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August Planet CLE challenge: Protect the water quality of our Great Lake, rivers and streams

Everyday products like cleansers and medications are environmentally hazardous and must be disposed of properly so they don't enter local waterways

CLEVELAND — Every month, as part of our year-long #PlanetCLE environmental initiative, we announce a different challenge.

And because August is National Water Quality Month, we’ve decided to dive in and make water quality the focus of our current #PlanetCLE challenge.

Clean water is not something that we can afford to take for granted. Pollution and increased demand for water, not just to consume but also to grow crops and livestock, are factors that are taking a big toll on the world’s water supply.

During August, we’ll be sharing tips on 3News for what Northeast Ohioans can do to ensure that our local waterways remain safe for swimming, fishing and drinking. “Lake Erie is our source of drinking water, so we need to be cognizant of what we’re putting on the ground and down the sink,” said Jean Smith, spokeswoman for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

It starts with being mindful of the chemicals in products you put down your drains and toilets at home, Smith said. Many products we use in our daily lives, like cleansers, pesticides, paint and paint thinners, are hazardous to the environment.

Here are some common tips:

-Do not dump expired or unwanted medicines in the toilet or sink. These pharmaceuticals have toxic chemicals that can be harmful when they enter the water system. Take them to your local police department, check for a local collection event or securely package them and put them in the trash.

-Dispose properly of fats, oil and grease. Instead of putting them down the drain, put them into a non-recyclable container and discard in the trash.

-If you do your own car maintenance, take used oil or antifreeze to a service station or recycling center.

-Kitchen and bathroom cleansers that contain bleach, ammonia or lye should be avoided, as they are toxic to aquatic life. NEORSD’s online booklet, “A Healthy Environment Begins At Home,” offers alternatives to commercial cleansers and even recipes for making your own.  “It’s just about being a smart consumer,” Smith said.

-Wash your car at a car wash: It saves water and prevents toxic chemicals from being flushed down your storm drains. Professional car washes are required to drain into sewer systems where the water is treated before being reused.

Contact your local solid waste district to learn more about how to dispose properly of other hazardous household items such as pesticides, paints and paint thinners.

Smith offered one more tip: Pick up after your dog. “Dog poop has a significant amount of bacteria,” she explained, and although some people think it makes good fertilizer, that’s not actually true. Animal waste is full of nitrogen, which can de-oxygenate water and leave it unsafe for aquatic life.

You can learn more about protecting water quality at NEORSD’s Clean Water Fest, happening Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Center. If it doesn’t sound fun to visit a wastewater treatment plant, you might be surprised, according to Smith, who said the festival pulled 3,000 guests in 2018 before the pandemic.  The family-friendly event features tours, trucks, food, a mad scientist and plenty of exhibits that offer education, exploration and entertainment.

More Planet CLE coverage:

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