What Can I Do?

We, as individual citizens, have an important role to play in the protection of our drinking water. Protecting our drinking water begins at home. How do your personal habits affect drinking water? Products like motor oil, pesticides, left-over paint or paint cans, mothballs, flea collars, weed killers, household cleaners, and CFL light bulbs contain materials that can be harmful to our drinking water. If these products are improperly used, stored, or disposed of, you may inadvertently contaminate the water you and your neighbors drink.

Protect Your Well

There are some simple steps that you can take to minimize accidental contamination of the groundwater, the source of our drinking water. Here in the Southeast Texas Groundwater Conservation District, nearly all water used in the home comes from a private well on your property or from a well owned by a local water supplier (i.e. your local water supply corporation “W.S.C.” or municipal utility district “M.U.D.”). Be mindful of these wellhead locations and be sure not to inadvertently contaminate them. If a wellhead is old and in disrepair or not up to current standards you could accidentally introduce contaminants such as fertilizer or pesticides into the groundwater.

If you’re having a new well drilled, be sure to talk with the well driller you have hired regarding where to locate the well. A licensed water well driller is knowledgeable of the minimum distances your well must be from known potential sources of contamination, but the driller also needs good information from you, the landowner. The distance your well should be located from various potential sources of contamination can be found at this link, Well Locations, These distances are set by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Proper Disposal

Another way to protect the groundwater is to be sure that hazardous materials are used correctly and that any remaining product is disposed of properly.

Don’t Pour It Down the Drain! Anything you pour down your drain or flush down your toilet will enter your septic system or your community’s sewer system. Using this method to dispose of products that contain harmful substances can affect your septic system’s ability to treat human waste, and once it leaves your septic system these harmful substances can eventually contaminate both ground and surface water.

Don’t Put It in the Trash! In general, community landfills are also not equipped to handle hazardous materials. Although modern landfills are engineered to be as safe as possible, the leaching of hazardous materials through the landfill may still occur and contaminate the groundwater or even run off into surface water bodies.

Don’t Dump It on the Ground! Hazardous wastes that are dumped on or buried in the ground can contaminate the soil and may either leach down into the groundwater or be carried into a nearby body of surface water by runoff during rainstorms.

What To Do?

When you purchase potentially hazardous materials, try to estimate accurately the amount of the product you will need so that there is none left over needing to be disposed of. Also, contacting your local landfill to find out what types of material they can and cannot handle may help you in making decisions on what type of products you purchase.

In many instances you will have to locate a business that will dispose of or recycle your hazardous materials. In some cases this is simple, such as disposing of used motor oil. Many of the places that do automotive work or sell automotive parts and supplies will take used motor oil and oil filters and dispose of them properly for you– just ask. This often holds true for items such as car batteries and anti-freeze as well.

Finding a businesses that can help you dispose of other hazardous products can be a little tougher sometimes. Earth 911 has a webpage, http://earth911.com/recycling/, designed to help you find places that will dispose of, or recycle, any hazardous materials used in and around your home. Once you locate a facility that handles the material you are looking to dispose of, contact them first, before taking the material to them, to be sure they are still handling the waste product and find out about any policy issues they may have (i.e. the amount of motor oil that the business will take each visit or any related disposal fees).