JeffCo H2O:A Test You Can’t Fail!

Jeffco Blog_Feb15_Test Your Soil

If the thought of taking a test makes you break out into a cold sweat, take a deep breath and read on!  The only way you can fail this one is if you don’t take it.  Maybe you apply some sort of fertilizer to your lawn or garden every spring because the commercials on TV extoll its importance, or because your neighbors are putting fertilizer on their yards.  Before you rush to the store, doesn’t it make sense to first find out if your soil needs these nutrients, and if so, what kind and how much?  Rather than wasting money guessing, you can purchase a soil test kit from your local lawn and garden store, or pick up a free kit from the nearest Alabama Cooperative Extension System office and have your soil sample analyzed by Auburn University for $7.

If the soil test recommends adjusting soil pH, applying lime may be recommended.  If the test suggests adding nutrients, you will need to purchase the right kind of fertilizer for your yard.  First look for those three little numbers on the fertilizer bag.  These tell you the percentage of each of the three elements – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium – that are included in the product.  The results of the soil test will indicate how much of each of these elements should be added to the soil to achieve the proper nutrient levels.  The remainder of the product is a filler which allows the fertilizer to be spread at the application rate recommended in the package directions.  You can set the application rate of your spreader by adjusting its dial to the number specified.

The fertilizer package also indicates how many square feet the product will cover.  Don’t forget to subtract any paved areas from the total when calculating the size of your yard.  Remember not to apply fertilizer right before or during a rain and to sweep up any product that falls on paved areas.  Like anything else, rain will wash fertilizer into the storm drainage system and carry it to the nearest stream or creek. Using the right amount of the right nutrients at the right time will save you money, maximize your yard’s ability to fight off pests and diseases while looking its best, and help protect water quality in local waterways.

What’s Happening?

Urban Forestry Fair, February 25 – Come on out to Linn Park (between the downtown Courthouse and Birmingham City Hall) from 9 am to 2 pm to receive FREE tree seedlings ready for planting.  Sponsored by the National Resources Conservation Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Birmingham Annual Plant Dig, February 28 – Grab your garden tools, gloves and containers, and head to the New Georgia Landfill (2800 47th Street North, Birmingham) from 10 am to 2 pm to stock up on FREE plants for your yard.  Call 787-5222 to learn more.

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: The Bare Naked Truth

TCNP BLOG H2O January winter home landscape

Although we are fortunate here in the south to have very few bleak, sunless, winter days, there still are times when it’s easy to look out the window and yearn for the color and freshness of spring.  The one good thing about brown grass, leafless trees, and sparse garden beds is that they provide the chance to really evaluate your landscape. This bareness can highlight the shape, balance and location of all the good (and sometimes not so good) elements of your yard.  It’s easy to see trees and bushes that need to be pruned, and areas of the yard that look empty and uninspired.  There are many varieties of native plants, trees, and bushes with brightly colored berries, evergreen leaves, or beautiful bark to consider adding to your landscape to improve its visual interest during the winter months.  Many of them also have the added benefit of providing food and shelter for wildlife.  In fact, inviting birds to become frequent visitors to your yard can help reduce the insect pest population in the spring and summer.

Winter also provides a chance to think about how you would like to enjoy your yard and to determine if it currently is fulfilling those wishes.  It’s very possible that your needs or abilities have changed but your yard hasn’t kept up with those changes.  Maybe physical or time limitations mean that this year you would like to plan for a more maintenance free landscape.  Or life changes such as children, pets, or retirement have inspired you to create a more functional space for play or relaxation.  Whatever changes the New Year is bringing to your life, winter is the perfect time to start thinking about what you want your outdoor space to become.

Like most things in life, the best landscape designs start with a plan.  A home landscape planning guide can help you organize your ideas and get started implementing a new vision for your yard.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension’s (ACES) Alabama Smart Yards (ANR-1359), available for free at the ACES website, is a great reference for turning your landscaping ideas into reality.

 

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: Get your green on!

The holidays are a time for celebrating family traditions and enjoying festive gatherings.  Unfortunately holidays also can have an unintended impact on the environment.  Take trash for example:  According to the Nature Conservancy, household waste in the US increases by more than 25% from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, and trash from gift wrap and gift bags alone totals 4 million tons annually.

No matter what holidays you celebrate, there are many ways to make them greener.  Getting creative when it comes to wrapping gifts can provide a second life to old newspaper, paper grocery bags, and gently used wrapping paper.  You can even eliminate paper wrap all together:  a scarf, t-shirt, reusable shopping bag, festive container, or other similar item can be used to wrap a gift.

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sustainable t-shirt gift wraps

Choosing seasonal, locally grown foods means that your ingredients didn’t have to travel across the country to get to your point of purchase.  Heating several side dishes together and resisting the temptation to open the oven door to peek reduces energy use.  You can even strive for zero waste by using real dishes, cups, flatware and napkins rather than disposable goods and finding recipes that will help use up any leftover food.

According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Both disposable and rechargeable batteries can become an environmental hazard if they are not recycled and properly disposed.  While outdoor lighting displays can add to your home’s appearance, choosing LED lights and turning them off during the day will save energy.  For inside the home, opt for beeswax or soy candles rather than paraffin; they are made from renewable sources, burn longer and produce less soot.

Rather than purchasing pre-made decorations for your home, consider bringing the outdoors in and decorating using natural elements.  Sustainable arrangements and garlands made from seasonal fruit like apples and cranberries, dried flowers and pods, and fresh greenery such as holly, pine or magnolia branches from your yard look beautiful and smell great.  When it’s time to undeck the halls, these materials can be added to your compost pile.

jeffco cranberry candle

Cranberry Candle

Real or fake tree?  The debate goes on, but most experts agree that real trees are the more environmental choice.  The majority of cut trees are grown on farms as a crop, are replanted after harvesting, and can be recycled into mulch.  Many municipalities and some local businesses offer free tree recycling.  In some cases, the resulting mulch is used for parks, school grounds, and other public areas.

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Sustainable Wreath Idea

Want to know how, where, or when to recycle something?  The Alabama Environmental Center’s RecycleAL.org website is a great local resource for information about most things recyclable.

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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JeffCoH20:Baked, broiled, grilled or fried

More than 3,000 miles of sanitary sewer lines serve 480,000 people in Jefferson County.  This vital function makes it possible for customers to rise in the morning, get ready for work or school, and not have to think about what happens to their waste water after showering, brushing teeth, or flushing!  One challenge to the operation of the sanitary sewer system is the buildup of fats, oils, and grease – FOG – in the sewer lines.  Over time, these substances can create clogs and result in backups that cause sewage to overflow into homes, yards, streets, and waterways.  Not only are these events costly to repair, they also can be a health hazard.  One main source of FOG in the sewer system is households. 

Dirty dishes in sink

No matter what you cook or how you cook it, there usually is some fat, oil or grease involved in the process.  When the holiday meals are over and it’s time to wash the stack of plates, pots, pans, and casserole dishes piled in the sink, take a few minutes to make sure that FOG doesn’t wash down the kitchen drain.  Even if you have a garbage disposal or use hot water and detergent, it will not prevent FOG buildup in your plumbing or the sewer system.  If you are connected to a septic system, a similar scenario applies – FOG can build up and cause your septic system to malfunction.  

The good news is that the solution is easy!  Discard in the trash unwanted food scraps from plates and cookware.  Any remaining FOG can be cooled and poured or scraped into a plastic or metal container with a lid and taken to the nearest Jefferson County cooking oil recycling station.  New recycling containers are available to you for free at all recycling stations.  Preventing FOG from going down the drain can go a long way toward reducing plumbing emergencies and unhealthy sewer overflows.

Proper FOG disposal

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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JeffCoH2O: Dirt, only better

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Some people call it organic fertilizer.  Others go so far as to call it black gold.  Whatever the name, compost is a free, renewable source of rich, nutrient dense material that can be used in multiple ways in your yard.  Compost is the natural result of decomposing organic materials and contains a variety of nutrients that plants need to grow.  Organisms such as earthworms, beetles and snails munch away on these organic materials and break them down into smaller bits.  Microscopic bacteria and fungi go to work on the leftovers and handle the chemical end of decomposing.  Even though it sounds icky, the result is a rich topsoil-like blend of exactly what most plants need to thrive.

Starting a compost pile at home is not difficult, does not require much space and, depending upon weather conditions, can yield usable compost in as little as a few weeks.   All you need to get started is an area in which to contain the materials, a combination of green and brown organic waste, some water and air, occasional stirring of the ingredients, and some patience.  Materials you can use to start composting are not hard to find – look no further than your yard and kitchen.  Rather than sending yard debris such as grass clippings, leaves, and small branches, and kitchen waste such as vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds to the landfill, compost them instead.  With our relatively mild winters here in Alabama, composting can continue year-round.  Once your compost pile has transformed into dark, crumbly material, and you can’t identify any of the original ingredients, it is ready to use.

Besides being a rich organic fertilizer, compost also can help transform clay or sandy soil into a more plant friendly composition, increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture, prevent weeds from growing, and reduce stormwater runoff.  According to the EPA, for every1% that you increase your soil’s organic content, you also increase its water absorption capacity by 16,000 gallons of water per acre, down to one foot deep.  The beneficial organisms that compost introduces to your soil help perpetuate the benefits of composting by continuing the cycle of organic decomposition.  Fall is the perfect time to install new plants, trees and shrubs in your yard, and the availability of your homemade compost will provide numerous benefits to any landscape additions you make.  Check out Alabama Cooperative Extension’s publications Backyard Composting and Commonly Asked Questions to learn more!

What’s happening?

 Birmingham Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Sale – October 18 -19 – Shop for herbs, trees, native plants, and more!  Call 414.3965 or visit www.bbgardens.org for details.

Electronic Recycle Day – October 22 – Bring unwanted electronics to Linn Park from 6 am to 2 pm for FREE recycling.  No white goods (washers, dryers, etc.).  Call 787.5222 for more information.

Recycling & Waste Reduction Summit – October 30 – Learn how businesses, schools, and communities are tackling waste reduction in innovative ways.  Contact Alabama Environmental Council for 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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JeffCoH2O: Trash Floats!

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When we talk about litter, we usually refer to solid waste that is improperly discarded along roadways and in communities.  But the impact of litter can go far beyond where it is dropped or thrown.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that whatever is on the ground can be washed by rain, carried through the storm drainage system, and emptied into the nearest waterway.  Take a walk along Turkey Creek or any of our local creeks right after a heavy rain, and you will find a surprising array of items such as plastic drink bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, plastic bags, fast food wrappers, and sports equipment that have taken that journey.  Besides being unsightly, litter in waterways can be harmful to aquatic animals as well as humans. Objects with sharp edges can cut, plastic bags and containers can trap or entangle, cigarettes and other materials can leach chemicals into the water, and decaying food can attract vermin.  Of even greater concern are the pollutants which are not so easily seen, such as fertilizers, pesticides and motor oil which wash from yards, streets, and parking lots.

Just as trash and pollutants on the ground don’t always stay there, the same principle applies to trash and pollutants in waterways.  During the summer, we sometimes hear about beach closures and the negative health and economic impacts they create.  These news stories rarely mention that some of the trash and pollutants that wind up on beaches come from rivers, creeks and streams that drain to the ocean.

Those of you who live near a beautiful waterway such as Turkey Creek have a special perspective on the effects that trash and other pollutants have on waterways.  Consider using your love for this creek to create a legacy of watershed stewardship.  Whenever you have the opportunity, teach the young people in your life how to prevent stormwater pollution and preserve the integrity of Turkey Creek.

What’s Happening?

Pollution Prevention Week – September 14 – 20 – Litter isn’t the only pollutant threatening our waterways.  Everything exposed to rain is a potential source of pollution!  What pollutants are lurking at your home?

SepticSmart Week – September 21-27 – Find out how to maintain your septic system to keep it working properly and reduce the chance of raw sewage entering your yard, home, or local waterways.

Step Away from the Spray! – September 27 – Come out to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens 11am – 1pm and learn how to manage mosquitos and other backyard bugs using birds, bats and other natural methods.  Free mosquito prevention kits and other helpful items will be available to assist you in controlling these pesky pests in an environmentally friendly way.  For more information, call 205.325.8741.

 

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 H20: A Litter Free State of Mind

trashblows_trailer_updated(2)   Keep America Beautiful was created in 1953 to address an increase in littering that coincided with the construction of the interstate system and the growing popularity of disposable containers. Local ordinances, national ad campaigns, and community cleanup efforts soon followed. Over the ensuing decades, the anti-litter movement grew to include other elements such as municipal recycling programs and the push for more sustainable products. But in spite of the tears shed by Iron Eyes Cody, the litter problem in the US has not gone away. Its effects on our communities range from diminished quality of life and safety concerns to neighborhood blight and reduced economic growth.

So . . . what is considered litter, what items are the most littered, where does litter occur, and who litters? The most common definition of litter is solid waste of any type put where it does not belong. (Some people still argue that if something is biodegradable, like gum, it does not count as litter.) Cigarette butts are the most littered items, followed by bottles, cans, fast food packaging and plastic shopping bags. Roadways, transition points such as entrances to buildings, outdoor recreational areas, and shopping centers are the most common locations for littering. People under 30 are the most likely age group to litter. More than 80% of littering is intentional. There’s no doubt that litter is unsightly, but it also has environmental consequences.  Wind, rain, traffic, and animals can carry litter to gutters, ditches and storm drains where it is carried untreated to waterways. According to Keep America Beautiful, 80% of US waterways are littered with trash that was first dropped on land. Even worse, hazardous materials which are illegally dumped can leach into water sources, contaminate soil and pollute the air.

As with any human behavior, there is a psychological aspect to littering. Not feeling a sense of ownership for an area followed by the belief that someone else will pick it up are the most common reasons that people litter. What appears to be socially acceptable is another factor in human behavior. When an area is littered, it has an almost magnetic effect. Since “everyone else is doing it”, litter attracts more litter. But a funny thing happens when an area is extremely clean . . . littering appears to be unacceptable, and the incidence of littering is greatly reduced.

One way to encourage people to take ownership of their community and improve its cleanliness is to get them involved in the process. This past spring, Storm Water Management staff promoted and facilitated roadside cleanups in 23 unincorporated and 14 incorporated Jefferson County areas in conjunction with the statewide People Against a Littered State (PALS) Spring Cleanup. This spring, a total of 1,469 volunteers picked up more than 58 tons of roadside litter. To support the roadway cleanup efforts in unincorporated communities, the Jefferson County Commission approved funding to purchase gloves, bags, water, and safety t-shirts. The Sheriff’s Office provided traffic control for 714 volunteers who picked up 40 tons of litter in unincorporated areas. Roads and Transportation Department crews coordinated and properly disposed of the collected roadway litter.

You can make littering unacceptable in your community. Participate in (or even initiate!) a roadside cleanup in 2015. Call 325.8741 to learn more.

What’s Happening? 

Don’t miss the chance to enjoy the July Brown Bag Series seminars at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The seminars are free, no registration is required, and light refreshments are provided. Call 325.8741 for more details.

Upcoming seminars include:

A Change of Scenery – July 9, Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Auditorium) Discover how to make your landscape fit your current lifestyle, physical needs and desires. Instructors: Daniel and Andrew McCurry

GRANDScapes: Multigenerational Gardening – July 23, Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Auditorium) Kindle the imagination of the (grand) kids in your life by creating fairy gardens, worm habitats, and other play inspiring features. Instructor: Vasha Rosenblum

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

JeffCo H20: Less Effort, More Impact – It’s Mulch Better!

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Summer turf growing season has arrived!  It’s time to tune up the lawnmower and get ready for that chore of cutting the grass. If you are like many homeowners, you are not looking forward to all that mowing, bagging, and other work involved in summer lawn care.   However, there is a way to skip the bagging step and actually improve your lawn while saving time, reducing cost, and making the most of a free resource.

For starters, bagged grass clippings account for 20 – 30 percent of residential waste hauled away to landfills during the summer months, even though clippings are 100 percent recyclable and contain valuable nutrients. According to research done by the Oregon State University Extension Service, you can reduce your fertilizer use by as much as one half by regularly mowing your lawn and allowing the grass clippings to remain on the lawn.  Grass clippings contain nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and other nutrients which are released into the soil as the clippings decompose, making clippings an excellent organic source of fertilizer for your lawn. The clippings also encourage earthworms and microorganisms to live in the soil, further enriching it.  Grass clippings bring another benefit – they help retain soil moisture, thereby reducing watering amount and frequency.

If you want to try keeping grass clippings on your yard this summer, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Using a mulching lawnmower is best because it is designed to chop mowed grass into very small particles and evenly distribute the clippings back onto the lawn.  Setting the lawnmower blade at the correct height for your type of turf and cutting the grass frequently enough so that no more than 1/3 of the total plant height is removed at any one time will provide the best results.  Mowing about once a week during the growing season is generally about right.  Plus, the job goes faster when the lawn only needs a light once-over.  Infrequent mowing can create its own issues, including big heavy clumps of clippings that can smother the lawn and cause thatch buildup.

With a little planning, keeping grass clippings on your lawn can be a win-win for both you and your turf.

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
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JeffCo H2O: The High Cost of Thirsty Lawns

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We’ve all seen it before.  A sprinkler system turns on and vigorously waters the lawn – and the sidewalk – and the street.   Failing to properly adjust and time sprinkler systems can create a runoff cocktail of yard chemicals, soil, and pet waste, not to mention the amount of wasted water. It is estimated that thirsty turf consumes as much as 19.5 trillion gallons of water per year in the US.  Luckily there are some things that can be done to reduce the impact on natural resources.  Simply choosing the type of turf grass that is best suited for your yard and implementing more efficient irrigation practices can go a long way toward reducing runoff and conserving water.

Our love for lawns is rooted in history. The first managed residential grassy areas date back to the 1600s.  Today, lawns are the largest irrigated crop in the US.  According to Scienceline.org, irrigated turf occupies more than 40 million acres of land.  But our long devotion to expansive (and expensive) lawns may have to change in the future due to the effects of lingering droughts and declining groundwater reserves.  Already the popularity of alternative landscaping techniques to conserve resources is growing.  Creating an alternative landscape involves scaling back the turf in your yard to further reduce water consumption, runoff, and yard chemical use.  Here are a few ideas to begin a transition from turf to an alternative landscape:

Start with a plan!  First identify turf areas that serve a purpose, such as recreation.  These areas will remain unchanged.

Identify the hardest to maintain turf areas as the first candidates for removal.  Areas of turf that are the least functional, or do not serve a specific purpose, are next on the removal list.

As time and money allow, replace the turf areas you have identified with easy care groundcover, water efficient plants, or consider planting trees to create natural areas that will expand as the tree canopy grows.

Over time, your yard can become a lovely, low impact, sustainable retreat.

 What’s Happening?    

Do Dah Day – May 17 – This is a great opportunity to come on out and strut your pet’s stuff in Rhodes and Caldwell Parks!  This fun, family friendly event benefits local animal charities.  Jefferson County Storm Water Management staff plans to be there with a poo toss game (yes, you read that right) to teach proper pet waste disposal.  Visit http://www.dodahday.org to learn more.

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

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JeffCo H20:Rock, paper, garden

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner.  But along with warmer days come issues like bare patches, aggressive weeds, soggy spots, and soaring water bills.  Before using yard chemicals to control pesky plants, giving up on too wet or bare areas, or dragging out the hose to water the landscape yet again, you might want to consider some stormwater friendly low maintenance options.

Bare, sloped or otherwise hard to maintain areas easily can be transformed into a yard feature by installing a rock garden.  If you don’t already have appropriate rocks in your yard, you can purchase them at a home and garden store.  Properly installed, the rock will help reduce weeds, hold in moisture, and stabilize the soil.  When choosing plants for your rock garden, make sure that they are suited for our local conditions, and all have similar water and sun requirements.

Rock Garden

A rock garden can help tame a difficult to maintain area of your landscape

You already may have a weed control solution at your home and don’t know it.  Correctly applied, layers of newspaper are an inexpensive and easy way to prevent weeds.  Spread the newspaper about 10 sheets thick over the soil and overlap the layers by several inches to eliminate gaps.  Work newspaper around existing plants, or poke holes in the newspaper to install new plants.  Gently spray the newspapers with water until they are soaked, then lightly cover with leaves or other mulch to give a uniform appearance and help hold the sheets in place.  The newspaper will prevent weeds from springing up, help keep soil moist and cool during the growing season, and add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

Newspaper

Newspapers are an inexpensive, chemical free way to control weeds.

A rain garden is a great remedy for depressions (in your yard that is).  Placing water loving plants in low lying areas will help soak up the sogginess and create a beautiful and colorful area.  Installing a rain barrel to collect rainwater from your roof is an easy way to store up rainy day resources and reduce the cost of watering thirsty areas of your yard.  Rain barrels can be purchased at home and garden stores, ordered online, or homemade from food quality plastic drums.

What’s Happening?

Household Hazardous Waste Day – April 26 – Get ready to bring your HHW to McLendon Park (Legion Field), Birmingham from 8 to11 am.  Proper disposal will be available for paint, auto and alkaline batteries, used motor oil, electronics, ammunition, white goods, and paper shredding.  This event is free and open to all residents of Jefferson County.

Birmingham E-Cycling Day – May 8 Here’s another chance to properly dispose of your old, broken, or unwanted electronics.  Bring them to Linn Park from 8 am to 12 noon for recycling. Items accepted include personal computers, televisions, monitors, VCRs, stereos, DVD players, microwaves, phones, laptops, keyboards, mice, printers, ink/toner cartridges, remote controls, modems, projectors, and cameras. This event is free and open to citizens of the Birmingham Metro Area.   Call 787-5222 for more information.

Alabama Master Gardeners Helpline – Help for your home gardening challenges is just a phone call away!  Dial 1-877-252-GROW and select option 3 to speak to a master gardener volunteer serving the Birmingham area.

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

 

JeffCo H2O: Square Peg, Round Hole

 

You saw a picture of what you consider to be the perfect yard and can’t seem to get it out of your mind – lush weed-free turf, abundant blooming flowers, and perfectly pruned shrubs.  You say to yourself: “I don’t care how much work or money it would take to have a yard that looks like that – it would be worth it!”  It’s easy to get carried away by the standards set in those pristine (and probably enhanced) photos you see in magazines.   Trying to force a set of standards on your landscape when natural conditions, your time, or your resources make it impossible for your yard to live up to those standards can be counterproductive, time consuming, expensive, and filled with seemingly endless tasks: watering, fertilizing, raking, spraying, clipping, bagging…the list goes on. 

Usually when we try to interfere with our landscape’s natural balance and attempt to take over what would best be left to nature, we are in effect trying to put that square peg (the perfect yard in the picture) in a round hole (the realities of our yard).  Our efforts inevitably set off a series of necessary and expensive ‘fixes’ which can include overuse of yard chemicals and extensive watering requirements.

Spring is nearly here and the frigid unpredictable winter weather of January and February  is safely in the past (we hope).  This is a great time to take stock of your landscape and consider making choices that follow the path of least resistance.  By letting the conditions in your yard – sun, shade, wet, dry, flat, sloped – dictate what grows where, you will go a long way toward creating a lovely and low maintenance yard.  You may want to read the wonderful 12 Lessons Learned by John Manion, Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, to learn more about working with and appreciating the uniqueness of your yard.

12 Lessons Learned

By John Manion

Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

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After many years of several types of gardening in many different locations, I have developed the following list of lessons I have learned that may be used to establish, preserve, or maintain a healthy and sustainable ecosystem:

  1. Work with what you have – versus trying to impose your wants on your landscape. If you have sun, plant sun loving plants; if you have poor drainage, plant species that like wet feet from time-to-time.
  2. Take your cues from nature; it knows how to do it best. Use native plants; they already know what to do!
  3. Develop an intimate relationship with your landscape over time. Study factors such as its light, moisture, and air flow.
  4. Think of your property as a stepping-stone, or corridor for wildlife – and thus provide safe passage.
  5. Plant a variety of plant species and group several of each species together. Many plants are reputed to repel certain pests and pathogens and larger clumps attract beneficial insects more effectively.
  6. Learn which plants are hosts to desired insects and animals, and then plant them in groupings of several plants.
  7. Always include a source of water, whether it is a bird bath, a pond, or a rock with an indentation that holds water.
  8. Avoid dedicating large areas to plants that require significant use of chemicals and/or fertilizers, such as lawns. Keep in mind that monocultures (an entire area with a single plant species) are host to a reduced variety of beneficial organisms.
  9. Avoid extensive use of synthetic fertilizers and significantly limit, or even consider ceasing, the use of chemically based herbicides and pesticides.
  10. Remember that many of the most beneficial organisms are microscopic, so maintain healthy soil.
  11. Compost, compost, compost! I believe that making and applying your own compost is the single best thing you can do for your landscape. Its benefits are countless.
  12. Be a lifelong learner and take advantage of the countless sources of information…online, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, public gardens, libraries, Master Gardeners and other plant groups.

What’s Happening?

Come on out to the Brown Bag Seminar Series, co-sponsored by Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Jefferson County Storm Water Management. This nine seminar series, which runs March through August, is free with no reservations required and light refreshments provided.  For more information, call 325-8741.

Upcoming seminars include:

Trees and Shrubs – March 26, Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  (Auditorium) Find out why planting the right plant in the right place at the right time makes all the difference!  Instructor: Mike Rushing

Eat Your Yard – April 2, Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  (Auditorium) Discover how to incorporate fruits, vegetables and herbs into your existing landscape.  Instructor: William Randle

Medicinal Gardening – April 9, Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  (Ireland Room)  Learn about herbal medicines and how to include them in your garden and everyday life.  Instructor: Cameron Strouss

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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

Drips, Dust, Rainbows and Suds!

1 Drop Matters_Automotive

Did you ever see a rainbow in a parking lot after it’s rained?  These little reminders that oil and water don’t mix show up on paved areas as a result of vehicle leaks.  Their size may seem small, but their impact can be huge.  If just one drop of oil dripped from each of the 740,000 vehicles registered in Jefferson County, it would result in 64 quarts of oil capable of polluting 16 million gallons of water!  That’s why fixing even small leaks and properly cleaning up spills can make a big difference in our local water quality.  But cars aren’t the only culprits.  Lawn equipment and recreational vehicles also can be sources of sneaky leaks.  Regular maintenance and proper cleanup can reduce the effects of these problems.  If you change your own oil and fluids, make sure you carefully collect and take them to one of the many local businesses which accept these for recycling, and properly clean up any drips or spills.  Using a hose to clean the driveway carries oil and fluids into the storm drainage system which empties into local waterways.  A better solution is to sprinkle some absorbent material like cat litter on the area, let it soak up the drips, sweep it up, and dispose of it in the trash. 

Washing vehicles and lawn equipment on paved areas produces a stream of detergents, oils, grease, fluids, and brake dust comprised of toxic heavy metals which – you guessed it – flows right into the nearest storm drain.  Consider washing vehicles and equipment on grassy areas to allow wash water and the substances it carries to soak into the ground rather than run off.  Another alternative is to take vehicles to a commercial car wash, since these facilities are required to treat wash water before it is released.

Making stormwater friendly choices like these can go a long way toward keeping our waterways safe and clean!

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

JeffCO H20: Recycle, downcycle, upcycle, ecycle, precycle . . . What’s it all mean???

According to the EPA, recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials which otherwise would be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products, thereby conserving raw materials, lowering energy consumption, curtailing littering, and reducing impact on landfills. 

Recycling is not a 20th century idea.  The first documented recycling program began in 1031 when Japan required that documents and other used paper be recycled.  Various forms of recycling came and went over the ensuing centuries, but it wasn’t until the all-aluminum beverage can was introduced in the late 1950s that recycling gained traction in America.  Today, many US communities advocate and provide recycling opportunities for residents.

530325_10150945940686155_1005889778_nPinson’s community recycling trailer located at City Hall

So how are we doing?  At 4.6 pounds of trash per day for every American, we generate much more trash than we recycle.  The EPA estimates that while 75% of America’s trash is recyclable, we only recycle about 30%.  So it makes sense that our country’s biggest export is . . .  trash!  China, our biggest customer, buys the material we throw away, reprocesses it, and sells it back to US manufacturers.  And then we buy new stuff, throw it away, sell our trash to China . . . you get the idea.

While there are many domestic companies which process recycled materials, companies in countries with low labor costs and lax environmental laws have been the major producers of cheap recycled plastic resin.  But China recently passed ‘Green Fence’ restrictions which prohibit its import of plastics #3 – #7.  This could mean that here in the US, many more plastics will be headed for landfills.

When we do recycle, are these recycled materials used to make more of the same products?  The answer is . . . it depends.

According to the Container Recycling Institute, US consumers use 70 million plastic water bottles per day; 60 million of these are discarded as trash. The International Bottled Water Association reports that manufacturers currently are using just 50% recycled plastic in their containers.

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Some materials are downcycled to produce entirely different products with less value and recycling potential than the original product.  Many plastics and some paper fall into this category.  Some materials are upcycled to make products with more value than the original product such as countertops made from glass containers and fabrics made from plastic bottles.

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upcycled glass counter tops

Ecycling recovers usable materials from discarded electronics such as plastic, metal and wire, and valuable elements such as gold, silver, palladium, and copper which all can be reprocessed for use in new electronic components.  Ecycling also properly handles toxic materials found in electronic devices such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic which can leach from landfills and pollute groundwater.  According to the Electronic TakeBack Coalition, US consumers discarded 3.4 million tons of electronics in 2011 but recycled less than 25%.

E-Cycle

It’s even possible to reduce the need for recycling by choosing products which either can be reused or decrease the amount of waste generated. Precycling is making those choices which have some degree of sustainability or upfront waste reduction such as purchasing reusable rather than single use or disposable products; buying food, cleaning products, and other consumables in bulk to reduce packaging waste; or choosing items that can be repaired or refurbished rather than discarded.

Reducing the amount of waste we generate means less litter, trash and hazardous materials carried by rain into waterways.  Less energy used for manufacturing and transportation means less particulate air pollution deposited in surface waterways.  Putting a little effort into choosing wisely, reducing waste, reusing materials, recycling whenever possible, and conserving natural resources can have a big impact on improving our future on planet earth.

Speaking of Recycling . . .

Just in Time for the HolidaysIt makes sense to de-clutter your living space before the coming weeks filled with family gatherings and house guests. Consider some alternatives for getting rid of unwanted items that are not in good enough shape for donation. There may be a better choice for them than the landfill!  Check out the Alabama Environmental Center’s (AEC) Recycle Alabama website for the lowdown on most things recyclable.  The site makes it easy to find out what AEC accepts, any material-specific guidelines, and other vendors which accept these materials.  AEC is one of the few collection sites in Alabama that accepts glass containers and textiles (yep, even your old t-shirts, undies and shoes).

Tree Recycling – When the ornaments come off, a live Christmas tree is just some mulch waiting to happen.  Find a tree recycling location near you.

Recycling Trailers Recycling just got closer to home with drop off trailers placed in Jefferson County locations which do not have access to other recycling opportunities.  Find a recycling trailer near you.

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

Clogs & Cascades & Critters. . . OH MY!

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If there’s one true thing about southern cooks, it’s that we can fry almost anything.  Give us a skillet, some cooking oil, fresh ingredients, and in no time at all, we’ll serve up a scrumptious home cooked meal.  That’s why it’s so hard to imagine that used cooking oil and grease from these legendary creations can make such a big impact on the operation of our sewer system and water quality in local waterways.  The problem (aside from all those delicious calories we are eating) is how we dispose of used cooking oil and grease.

Pour it down the drain, and it won’t take too long before you’re in a world of hurt.  The cost of a plumber to clear clogged drains or a sewage backup can really add up.  And on a larger scale, what happens at your home happens in Jefferson County’s sewer system.  Blockages can cause sewer system overflows where raw sewage gushes out of a system manhole and makes its way to yards, streets and waterways.  These events are costly to repair and unhealthy for people and the environment.

Pour it outside on the ground, and it’s nothing but an invitation to a variety of critters like snakes, rats and opossums to visit your yard.

So what should you do with your used cooking oil and grease?  You could collect it and put it into the trash for pickup.  But rather than treating it as waste, why not treat it as a resource and recycle it?  When you recycle used cooking oil and grease at one of Jefferson County’s 19 collection stations, it is picked up by licensed vendors, processed, and reused in other products such as animal feeds, pet foods, industrial operations, and biodiesel fuel production.

And besides being a smart thing to do, recycling used cooking oil and grease is easy and free!  Just pick up a new, clean, gallon jug at one of the collection stations and bring it home.  Next time you have used cooking oil or grease, allow it to cool and pour it into the jug.  When the jug is filled, drop it off at any collection station, pick up a new, clean jug, and repeat!

 What’s Happening?

America Recycles Day Nov 15 – Learn what and how to recycle, and discover how you can get involved in this national effort.

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

Get Some ‘Re-Leaf’ this Fall

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By now, it’s probably becoming impossible to ignore all those leaves falling in your yard.  If you tried mulching leaves last year, you probably found that you saved yourself some serious time and money by using your mower to mulch leaves into your lawn (free nutrients) and by re-purposing excess leaves (free mulch) to provide cover for your landscaped areas.

If you’ve never tried these techniques, maybe this is the time to move on from hours of blowing and bagging, the cost of buying mulch and fertilizer, and the effort involved in loading and bringing all these materials home – to that solution that just fell into your yard! It’s best to mulch leaves into your lawn every week or so to make the volume of leaves more manageable for you and utilized more efficiently by your lawn.

Try using your lawnmower with the bag attachment on to shred and collect leaves prior to spreading on landscaped areas.  Shredding before spreading reduces matting and creates a more uniform appearance.  If you simply can’t let go of the more manicured look that commercially produced mulch gives your landscape, try spreading a thin layer of purchased mulch over a layer of shredded leaves.

What’s Happening?

Fall Plant Sale October 19-20 – Here’s your chance to stock up on native plants at Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Fall Plant Sale.  http://www.bbgardens.org/fall-plant-sale.php

 Birmingham E-cycle Day October 23 – Don’t doom your old gadgets to a landfill! Bring them to Short 20th Street North for recycling.   http://www.aeconline.org/blog

Prescription Drug Disposal October 26Here’s a safe way to clean out your medicine cabinet.  Bring unwanted medications to one of these locations.  http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

JeffCO H2O: P2 = Pollution Prevention

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Many people think that most water pollution in our rivers, creeks, lakes and streams comes from businesses and industries.  It might be surprising to learn that the number one source of water pollution in the United States is polluted stormwater runoff, and that it’s the result of each of us going about our everyday activities at home, work and play!

Making the connection between our actions and the water pollution it can cause is an important first step in doing the things that will help protect and improve local water quality.  One often overlooked source of water pollution is what we keep around our homes and on our property.  Household products such a fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, paint, pool chemicals or cleaners that are stored outside should always be kept tightly sealed in watertight containers and if possible, off the ground and sheltered from rain.  Not only will proper storage protect your investment in these products, it also will prevent stormwater from washing them into local waterways.

Each year, the importance of Pollution Prevention – also known as P2 – is recognized and encouraged during the third full week of September.  This year P2 is September   16-20.  Having a week set aside for pollution prevention is a great reminder to identify potential pollutants that are lurking around your property and home.  Take a few minutes to survey your outdoor areas to detect any possible sources of pollution, and take some stormwater friendly action to prevent these pollutants from leaving your property when it rains.  But the outdoor areas of your home are not the only potential sources of stormwater pollution.  You may want to check out some other helpful P2 tips for home, work, and on the road from the EPA.

Store Pesticideslocked cabinet storage

Keep household products and chemicals tightly covered and stored indoors if possible.  If you must store these products outside and do not have a covered area to protect them from the elements, consider investing in waterproof containers with lids to eliminate possible exposure to rain.

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

JeffCO H2O: Going from Bare to Flair is ‘Mulch’ Better!

PetScaping

Summer is here, and a shady yard in which to pass those long hot afternoons is a wonderful thing, especially for pets. Petscaping your yard can help make it safer and more functional for your four legged friends while reducing the need for yard chemicals. However, sometimes in spite of our best efforts, shady areas show the symptoms of wear and tear from pet activities such as running, jumping, rolling and digging.
Areas under trees are often sparse or bare of any type of vegetation anyway. Not only can these hard to maintain areas be unsightly – they also can result in bare soil washing away from your yard. Eroded soil can create a build up of sediment in local waterways. Sediment in streams suffocates fish and other aquatic life.
There is an easy fix to bare spots in shady areas of your yard – APPLY MULCH. Mulch has many benefits: it retains soil moisture, stabilizes soil temperature, controls weeds, and reduces soil erosion.
The secret to keeping mulched areas looking good is to always maintain 2 – 4” of mulch. To complete the look, consider adding shade loving native plants that are hearty yet safe for pets and kids. If you used leaves this past fall for your mulching needs (which by now should have created some wonderful soil enrichment) this is the time to replenish these areas with mulch made from yard debris or purchased from a home and garden store.

What’s Happening?

August is National Water Quality Month. Many parts of the world do not have access to good quality water. What are you doing to protect water quality in Jefferson County’s 50 creeks and streams?

National Dog Day – August 26. ‘Paws’ for just a moment to celebrate our special bond with canines and commit to picking up and properly disposing of your pet’s waste.

From Soil to Supper: Homesteading the Dinner Plate – August 21.
Discover how easy and nutritious it is going back to the basics to prepare a delicious and nutritious meal for your family. Instructor: Jennifer Cole Conn, The Farmhouse. Free Lunch and Learn Seminar Series, 11:30 – 12:30, Birmingham Botanical Gardens Auditorium. Light refreshments served.

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

JeffCo H2O: Wholly Cr@p! Seriously?

perfectworld_bham

  Not many friendships could stand the test of time like the relationship between people and their pets. Archaeologists have found evidence that humans began domesticating dogs 16,000 years ago to help with hunting, herding, and protection.
Throughout the ages, people also have kept dogs as companions. No wonder we refer to dogs as ’man’s best friend’. According to the Humane Society, Americans own 78 million dogs. And not to leave out feline fanciers, cats were domesticated 8,000 years ago when people noticed their usefulness in keeping rats and other vermin away from harvested grain.  Today in the United States, more than 86 million cats allow humans to own them.
We love our pets and want to keep them healthy and safe. One important step is picking up and properly disposing of pet waste. An average sized dog produces about 1/2 pound of waste per day. Multiply that by the 150,000 dogs owned by Jefferson County residents, and we are talking about nearly 38 tons of dog waste! If you’ve ever stepped into one of those lovely piles, you know how annoying that can be.
But pet waste is more than just a nuisance – it is a health hazard. The average pile of dog waste contains 2.5 billion fecal coliform bacteria as well as viruses and parasites. These pathogens can live in both soil and water, and people and pets are at risk of illness if they are exposed to them. That’s why pet waste should never be added to compost or used as fertilizer – and should always be kept out of storm drains!  As with anything else left on the ground, stormwater can wash pet waste into the nearest waterway.
So what is the most environmentally friendly solution to disposing of your pet’s waste? It’s as easy as:     1- Always pick it up. 2 – Bag it. 3 – Trash it.

What’s Happening?

Turning Trash into Treasure with Backyard Composting – July 17.
Learn how to turn your yard and kitchen waste into free soil. Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Cost is $10. Contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at 205.879.6964 x10 by July 15 to register.

Big Ideas for Small Spaces – July 24.
Container gardening and composting with worms (yes, worms) are ideal for cramped locations. Instructor: Vasha Rosenblum. Free Lunch and Learn Seminar Series, 11:30 – 12:30, Birmingham Botanical Gardens Auditorium. Light refreshments served.

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

Back to the Basics

Years ago, I had a boss who used to remind the staff that the word ‘assume’ tells the story of what happens when you think people understand what you’re trying to communicate, but you don’t take the time to make sure. I won’t go into details, but you probably get the idea. While many of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve’s blog readers have a good understanding of stormwater, polluted runoff, and pollution prevention, it’s sometimes a good thing to go back to the basics – and not assume!

Here in Jefferson County, we have more than 4,200 miles of waterways. Even though that seems like a lot, water doesn’t remain in one place – it constantly goes through cycles of precipitation, infiltration, evaporation, and condensation. And as it goes through these cycles, it winds up in oceans, rivers, creeks, streams, polar icecaps, underground aquifers, clouds, and living things (about 60% of an average adult is water). No matter where it is located, the total amount of water on earth – about 326 million trillion gallons – never changes. But only about 1% of that total is easily accessible fresh water. In the meantime, the world’s population of 7.087 billion continues to grow and place greater demands on water resources. That’s why it is in our best interest to conserve and protect the water that we do have.

Here’s where stormwater comes in. Stormwater is another name for rain and other types of precipitation. Stormwater is valuable and essential because it recharges ground water and feeds surface waterways. But as our population and developed areas have increased, so has the potential for stormwater to become polluted.

Most pollution found in surface waterways comes from people going about their everyday activities. Activities like that bag of weed and feed you spread on your lawn right before it rained. That little oil drip from your car that you keep meaning to get fixed. The ‘presents’ Fido leaves in your yard that you never seem to get around to removing. These are just a few examples, but all of these little potential pollutants can really add up when you consider that there are about 660,000 people living in Jefferson County.

Stormwater picks up these common substances from the ground, paved areas, and other surfaces, and carries them into the storm drainage system. The storm drainage system is a series of inlets, pipes, gutters and ditches which carry water – and anything mixed with or carried by it – away from streets and other paved areas. This system empties untreated stormwater into the nearest creek or stream. Stormwater that carries pollution is called polluted runoff.
The good news is that we could reduce the amount of polluted runoff in Jefferson County if each of us would make a few changes to prevent its causes.

JeffCo H2O will not assume! We will keep bringing you helpful information, ideas, resources and opportunities with the goal that we each will commit to doing our part to improve water quality here in Jefferson County.

Mark Your Calendar!

June

National Rivers Month
Celebrate our water resources by cleaning up a waterway near you!

June 5

World Environment Day
This year’s theme is Think Eat Save to encourage people to reduce food waste and food loss. It is estimated that 30% of food purchased in the US is thrown away. Consequently, half of the water used to produce food that is discarded also goes to waste.

June 8

World Oceans DayThe emphasis for 2013 is Together We Have the Power to Protect the Ocean. Even though we live a few hours away from the coast, all of our waterways eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Something to think about when you are fishing or swimming in the Gulf!

June 26

Mild to Wild in < 24 Hours!
Lunch & Learn Seminar, 11:30 – 12:30, Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Find out how to travel with sustainability in mind to some of Alabama’s most beautiful destinations. Jay Grantland, Alabama Eco Adventures. Free. Refreshments will be served.

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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

diclementel@jccal.org

Reduce Runoff

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They say that April showers bring May flowers. But here in Alabama with our long hot summer days, those showers sometimes aren’t quite enough to keep our landscapes looking healthy and vibrant. Careful watering can keep your investment in turf, trees and landscape plantings healthy and beautiful. Watering early in the morning when it is coolest and least windy reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation. Make sure irrigation and sprinklers are not directed to impervious areas such as driveways and sidewalks, which will just waste water and cost you more money.

When it comes to reducing runoff, the same rules that apply to stormwater also apply to water from sprinkler systems and hoses: slow it down, spread it out, and allow it to soak into your yard. The more opportunity soil has to absorb the water and plants to uptake the moisture, the less opportunity water will have to leave your property and create polluted runoff.

The Allure of More

Let’s face it – we all want to have the latest smart phone, tablet, laptop, game system and flat screen TV. But our desire to be the first to own the latest greatest little gadget has resulted in a fast-growing surplus of electronic waste, or e-waste. The United States leads the world in producing e-waste, discarding about 6 billion pounds of it each year.

Besides taking up a lot of space in landfills, e-waste contains dangerous chemicals and heavy metals which can pollute water and land. In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills come from discarded electronics. These heavy metals, which include lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic, can leach from landfills into the water table and pollute groundwater. Groundwater feeds springs and streams, which in turn flow into rivers and lakes.

E-waste also contains as many as 60 elements, including valuable gold and platinum. These elements are not renewable, and recycling electronic devices provides opportunities for these materials to be recovered and reused, thereby conserving precious resources.

So what should you do with unwanted electronics? If the electronic device is still usable, donating it to a charitable organization is a good option. However, if the electronic device is broken or otherwise not usable, take it to a business or recycling center that will properly dispose of it. Calling Recycle Alabama at 252-7581 or visiting http://www.recycleAL.com is a great way to learn what to do with most things recyclable.

Mark Your Calendar!

May 9

Don’t doom your old electronics to a landfill! Bring them to the FREE Birmingham Electronics Recycling Day from 8 – 12 at LinnPark, Short 20th Street, in Birmingham. For more information, contact the Keep Birmingham Beautiful Commission at 787-5222.

May 11

Build your own rain barrel and start collecting rain water to use for yard irrigation. Call the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at 205.879.6964 Ext. 11 to register.

May 17, 18

Come on out and strut your pet’s stuff while supporting local animal charities at Do Dah Day in Rhodes and CaldwellParks, Birmingham. Visit http://www.dodahday.org to learn more.

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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

diclementel@jccal.org