Saving our waterways

The dangers of everyday products


When you live in a town called Oceanside, you know that clean, uncontaminated water is a priority. Some of the dangers to keeping our water clean include chemicals such as phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia. You may be fascinated to know that most of your household cleaners, including those that clean counters, bathrooms and glass, contain these harmful chemicals. Lawn fertilizers also contain nitrogen, phosphorous and ammonia. Just open your kitchen cabinets and read the ingredients. And guess where these chemicals end up? That’s right, in our bay and our ocean.

Nitrogen can get into the water when fertilizers and household cleaners run-off into storm drains. These chemicals travel through storm drains into our oceans and bays. Excess nitrogen causes overgrowth of ocean and bay plant life. This leads to algae on the surface of the waterways, which blocks sunlight. It also uses up dissolved oxygen. Fish need oxygen, and with reduced sunlight, they will have less ability to access oxygen.

Another problem is that there is too much carbon dioxide in our waterways from overgrown plants. Plant life and animal life are affected. For example, fish take in oxygen from the water through their gills and exchange the oxygen for carbon dioxide in a process called diffusion. When fish respiration is disrupted due to the phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia in the water, the entire food chain of our waterways is in danger. Eventually, this affects people on land in many ways: The fishing industry has fewer fish to catch. Animals that eat fish can decrease in population. Excess algae and other plants in our waterways can damage boat motors and make swimming difficult.

Homeowners can make a difference in helping to save our waterways and the animals. For fertilizers, you should use organic choices rather than the typical chemical choices.

“Compost also works well as an organic fertilizer, ” said Vincent Drewucki of Long Island Cornell Cooperative. “Also, you should only use fertilizers during spring and fall rather than other seasons so the fertilizer is not absorbed and can get water in it.”

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