See this pipe? The water coming out of it
is called urban storm water runoff. As urban storm water runoff washes over lawns and gardens,
it picks up pesticides along the way. The problem is when this contaminated water ends
up in the Lower Chippewa River. According to the Wisconsin DNR “A pesticide is any
substance used to control or repel a pest or to prevent the damage that pests may cause.
When pesticides are applied to lawns and gardens, they can be washed away by rainfall. Application
of pesticides right before it rains increases the contamination of runoff that flows into
nearby rivers and streams via drainage pipes. Some contaminated water travels to storm water
detention facilities where contaminates have time to settle out and are removed from the
water supply. However, older neighborhoods do not have these facilities, and the storm
water flows directly into a drainage pipe which empties directly into local rivers,
lakes, and streams. Pesticides found in urban storm water runoff do not pass through the
wastewater treatment plant, but go into the river untreated. Pesticides applied to lawns
wash off from rainfall and flow into storm sewers. Some water goes into storm water detention
facilities, but most of the water flows into drainage pipes that empty directly into the
Chippewa River. Broad-spectrum pesticides are harmful to many different organisms. Even
small amounts of the herbicide glyphosate can kill aquatic animals and plants. Glyphosate
is also dangerous to land-inhibiting plants, animals, and soil microorganisms. Without
these species, the balanced ecosystem and biodiversity of Eau Claire and the Chippewa
River can be damaged. Pesticides have both short and long term health effects. Human
exposure to glyphosate during pregnancy can result in the degradation of umbilical, placental,
and embryonic cells. Environmental hazards listed on the label are to be followed carefully
whenever a pesticide is used. Treat only for specific pests instead of using a broad-spectrum
pesticide that kills everything. The best way to prevent pesticide pollution is to avoid
using pesticides altogether. There are many ways to minimize pesticide contamination in
urban storm water runoff that can be implemented in your own lawn and garden. Build a rain
garden to help filter out harmful chemicals in storm water runoff. Redirect roof downspouts
to grassy areas, instead of paved surfaces, to increase absorption into the soil and prevent
runoff. Handpick weeds to eliminate pesticides on your lawn. Put mulch around trees and shrubs
to prevent weeds from growing. Use native plant varieties. These plants are usually
more hardy, resist disease and infestation, and use less water. Ladybug and praying-mantis
larvae eat aphids, so introducing these bugs can help keep the aphids away. These helpful
insects are available at many gardening stores. It is possible to have a lush and healthy
lawn and garden without the use of pesticides!