TCNP Blog and News

What’s the Buzz?

Apiphobia – the fear of bees.  Most of us were taught at a young age to be weary of anything that stings, bees being the main culprit.  From electric swatters to expert exterminators, we spend countless dollars trying to eradicate the very insects that need our protection.

            Bees are one example of a group known as pollinators – individuals who move pollen between flowers and instigate seed fertilization and reproduction.  Scientifically speaking, these individuals work as vectors to move pollen from male anthers to female stigma, which in turn fertilizes female gametes and allows reproduction to occur.  Simply put, pollinators allow flowers to come in contact with each other and make more seeds.  In Alabama, many of these pollinators include bees, wasps, hummingbirds, butterflies, ants, and bats – many are stigmatized as being dangerous and deadly.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) with bee

While the bee is the pollinator, the plant is the pollinizer and is the source of pollination for the bee. Many plants that require pollination include native beauties like purple coneflower (right) and Rudbeckia (below).  These plants rely on pollination to grow, mature, and reproduce.  In return, pollinators receive nectar and other pollen rewards from plants.  Nectar offers necessary carbohydrates and pollen has proteins, fats, and vitamins.  This mutualistic relationship works to keep each party alive and build families and generations. 

Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-Eyed Susan)

Plants need pollinators and vice versa, but why do we care – why do we need pollinators?  Firstly, pollinators not only fertilize pretty flowers.  They also pollinate over half of our crops.  Okra, potatoes, and onions are a few examples of the countless food items that need pollinators to produce yield.  Pollinators also direct biodiversity.  Areas that are abundant with pollinators will have more flowers, fruits, and more plant species overall.  Rich biodiversity not only indicates a healthy ecosystem but also provides food and habitat for more species.  Plants also lower levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, a conversation for another time.  More plants mean more animals, more clean air, more food, and more natural beauty. 

The takeaway?  We need pollinators and they need us.  Due to deforestation, urbanization, and erosion, pollinators are losing vital habitat and foraging space.  They are running out of places to live and feed.  Chemical pesticides also endanger pollinators, which in turn damages the many plants that rely on pollination.  Although there are large scale solutions like ending deforestation and reversing climate change, there is also a simple at home solution – plant a pollinator garden.  By planting certain flowering species, you can easily attract pollinators and supply the nutrients necessary for their survival.  Not sure where to begin with your pollinator garden?  Follow this list to get started.

  • Feed pollinators all year – Make sure to plant species that will flower at different times of the year.
  • Make it attractive – You want a home that looks loved and clean and so do your pollinators.
  • Have plant diversity – Pollinators all favor different foods, so make sure to plant a variety of food options.
  • Provide the necessities – Just like us, pollinators need shelter and water, so adding some spaces of shade and hydration will attract even more pollinators.
Liatris (Blazing Star)

Brianne Kendall

I am a junior at Birmingham-Southern College from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  I am studying Urban Environmental Science, with a double minor in math and religion, in the hopes of becoming the next Dian Fossey.  When I am not studying, you will either find me in the theatre department or the great outdoors.

Let’s Talk Trash

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a natural wonder… but one thing that is not natural—or wonderful—is trash. And it’s becoming a regular sight among our banks, in and out of the water.

What is Littering?

The formal definition of littering is the illegal disposal of waste materials in public or private spaces. Litter is trash that has been thrown away and left to be picked up by others. Littering is a form of pollution and can have substantial negative consequences for the natural environment. It can result in the contamination of land, waterways, groundwater, and other shared natural resources.

 Littering is illegal in every state, including Alabama. Here in Alabama, anyone who is found knowingly depositing litter on any property or water without permission to do so is breaking the law and will face a minimum of $250 fine for first offense, and a $500 fine for each offense afterwards.

Why shouldn’t you do it?

Think your trash doesn’t harm anyone? Think again.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is home to more than just the beautiful falls. The preserve is home to seven protected species including three endangered species of fish: The Rush Darter, the Watercress Darter, and the Vermilion Darter. In addition to being endangered, the Vermilion Darter is also endemic to Turkey Creek, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. Turkey Creek is also home to a threatened species of flower, the Eared Coneflower, a critically endangered species of bat: Grey Bat, and an endangered species of turtle: The Flattened Musk Turtle. Turkey Creek may be your favorite place to swim, but to the wildlife and plants here, it’s home! Trash can contaminate water and land and kill or injury wildlife and plants.

Like to swim in clean water?

In addition to the wonderful biodiversity here, our water is clean and clear and safe to swim in because it is naturally sourced from groundwater. Litter can contaminate groundwater, decreasing the water quality of your favorite swimming hole.

What you can do to help:

  1. Just throw it away: Don’t throw trash on the ground or in the water! Ever! Toss it in your nearest trash can or hold on to it until you can find one.
  2. Clean it up: See trash? Pick it up! You wouldn’t leave trash lying around in your yard or swimming pool at home, would you?
  3. Be a Steward of the Land: Treat the preserve the way you would your own land. As visitors, we all have a responsibility to respect the preserve and leave it as clean or cleaner than we found it.

Abbi Hallman

I am a 21 year old college student from Jasper, Alabama. Currently, I am a senior studying Urban Environmental Studies and psychology at Birmingham-Southern College. After college, I plan on attending law school and becoming an environmental attorney.

 

 

Sources Consulted:

Bullard, E. 2019. Littering. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

TCNP Management. 2013. “Conservation.” Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

Alabama Forever Wild. 2018. “Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.” Alabama Forever Wild.

JeffCO H20:Please Don’t Feed the Weeds

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Sure, winter is still here and it’s cold outside.  But for those of you who have visions of lush green turf grass dancing in your heads, rest assured that a beautiful well-kept lawn is just a few months away.  It’s important to know what type of turf grass you have prior to applying any products. The most common grasses for our area are Bermuda, zoysia, centipede and St. Augustine.  These are called warm season grasses because they go dormant in cold weather.  Experts recommend applying a pre-emergent product to your lawn once per year.  If you missed this chore in the fall, mid to late February is an ideal time to eliminate weeds before they    have a chance to establish. This preemptive strike could reduce the need for herbicides later in the growing season.  One temptation is also to fertilize the lawn before it is “awake”.  Fertilizing your lawn before it is green and ready to uptake nutrients will only provide an ideal situation for weeds to grow, waste your money, and possibly provide an opportunity for rain to wash the fertilizer into local waterways.  Always wait until the temperatures are warm enough so that there is no chance of frost, and your turf grass is completely green before applying the right fertilizer for your soil’s needs.  For best results, FIRST do a soil test to determine exactly what nutrients are missing.  You can pick up a FREE soil test kit from the Jefferson County Stormwater Program Office, B-210 Courthouse, or at your local Alabama Extension Office.  The cost to mail and receive an analysis from Auburn University is $7 per sample.  Then, choose the right product for the job and ALWAYS follow label 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, 1076 volunteers participated in 35 cleanups, removing 57 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 22 – Celebrate Arbor Day and stop by Linn Park from 8 am – 2 pm to select FREE tree seedlings ready for planting.  For more information, call 787-5222 or 781-0598.

 25th Annual Plant Dig – February 25 – Grab your shovels, wheeled carts, and come on out to the New Georgia Landfill between 8 am and 1 pm to select and bring home some FREE native plants, just in time for your spring gardening plans!  Call 787-5222 or 781-0598 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

 

 

JeffCO H20:It’s Just a Drop!

oil-leaking-from-carYou notice a drop of oil on the driveway under your car.  Not a big deal, right?  Probably not a good reason to spend the time and  money to take the car into the service shop.  But then there is another drop tomorrow, and another the next day.  At the end of the week, it still doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about, just seven drops.  That is, until you factor in the other 600,000 vehicles registered in Jefferson County.  If just 10% of these cars drip one drop of oil per day, that winds up being more than 3 quarts of oil dripping on the ground every day, or more than 5 gallons by the end of the week.  That 5 gallons of oil can pollute 5 MILLION gallons of water if it is washed by rain into a creek or stream.  To put that into perspective, an Olympic sized pool contains just 660,000 gallons of water.  So yes, one drop does matter.  A first line of defense is to place a catch pan or oil absorbent pad under the car until you can get the leak fixed.  If oil or other fluid is on the driveway, use a dry material such as cat litter or oil absorbent granules which can be purchased at most big box and auto care centers to clean it up.  The dry material can be sprinkled on the spill, allowed to soak up the oil or fluid, swept up, and put into the trash.  Never hose down the driveway, since that can easily wash pollutants into a storm drain, ditch or gutter which in turn empties directly into a local creek or stream!

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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

 

JeffCO H20: Beauty and the Beads

bodywash-beadsThere are literally tens of thousands of beauty products on the market that claim to make your skin feel and look smoother.  One type of product is skin cleanser that contains an exfoliant.  The premise behind these products is that they gently remove dry surface skin cells to reveal smoother skin.  Many of these products contain plastic microbeads to do the job of exfoliation.  But microbeads aren’t just prevalent in the beauty industry.  Some toothpastes contain microbeads to polish and whiten your teeth as you brush.  So what’s the big deal if these products work?  While the microbeads may do just what they are supposed to do, they can create some dire consequences once they go down your sink or shower drain.  Plastic microbeads do not disintegrate and the municipal wastewater treatment process can’t filter them from wastewater.  Instead, the microbeads remain intact, making their way to local creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Fish and other aquatic animals swallow the microbeads, which means that microbeads could wind up in your food supply.  In December 2015, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 became law, banning the manufacture of rinse off cosmetics, which includes toothpastes that contain intentionally added plastic microbeads, effective July 1, 2017.  The other good news is that there are many cleansing products available that contain exfoliants made from biodegradable ingredients such as fruit pits, nut shells, sugar, or salt.  You can even make your own with similar common ingredients.  As for toothpaste, read the label and choose one that does not contain microbeads, or consider alternatives such as toothpaste containing sustainable polishing agents like baking soda.

 

 

What’s Happening?

‘Tis the Season to Recycle – Between decorating, gifting, and feasting, the holiday season generates more waste than any other time of year.  This can offer a great opportunity to intentionally look for ways to recycle or reuse rather than discard items that you no longer need or want.

  • Check out aeconline.org for information about what and where to recycle many items.
  • Consider donating gently used items such as furniture, clothing, and housewares to a local charity for someone else to enjoy rather than just discarding them.
  • Cease the Grease – Jefferson County’s free household cooking oil and grease recycling program offers clean plastic jugs and recycling kiosks conveniently placed at 21 locations.

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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

JeffCO H20:Waste Not

food-waste-thanksgiving When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably imagine a huge, delicious meal enjoyed with friends and family.  Many holidays and celebrations seem to revolve around food.  After all, food is one of the basic necessities for human life.  But in spite of its importance to our very survival, Americans throw away about 133 BILLION pounds of food – worth $162 billion – each year.  For the average American family, that adds up to discarding about 20 pounds of food per person per month, which means we also are throwing away about $2,200 per household each year.  Whether you overbought at the grocery store, food wasn’t properly stored, or you have some picky eaters, unwanted food usually winds up in the trash where it is transported to a landfill.  Food waste is the largest component of landfills, which in turn are the largest generators of methane, a greenhouse gas. food_scraps_pile On top of that, the land, water, energy, and other requirements of growing and transporting food to the consumer where about 1/3 of it winds up in the trash is a huge waste of resources.  These steps involved in getting food to your table, which include fertilizer and pesticide use, irrigation, emissions from vehicles, and power generation, can degrade water quality.  So what can be done to reduce the amount of food we throw away and the natural resources we waste or harm by doing so?  A good starting point is to plan what food you want to serve for the week, buy only what you know that you will use, and properly store the food until it is consumed.  Search for recipes that can incorporate often wasted items such as slightly wilted vegetables (try adding to soup) or overripe fruit (whip up a smoothie) to make meals your family will enjoy while using up all the food you purchased.  When serving a meal, only put what you know will be eaten on the plate.  You can always come back for seconds!  Carefully and properly store leftovers.  For food which has no further use (some fruit and vegetable cores and peels, coffee grounds, egg shells), starting a compost pile which will yield a rich organic soil amendment for your garden is a great option.  Wasting good, edible food is especially disturbing since 1 in 6 Americans live in households where access to food is not always secure.  Some places of worship, food banks and shelters can accept unopened, unexpired food – ALWAYS check with the agency first before you drop off any food.food_waste

 

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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

JeffCO H20: Awesome Autumn!

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The mornings and nights are noticeably cooler, colorful crunchy leaves are falling from the trees, and the hours of daylight are getting shorter.  Kids are back in school, the vacation mode of summer is a thing of the past, and the activity calendar is full.  To balance out the uptick in your to do list, the growing season is winding down which means you don’t have to cut the lawn every weekend (just in time for football season)!  In spite of the change of pace in the yard which coincides with the start of cooler weather, there’s still a lot to do to take advantage of the gifts of autumn and get your landscape ready for spring.  Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Jefferson County, has assembled some easy stormwater friendly tips to help you prepare your yard for the months to come.  And as if that’s not enough, Sallie has provided some calorie burning motivation to tackle these tasks.  Taking the time to implement these strategies now will have your landscape off to a great start when spring rolls round again.

What’s Happening?

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day – October 22 – Safely dispose of old or unwanted prescription drugs at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Center Point Substation (2651 Center Point Road 35215) or McCalla Substation (5725 Eastern Valley Road 35111) from 10am until 2pm.  Visit the DEA website for more information.

Cease the Grease – Remember that Jefferson County’s free household cooking oil and grease recycling program offers clean plastic jugs and recycling kiosks conveniently placed at 20 locations throughout Jefferson County.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Sale – October 22-23 – This is a great opportunity to purchase native plants and trees just in time for the optimum planting season!  Visit bbgardens.org for more information.

They’re Here!!!  Stop by the Storm Water Management Department, Room B-210, Jefferson County Courthouse, to pick up your FREE 2017 Stormwater Calendar!

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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

JeffCO H20: Risky Business

not-down-the-stormdrainThey are called storm drains, inlets, culverts, and gutters.  These openings, pipes, and ditches along roadways are built for the purpose of quickly removing rainwater from paved areas to prevent flooding.  Unlike the sanitary sewer system which carries wastewater from homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment plant, storm drains carry rainwater and anything else on the ground directly to the nearest creek or stream.  This water does not get treated.  The thing is, storm drains are very conveniently located, and therein lies the problem.  When working outside, it’s normal to want to be done as quickly as possible, and that includes cleaning up after completing a project.  But it is not okay to use a storm drain for the disposal of grass clippings, car wash water, vehicle fluids, or any other material associated with your project due to its potential to pollute waterways. Take the extra step to properly dispose of waste or leftover materials.  Grass clippings and other yard debris can be used to start a compost pile which will create some wonderfully rich nutrients to add to your garden.  Cars should be washed on a grassy or other pervious area so that wash water can soak into the ground rather than run off into the street, or taken to a commercial car wash which captures and recycles wash water. Used vehicle fluids are accepted at most locations that service cars.  The bottom line is that stormwater pollution affects everyone, and it takes everyone working together to keep Jefferson County waterways clean!

What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Lunch and Learn Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm – This free seminar series continues through October.  No reservations required; light refreshments provided.  For more information, visit www.bbgardens.org.

September 14 – All about Bulbs

Easy care, low maintenance, and they bring added color and texture all year long!

September 28 – Transplanting and Care

Discover the tried and true techniques of planting, propagating or moving established     plants in your yard.

October 12 – Ask the Experts

Bring your garden related questions and ask the panel.  Trees, turf, vegetables, soil, pests and disease – our experts have the answers!

October 26 – They’re So Wicked

Discover what plants are harmful or toxic, how to control them and the folklore   associated with them!

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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

 

JeffCO H2O: Going Batty

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Besides being high on many people’s list of creepy animals, most of us really don’t know too much about bats.  These primarily nocturnal creatures usually live in trees, buildings, caves, and other sheltered places.  While most of us sleep, bats perform some vital functions that directly benefit humans.  Several varieties of bats feed on nectar, and serve as important pollinators for plants like bananas, mangoes and cocoa. (Think about that next time you have a piece of chocolate!)  The majority of bats feed on insects and have such voracious appetites that just one small bat can eat more than 1000 mosquitoes in one night.  Mosquitoes are not just pesky; they also can carry dangerous viruses.  So it makes sense that attracting bats to come and live in your yard can provide a chemical free, low cost way to help make a dent in the number of mosquitoes that can plague you and your family.  Purchasing or building a few bat houses and installing them on poles or on the side of your house that gets the most sun will provide an invitation for bats to come live and work in your yard.  Since they are nocturnal, chances are good that you will never even see them!  Another proactive measure to cut down on the mosquito population is to take steps to prevent mosquitoes from breeding on your property in the first place.  Walk around your yard and remove any items which can hold standing water, such as buckets or empty containers.  If there are elements in your landscape like low areas that can hold water but you cannot do anything to change them, consider using mosquito dunks on a monthly basis in these areas to kill mosquito larvae.  While these efforts will not completely eliminate mosquitoes from your yard, they will help reduce the opportunities for mosquitoes to breed and feed.

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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

TCNP Currents: Summer 2016 Legacy Environmental Intern Emma Gladstone

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2016 Legacy Summer Intern, Emma Gladstone

My name is Emma Gladstone and I am from Mary Esther, Florida. I am attending Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) and had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. I grew up in a neighborhood that was five minutes from the beach and just a short walk from acres upon acres of longleaf pine forests. I grew up with a love and appreciation for nature. This passion for the environment is what led me to become an Urban Environmental Studies major at BSC. Through this major and school, I have been able to experience some of the most incredible places in Alabama. However, the place that stands out the most is Turkey Creek. The crystal clear, blue tinted, spring fed creek is breath taking. Along with the amazing rock faces and hiking trails that show the gorgeous trees and flowers of Alabama. This preserve is home to 7 endangered/threatened species. One of which is the Vermilion Darter. This vibrant, small fish is only found at Turkey Creek and nowhere else in the world. The rich history of this piece of land is full of evidence of Native Americans, first settlers here in Pinson, and the prison that led Turkey Creek to become a preserve just 7 years ago.

In my few times I visited Turkey Creek, I never learned as much as I did with interning in June and July. I have learned about all of the effort it takes to keep such a magnificent place safe and clean for people to continue to enjoy it. The hard work that is required for a non-profit is mind boggling, but incredibly rewarding. The passion the people who are involved with Turkey Creek is such an inspiration to me. To work hard for little pay, just to make a gorgeous place thrive into something better. I learned that a lot of people do not appreciate the preserve as much as others. I saw that there will be people to try and take advantage of this place in the wrong way, but those people stand short in comparison to the ones who love this place and help build it up.

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Emma teaching students this summer about TCNP biodiversity

In my experience I learned that environmental education is incredibly important and that kids do want to learn! I absolutely loved helping with the environmental programs and teaching the kids about why it’s important to help the nature that surrounds us. It was such a rewarding feeling to know that I taught a student who will know what a maple tree looks like or know that snakes are not as scary as they think. I enjoyed working with the volunteers; gardening, asking for donations, preparing for big events, cleaning up trash, and so much more. The experience of working with people who shared the same passion as I is something that I will treasure forever. I look forward to the day when I come back and see the bog garden at the front gate and I can say to my friends or family, “I helped create that beautiful bog garden right there. It took a lot of work, I carried almost every single one of those rocks you see, and it was one of the best experiences in my life at the time. I had the opportunity to create something amazing with strangers who simply shared the same passion as I and it turned out incredibly.”

Turkey creek is a place that you will not find anywhere else. The cool, refreshing water on a hot summers day does not compare to a beach. The gorgeous sunflowers and brilliant fish stand out from any others. The natural rock slide at the falls is truly special, with a giant rock to climb and see the wonderful curves of the creek. The trails show off the dense trees that create a beautiful green glow in the summer time. This place will forever have an impact on my life. If you want to experience something unique and special; go out to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. You will not be disappointed.

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Emma assisting Birmingham-Southern Professor, Scot Duncan and his student with stream ecology research in Turkey Creek.

JeffCO H2O: Insect Magnet

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No, it’s not your imagination!  Some people really are insect magnets.  According to researchers, there are several factors that may contribute to the attraction.  One factor is blood type.  People with type O blood attract gnats, mosquitos, and other annoying insects far more than people with other blood types.  So if you are one of these unlucky folks, what to do?  One of the most effective approaches is applying an insect repellant to your skin and/or clothing.  There are many readily available options at most stores where personal care products are sold.  Incorporating some plants into your landscape that are natural insect repellants such as lemon balm, rosemary, and lavender also can help reduce the pest population around your home.  While plants alone can’t make your yard pest free, they can help fend off some of the aggravators.  Plus, many of these plants add wonderful aroma and color to your yard.   Another important strategy is tackling the potential for standing water around your home.  Take a quick walk around your yard and remove any containers or other items that could hold rainwater.  For features in your yard that you cannot or don’t want to change, such as a pond or bird bath, adding mosquito dunks on a monthly basis will kill mosquito larvae.  You can pick up a free mosquito dunk kit at the Birmingham Courthouse Room B-210, Bessemer Justice Center, or Center Point and Hoover satellites.

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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

JeffCO H2O: ‘Contain’ Your Enthusiasm

vegetables-red-containersWell, actually enthusiasm is pretty hard to contain when you see how easy it is to start a container garden.  This stormwater friendly option is a good choice for nearly every type of outdoor space, large or small, suburban or urban.  You can use container gardening to make a statement for your entryway, enhance your patio, create a focal point by adding color and drama, or feed your family.  Yep, you read that right.  With just a few containers, you can grow a surprising array and amount of vegetables, from lettuce and tomatoes to carrots and potatoes.  Whether you are a beginner or have always had a green thumb, following a few easy guidelines will help maximize your container gardening success:

1. Decide what you want to grow, and do a little research to determine if the amount of sun your chosen space receives will be right for your ‘crop’ choices.

2. Select the right sized container for your plant choices.  Some plants like squash and vining tomatoes need a deep container because their root zones require as much as 30” of growing medium while others like leaf lettuce and scallions can thrive with just 4”.

3. Use a commercial soilless mix specifically designed for container gardening.  These mixes are lighter in weight, drain better than regular garden soil, and often contain materials that help retain moisture.

4. If the growing medium you have chosen does not contain a fertilizer, add a slow release organic fertilizer according to package directions.

5. Make sure that you keep your container garden well-watered, according to the needs of the plants you are growing.  Some container grown plants can require watering two or three times each week.  There are many websites and publications available to provide you with more information about successful container gardening.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension System publication Container Gardening, available at aces.edu or 879.6964, is a great place to start!

 

What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Lunch & Learn Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens – This series of FREE seminars starting in May and running through October offers fresh, practical ideas and techniques for your landscape and garden.  No reservations are required; light refreshments provided.   Visit bbgardens.org or call 414.3950 to learn more.

Do Dah Day – May 14 – Rhodes and Caldwell Parks, Birmingham – Jefferson County Storm Water Management staff will be at this fun, family friendly event again this year promoting the proper disposal of pet waste with the ever popular Wholly Cr@p Dog Doo Game.  Visit dodahday.org for more information.

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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

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.

home demo-1
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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Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Holiday Hours

To help you best plan your visits to TCNP during this season, please be aware that we will be closed to the public on the following dates:

  • Thursday, November 26th, 2015 (Thanksgiving)
  • Thursday, December 24th, 2015 (Christmas Eve)
  • Friday, December 25th, 2015 (Christmas Day)
  • Thursday, December 31st, 2015 (New Year’s Eve)
  • Friday, January 1st, 2016 (New Year’s Day)

We hope everyone has a very happy holiday season!

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.

lawnmower-oil-change

(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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