**Please be advised that there may be a weather report prior to the radio show starting.
The radio show had the theme of De-icing Agents, which are commonly used on our highways and roads during winter storm events. An explanation of the basic environmental impacts from the commonly used products was provided. The radio show discussed how salts and other materials are a contributor to suspended solids because they are picked up by stormwater and break down in the water profile; clogging the gills of fish. In addition these materials also create a change in pH which further complicates aquatic ecosystems. Although not as great as fertilizer, de-icing agents does provide some nutrients to encourage algae growth and eutrophication. De-Icing products Sodium chloride, Calcium chloride, Calcium Magnesium Acetate, CG0-90 Surface Saver, Verglimit and CMS-B also known as Motech were discussed.
To read more about the January 14th show click here!
The February issue of the Stormwater Consortium Radio Show had a theme of water management for Rockland County and featured three guests with firsthand knowledge of water resources. The first guest was Harriet Cornell who is the chair of the Task Force on Water Resources Management. Next was Patricie Drake, the Task Force Coordinator, and Nicole Liable, Environmental Manager Assistant for the Rockland County Division of Environmental Resources. The three were invited to discuss drought, resources for information, and to introduce the Waterwise Landscape Course being offered through BOCES.
To read more about the February 11th show Click Here!
Spring Yard Care
Spring is the overall theme of the show. The show opens with an explanation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) vs a natural hybrid. Because of the nature of GMO plants, in particular food crops, they can be treated with herbicides that do not kill the desired crop but will eliminate any of the competing plants that are considered weeds. This is done throughout the growing season and for large farms like those in the Midwest or upper New York State, the herbicide is applied aerially. If it rains shortly afterwards, that herbicide is carried via stormwater into open waterways; preventing growth of native plants and affecting the health of aquatic fauna.
When Forsythia is in bloom is the standard time to treat our lawns in the spring with pre-emergent herbicides. This is so the chemical has a chance to work its way into the soil profile before the weeds begin to emerge from the ground after winter dormancy or before annual weed seeds germinate. Proper timing is critical because if applied too early or too late the pre-emergent is not effective and creates the possibility of these chemicals running off during a rainstorm into our waterways. Even when applied at the correct time, there is a possibility of run-off if it rains shortly after the application.
Another complication is that most of the homeowner products used are not just pre-emergent herbicides. Fertilizer has been combined with most of the turf pesticides to create a step program for lawn care. For example, the 4 step plan which contains pesticides for a particular time of year along with fertilizer. This creates an excessive amount of fertilizer on the lawn and again runs off during a rainstorm. In addition, most of the fertilizer is high in nitrogen which gives nice lush growth but also a poor root system. Because of this the lawn cannot handle drought and needs irrigation to survive. If the lawn is excessively irrigated; additional nutrient run off occurs.
There are many alternatives and a change in maintenance to consider. The recommendations for fertilizer now is twice a year. The preferred timing is around Memorial Day and Labor Day. If pre-emergents have been used for several years and the lawn is free of weeds, then there is no reason to continue applying herbicide. Take a few years off and use again if weeds become a problem. Another alternative is to identify those weeds as some may be ornamental plants. For example, if violets are present in the lawn they will bloom in the spring and give a purple hue of color in the lawn. Over fertilization also creates lush growth that needs to be cut more often. The accepted height now for cutting a lawn is 2.5” to 3”, which allows the plant to photosynthesize better and become healthier; reducing the amount of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer that is needed.
Rockland County Fertilizer Law - History & Regulations
The show opened up with several calls about Suez Water and the presence of Trihalomethane in drinking water. Comments and explanations were deferred until the May show to give the host time to look into the matter. Another call was about drought and rezoning in some neighborhoods in Rockland on the FEMA maps. The comment in response is that we are in a drought cycle and these areas are probably still prone to flooding when normal rainfall rates return.
The theme of the show is the Fertilizer Law of Rockland County of 2009, which is a reaction to Phase Two of the Clean Water Act of 1972. According to the law all landscapers, property managers, and contractors must be certified to operate legally in Rockland County. Homeowners are not required to be certified and can do their own lawn care. However, the host feels that all homeowners should receive the same education that is required of the professionals.
The primary points of the law is reviewed and includes that fertilizer can only be applied between April 1 to Dec. 1, with an emphasis on avoiding late fall fertilization. Fertilizers containing phosphorous are not allowed on lawns unless a soil test indicates a deficiency. In addition, fertilizer may not be applied to any impervious surface and/or if such an accident does occur, it must be cleaned up immediately. Another emphasis is that fertilizer may not be applied within 50 feet of any surface water unless a riparian buffer of 10 feet exists.
All of these regulations are necessary for the prevention of eutrophic waters which occur from fertilizer runoff that provides nutrients for algae growth. These nutrients enter waterways through the stormwater systems when rainfall occurs after fertilization due to runoff from the yards into the catch basins in the street. All catch basins are connected to an open waterway through the stormwater system. Eventually, if left unchecked these eutrophic waters become hypoxic, which is a dead waterway.
Trihalomethane & the Fertilizer Law
After giving the monthly weather report, the show opens with a plea for water conservation due to the drought conditions facing Rockland County as spring emerges. The lack of rainfall has been consistent since the fall of 2015 and there may be a drought during the 2016 growing season. A recommendation for the conservation of water is the use of mulch in all of our ornamental plants to slow down evaporation and water loss.
In response to questions raised during the April Stormwater Show the issue of Trihalomethans (THM) in Suez water supply was addressed. The host pointed out all of the other global locations that are also dealing with THM issues, like Labrador/Newfoundland, Oklahoma, and Florida. Trihalomethane is created from the combination of chlorine and organic matter. Stormwater picks up leaves, organic matter, fertilizer, etc. and carries it through the stormwater system creating algae in a waterway. This runoff is not treated or purified, therefore it will carry a good percentage of organic matter. When this organic matter reaches a reservoir for drinking water supply, it must by law be treated with chlorine. There is a risk of the creation of THM. The levels of THM can vary from day to day depending on the amount of chlorine needed and the amount of organic matter in the water supply. The levels are not dangerous but the government has determined acceptable levels. THM is a known carcinogenic, however it takes more than a 70 year exposure of high levels for the danger to be a consideration. This is a direct correlation to stormwater and proper stormwater management along with BMP will help control THM.
The show also has a continuation of the Fertilizer Law of Rockland County. A review of the law was given again to remind the audience of the regulations and then an explanation of why this is so important to water quality. Stormwater and non-point pollution finds its way into open waterways via the catch basins and stormwater system. This is untreated and full of nutrients. The biggest culprits are nitrogen and phosphorous. When these nutrients reach waterways the algae growth accelerates, reducing light through the water column and affecting submerged flora and fauna. It does not matter the source of nutrients and it can be either synthetic or organic. Remember, that manure and other organic fertilizers can be just as toxic in stormwater. This accelerated algae growth eventually creates eutrophic water which when the dissolve oxygen level drops to a certain point the body of water becomes hypoxic; a dead waterway that will not support fish. Phase II, Stormwater Regulations were added to the Clean Water Act of 1972 to address this issue and due to the educational clause, has brought you the Stormwater Consortium Radio Show. Next month will be a continuation of this discussion.
Riparian Buffers and the Fertilizer Law
The show opened up with the continued plea for water conservation. The monthly weather report indicates an ongoing deficit in rainfall. In addition, there was a defense of a local wetland on rt. 202 that a caller felt should be drained to prevent the Zika Virus. The health of the wetland was discussed and the only bad thing occurring is the growth of Purple Loosestrife; an invasive plant in the Hudson Valley. Other than that, the wetland serves an important purpose for providing habitat for predators that may consume the mosquitos and other insects.
The main theme for the show was a continuation of the Fertilizer Law of Rockland County which led into a discussion of riparian borders for waterways. The fertilizer law was again read with a review of exceptions, but then dwelled on the exception that fertilizer may be used closer than 50 feet from a water way or pond/lake if a 10 foot wide strip of plant material (native or exotic) is planted. In ecology this is known as a riparian buffer and those that follow the principals of ecological horticulture would prefer to use only native plants. This provides an opportunity to include native plants into the landscape which are ecologically beneficial for wildlife cover, food, and bio-filtration for runoff. An ornamental planting next to water also provides a comfortable location to place a bench or gazebo in the yard and can provide an aesthetic, cool place to relax after work.
The show closed with a segway into the next phase of ecological landscaping that includes reduction of turf and turf chemicals, like fertilizer. Fertilizer recommendations in the Horticultural Lab at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland have been reduced from 3 times per year to only 2 times in mid to late spring and again up to mid Oct. The late fertilization in the end of Nov. has been eliminated because turf is going dormant and is unable to take up nutrients. If low maintenance turf is utilized it also requires less fertilizer and due to slow growth has a smaller carbon footprint. Alternatives to turf should be considered, like the use of meadows that only require cutting once a year. Once established, meadows are also drought tolerant and rarely need to be irrigated. Again, this will provide habitat for avian species, beneficial insects, and pollinators.
Listen to our newest superstar "Jake" our fish advisor! (Full synopsis coming soon!)
Synopsis coming soon!
Synopsis coming soon!
Synopsis coming soon!
Leaf Removal and Green Waste Programs for Orangetown, NY
This show features Jim Dean as a guest to discuss leaf removal and the impacts on stormwater. Jim is the Supt. of Highways for Orangetown, NY. In addition he is the Chair of the Rockland County Soil and Water Conservation District. Due to his involvement with these two organizations, Jim was also one of the founding members of the Stormwater Consortium which was formed in early 2000 to meet the new requirements for municipalities from Phase Two of the Clean Water Act. Besides the consortium, there is a Stormwater District which has engineers representing each of the 5 towns of Rockland County. These 5 representatives are also administrative staff from the municipal highway departments.
Jim gave an explanation between sewer systems and storm drains. He emphasized that sewer systems are treated and storm drains are directly connected to open waterways and not treated. Therefore, the towns in Rockland County have separate systems, known as Municipal Separate Sewer Storm System (MS4). Municipalities have regulations that must be followed depending upon which permit is issued. In Rockland County all of the towns have an MS4 and one of the regulations is vegetative control. Jim explained the effects of organic matter, like leaves on stormwater management. Besides clogging systems and being a flood hazard, there is the added complication of suspended solids, nutrient increases, and eutrophic water due to an overload of organic material in the stormwater systems. As an example of mitigating these problems, Jim discussed Orangetown’s Green Waste Program which is 5 months long during the year and the additional Leave Removal Program that is held for 8 weeks in the fall. When placing the leaves out to the street for pick-up, Jim suggested putting the material away from the curb or street because now they have the equipment that can reach that far and remove the leaves. This helps to keep the material out of the streets where it can reach a catchbasin and affect Stormwater.
Use the Leaves
The theme of the show was the use of leaves as opposed to leaf removal. Proper use of leaves in the landscape eliminates the need to pile leaves up along the sides of roadway. It is preferred to keep the leaves out of the streets where they can create flood, environmental, and safety hazards. Jim Dean had mentioned this at the Nov. show and made a plea to keep leaves out of the streets. He emphasized that the collection equipment can now reach into the yard and it is not necessary to pile leaves in the street. This show presented alternatives to having the leaves removed and pointed out the benefits of using this valuable organic component to the landscape.
One of the concepts of reusing leaves is with ornamental gardens because shredded leaves or uncut leaves can be used as a mulch. If the look of leaves is unsightly, then they can be covered up with a layer of wood chip mulch. This is not a new concept and an example from 1918 was given from Around the Year in the Garden, which was published for W. Atlee Burpee Company by Macmillan Publishing. The recommendation given is to line the garden bed with a 12 inch strip of chicken wire around the edge. Then is can be filled with a layer of leaves and if wetted down will settle nicely. The chicken wire keeps the leaves in place until they are frozen. However, the same concept can be achieved with a garden edge made of rocks.
The rest of the show was dedicated to soil renewal as a way to reduce fertilization, which prevents stormwater damage. Examples were given from Soil: the 1957 yearbook of agriculture. The examples given emphasized the importance of leaves and green manure for soil renewal. Disposing of leaves and the old method of burning leaves/crop residue is an incredible loss to soil ecology. Instead these materials can be turned over into the soil with efficient tillage and composted by the homeowner to be used in the vegetable and ornamental garden. All of these methods are beneficial to preventing organic material from reaching our waterways from stormwater.
Last updated March 16, 2017