You can reduce the amount of
pollutants and wastewater from your home while
saving money and time, as well as benefiting your
health, streams, rivers, drinking water supplies
and the Chesapeake Bay. Learn more about the
products you use in your home and how waste is
managed in your community.
Your choice of products and how you use and
dispose of them have a direct impact on water
quality. Many commonly used household products
contain hazardous ingredients. If used improperly,
these products could be dangerous to you, your
family and the environment. The best way to know if
products can be hazardous is to check labels for
words such as: flammable, caustic, corrosive,
caution, danger, warning or poison.
Use extreme care with these products. Follow
label directions and store them in a safe place,
away from children. Never mix products unless
directed by the label. Never mix products
containing bleach and ammonia. Buy only the amount
you need to avoid disposal of spoiled or outdated
products. Dispose of hazardous household products
at a local hazardous waste collection center or an
authorized recycling center.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
The average American generates 1,500
pounds of trash per year, more than citizens of any
other country. This means more landfills to contain
our waste. What can we do to reduce garbage and
improve the health of our natural resources?
- Choose durable goods and reusable products.
Buy fewer disposable products. Look for
"refillable" and "rechargeable" labels.
- Recycle paper, plastic, glass and cans
according to your community's guidelines.
Recycling an aluminum can saves 95 percent of
the energy it would take to make a new one from
- Buy recycled products and materials.
- Borrow, rent or share with family and
friends items that are used infrequently.
- Buy bulk items, concentrates and products
with less packaging. Packaging is nearly
one-third of the cost of our purchases and an
even greater percentage of our trash.
- Carry purchases in reusable bags. Return
plastic bags to grocery stores.
- Use old clothing as cleaning rags around the
house or garage.
- Repair or refurbish old or broken machinery,
appliances and furniture.
- Buy second-hand items.
- Donate unwanted, usable items to charity.
- Be creative -- find new uses for old
We take clean water for granted. In the
United States, the average person uses 125 gallons
of water a day! Conserving water is environmentally
smart and saves money. By conserving water in your
home, you can help increase our water resources and
reduce the need for, and cost of, wastewater
A leaking faucet can waste up to 100 gallons of
water a day! Billions of gallons of water are
wasted each day because of dripping faucets, leaks,
running toilets and excess use of water.
Here are ways you can
- Repair all drips and leaks.
- Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth,
shaving and lathering.
- Don't use the toilet as a trash can.
- Install low-flow fixtures such as faucets,
shower heads and toilets.
- Take short showers instead of baths.
- Wash only full loads of clothes and use the
machine's water-saving settings.
- Avoid using a garbage disposal. Compost
kitchen scraps or discard in trash.
- Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator
to avoid running the water to get it cold.
- Wash only full loads in your dishwasher. If
washing by hand, turn off the water until you
are ready to rinse.
Human and pet waste contains nitrogen
and phosphorus, the two leading nutrients harming
the Chesapeake Bay. Fortunately, as a society, we
no longer dump raw sewage directly into our water.
One in five Maryland residents relies on one of
nearly 400,000 private septic systems. When a
septic system malfunctions, it not only causes
problems for your home, it becomes a serious source
of ground and surface water contamination as well.
The average life of a septic system is 12 to 20
years -- not forever. In Maryland there are
nearly 30,000 households with acknowledged failing
septic systems. Fixing them could cost as much as
$250 million! Improperly functioning septic systems
are a major source of well contamination.
If you own a private septic system, you are
responsible for maintaining it. Without regularly
scheduled pumping, septic tanks will fail. Signs of
failure are not always obvious. Left unpumped,
solids will leave the tank and clog the drain
field. If this happens, a new septic system must be
Here's how to care for your septic
- Ask your local health department for a copy
of your septic system layout and location.
- Do not plant trees or build decks,
driveways, sheds and pools over septic systems.
These activities can interfere with systems and
lead to costly repairs.
- Have your septic system pumped every one to
five years (depending on use) by a licensed
professional. Check your phone book under
"septic tank cleaners."
- Make sure the tank is completely cleaned.
See that baffles are checked and the tank is
inspected for leaks.
- Do not flush toxic substances down the
- Keep deep-rooted trees away from your septic
tank or drain field.
- Avoid using a garbage disposal. Garbage
disposals cause tanks to fill faster.
- Do not run the dishwasher and washing
machine during the same times when your family
members may take showers -- this can
over-burden your system.
- Put paper towels, tissues, cigarette butts,
disposable diapers, baby wipes, sanitary napkins
and tampons in the trash, not the toilet.
- Direct downspouts and runoff away from the
septic field to avoid saturating the area with
- Protect your well water
- Follow these simple steps to keep your well
- Grade your lot so that water drains away
from your well casing and doesn't puddle around
- Make sure your well cap is not cracked and
is tightly secured. If water tests show
contamination, have a well driller check the
- Have your fuel tank checked for leaks,
especially if it is underground.
- Avoid using gasoline, automotive products,
solvents, pesticides or excessive amounts of
fertilizers near your well.
- Contact your county health department for
directions for shock chlorinating your well.
Where does your drinking
water come from?
Two-thirds (67%) of the households in
Maryland depend on surface water sources (such as
the Patuxent River or Gunpowder Falls) treated and
delivered by public or private water companies.
Surface water sources include reservoirs and river
intakes. The other one-third (33%) of households
depend on groundwater sources provided by either
public or private companies (17%) or individual
Check the label on your
You will soon know exactly what is in your
drinking water. Under new Environmental Protection
Agency requirements, your community water provider
must tell you by October 1999 what's in the water,
from low levels of lead and copper, to pesticides,
disinfectants and chemicals. This information
must then be updated at least once a year. Think
of it as a label of ingredients for what's coming
out of your faucet.
So when the details come with your water bill,
take a look. If you have any questions, call your
water supplier. It's your legal right to know.
If your wastewater goes to a sewage treatment
plant, chances are that you are already helping to
protect the Bay and its rivers. Maryland has some
of the most advanced wastewater treatment systems
in the nation. More than 90 percent of the large
wastewater treatment plants in Maryland have
installed or agreed to install biological nutrient
removal (BNR). BNR goes beyond conventional
treatment in protecting river and Bay ecosystems by
removing nitrogen and phosphorus. Since 1985, the
state's wastewater treatment plants have reduced
their nitrogen emissions by 36 percent and
phosphorus emissions by 55 percent.
You can control the flow of water and products
into and out of your home. Buy fewer toxic products
and help reduce pollutants that enter our water. A
healthier home and a healthier environment will be