cost states, businesses and residents billions of dollars.  Here in Alabama, we are fortunate to average 54 inches of rain each year, but even we have gone through periods of drought that greatly reduced our water supply and restricted its use.

Water quantity isn’t the only issue that we are facing – water quality is an equally important matter.  That abundant rainfall we usually experience picks up pollutants from the ground and washes them into rivers, creeks, lakes and streams.  In fact, stormwater runoff is the #1 source of pollution in US waterways.  Just like water scarcity, the availability of clean fresh water is also a health and economic issue.  So it really makes sense to implement practices that protect our rivers, creeks, lakes and streams from polluted runoff and other sources of pollution.  The top two practices to consider are reducing the amount of stormwater that leaves your yard (consider planting a tree, planting-tree1installing a rain barrel, using pavers instead of concrete for walkways) and preventing pollutants from coming in contact with stormwater (like following package directions when using yard chemicals, picking up after your pet, fixing any vehicle drips).  dog-waste

 

 

Adopting these and other easy practices can help make our future blue.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H2O: Trim your ‘Wasteline’

While many of us might want to lose a few pounds after the holidays, reducing our other ‘wasteline’ is also a worthy goal.  The EPA estimates that the average American household increases its waste production by more than 25% during the holiday season.  This translates to an extra 1 million tons of trash per week headed to landfills.  One of the largest contributors to this trash increase is packaging.

holiday-trash

Yes, recycling packaging whenever possible helps reduce the waste that winds up in landfills, but choosing to avoid packaging altogether is the better option.  Shopping for gifts at local stores or craft fairs and purchasing food at farmers’ markets provide opportunities to choose package free or minimally packaged items.  Even some of the big online retailers offer sustainable packaging options since they don’t have to rely on the packages to market their products.

DIY Birdfeeder

 

 

Not all gifts have to come from a store.  Homemade goodies like decorated cookies and handmade gifts like a terrarium in a pretty upcycled container or a bird feeder filled with seed and suet show that you put time and thought into your gift choices.

 

 

 

Gifts also don’t have to be something wrapped up in paper and ribbon.  Experiences such as concert tickets, classes to learn a new skill, a membership that supports the arts, reservations for a weekend getaway, or a gift card from a favorite store or restaurant are a few package free options.  With a little creativity and planning, you can enjoy the holiday season while still reducing the amount of waste that your family generates.  And that is a gift in and of itself.

birdfeeder wreath

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H20: Attack of the Fatbergs

fatberg

Maybe they are not quite as dramatic as the 10-ton bus sized fatberg that threatened to shut down part of London’s sanitary sewer system last year, but Jefferson County’s sanitary sewer lines also are plagued by blockages, courtesy of cooking oil and grease that wind up in  kitchen sinks.

Jefferson County has the responsibility to collect, transport and treat sanitary sewage/wastewater generated by 480,000 residents.  Wastewater is collected from homes and businesses in a system of pipes which carries it to a wastewater treatment plant for cleaning before being released back into waterways. Unlike wastewater, stormwater runoff from yards, streets and parking lots drains to a separate system of pipes which empties directly into waterways without being treated.  Wastewater is generated from activities such as flushing toilets, taking a bath or shower, washing clothes, preparing food, and cleaning.

Day after day, year after year, this wastewater passes through Jefferson County’s 3,100 miles of sanitary sewer lines and is pumped by 170 pumping stations to 9 wastewater treatment plants.  These treatment plants have a total capacity to treat 199 million gallons of sewage per day.  There’s a lot that goes on in the treatment process, but here’s the short version:  Sewage is screened, separated, aerated, filtered, and disinfected to meet state water quality standards before the resulting treated water is finally released into local waterways.  Sanitary sewer lines are made to accept only wastewater, human waste and toilet paper.  Anything else put into the system can cause some serious problems for homeowners as well as County maintenance crews.  Personal care products such as wet wipes flushed down the toilet or cooking oil and grease poured down the sink can create blockages in the lines and cause sewage overflows.

An easy way to prevent problems is to dispose of personal care products in the trash and recycle cooking oil and grease.  Jefferson County offers a free and convenient recycling program with 20 drop off locations.  Do your part to fight the fatbergs and keep the pipes beneath your feet running smoothly!

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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JeffCo H20: The Fab Four

grant_park_fall_leavesEven though the growing season is winding down, there are some things that are best done in the fall to prepare for spring and all of the   lawn and garden activities that it brings.

(1) PLANT.  Fall is the best time for planting trees, shrubs, and many other plants because this is the time of year that many plants enter a period of dormancy and can focus on establishing their root systems in preparation for spring.  Planting a tree is a great choice for reducing the amount of stormwater runoff that leaves your property.  It’s estimated that during a single growing season, one large tree can absorb as much as 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and release it back into the air through its leaves.

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(2) SERVICE.  Fall is also a good time to assess, clean and service your lawnmower and other lawn and garden equipment.  This includes cleaning or replacing air filters, changing sparkplugs, changing and recycling oil, properly emptying fuel, and having blades sharpened and balanced.  Thoroughly clean, sharpen and oil hand tools before storing for the winter.

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(3)  TEST.  Before applying any fertilizers or lime to your landscape, first test the soil in your yard.  The soil test results will help you purchase and apply just the right product in the correct amount.

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(4)  MULCH.  One of the best things that you can do for your landscape any time of the year is to apply organic mulch to garden beds.  Some of the benefits organic mulch will bring to your landscape include stabilizing soil temperature, retaining soil moisture, adding nutrients, suppressing weed growth, and preventing soil erosion.  And during the month of October, there is a ready source of organic mulch at hand.  All of those leaves falling into your yard, crunched up and spread on garden beds or added to a compost pile, will decompose and deliver a host of benefits that your landscape will reap in the spring.

mulching leaves

What’s Happening?

 Birmingham Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Sale – October 17 – 18 – Shop for herbs, sustainable trees, fall annuals, shrubs, natives, perennials and more!  Call 414.3950 or visit http://www.bbgardens.org for details.

Community Awareness Day – October 22, 9am to 2 pm, The Summit – Hosted by Jefferson County EMA, exhibitors will be set up in the shopping center’s parking lot to answer your questions about preparing for extreme weather and other emergency situations. Jefferson County Storm Water Management staff will be there to distribute mosquito prevention kits and other resources.  Call 254.2039 for more information.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

diclementel@jccal.org

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