STORMWATER STRAIGHT TALK: The Most Common Water Pollutant? Sediment!

  • Published
  • Robins Air Force Base Public Affairs

Sediment is often overlooked as a water contaminant because it is everywhere in the environment. However, the United States Environmental Protection Agency lists sediment as the most common pollutant in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs.


When sediment enters stormwater, it is directly discharged to water bodies and degrades the quality of water for wildlife, drinking water and recreation. Water polluted with sediment becomes cloudy, which makes it difficult for fish to see and feed.  Sediment can also damage fish gills, causing complications with breathing. Boating and swimming activities can be impacted because sediment deposits can alter the flow of water and reduce water depth. Sediment increases the cost of treating drinking water and can result in odor and taste problems.


Sediment deposits can also cause increased frequency of flooding. The deposits can clog storm drains and catch basins that are designed to carry water away from roads and homes, which increases the potential for flooding.


Sediment is any earth material or soil particle, such as sand, gravel and clay, transported or deposited by wind, water, ice or gravity. Sources of sediment include particles that have washed into a body of water from farm fields, forestlands, bare spots in the landscape, eroding shorelines, stream banks, improperly managed construction sites and other locations.


According to the EPA, approximately 30 percent of sediment in the United States comes from natural erosion, while the remaining 70 percent is human responsibility. The most concentrated sediment releases come from construction activities, including relatively minor home-building projects such as room additions and swimming pools.


Reducing sediment in stormwater does not have to be complicated. Here are some easy ways to help:

-          Seed bare spots in the landscape.

-          Use weed-free mulch when reseeding bare spots on your lawn.

-          Use a straw or erosion control blankets if restarting or tilling a lawn.

-          Put compost or weed-free mulch on your garden to help keep soil from washing away.

-          Avoid mowing within 25 feet from the edge of a stream or creek to help minimize erosion.

-          Sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them off and properly dispose of swept material.

-          Wash your car at a commercial car wash.

-          Utilize sediment control measures, such as silt fence, on construction projects.

-          Notify local government officials when you see sediment entering streets or streams near a construction site.


For more information, call 468-9645.


Stormwater Straight Talk is a quarterly column intended to educate and inform base personnel and families about stormwater management.