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Non-point Source (NPS) Pollution

Update 2016


Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, is a type of pollution that originates from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters. Examples of NPS include nutrients, pathogenic bacteria and turbidity.

Urban and Suburban Areas  
At construction sites, soil that is piled up carelessly or not contained, is prone to erosion and can end up affecting the clarity of Tribal Waters.

Runoff from urban and suburban areas is a major origin of nonpoint source pollution. Much of the urban environment is paved with asphalt or concrete, or covered with buildings. These surfaces are usually impervious, meaning that water runs off of them without being absorbed into the soil. These hard, impervious surfaces make it easier for stormwater to pick up, absorb, and carry pollutants.

Other environments in urban and suburban areas also add to nonpoint source pollution. Sites where soil has been disturbed or piled up without being contained can easily erode. Discarded construction materials (plastics, wood, oils, and trash) can also be carried away from these sites by runoff waters. The most methods for controlling NPS is through the implementation of Best Management Practices (see What Can You Do, below).

Storm Water Permit Program in Indian Country 
Storm water flowing into the marsh through the silt curtain
Permits for Storm Water Discharges

To prevent pollutants in storm runoff from entering surface waters, the federal Clean Water Act requires that storm water discharges from large construction, industrial and municipal sources file notice of intent us the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to comply with the General Construction Permit. This nationwide permit requires applicants to plan, implement and regularly inspect best management practices on the ground. These practices are specified in the storm water pollution prevention plan, usually prepared by a professional engineer. The SRMT co-administers the General Construction Permit on tribal lands with the USEPA.

Agricultural Operations 
Agricultural runoff accounts for a significant amount of non-point source pollution

In livestock and agricultural operations require large tracts of cultivated land to grow crops. Plowing the land disturbs and exposes the soil, making it more vulnerable to erosion during rainstorms. This increases the runoff that carries fertilizers and pesticides away from the farm and into nearby waters. These impacts are mitigated by utilizing agricultural best management practices. Some techniques include stream buffer zones between livestock or row crops and using weather forecasts to spread manure during dry periods.

Marinas and Boating Activities 
A popular recreational activity, boating can also contribute to nonpoint source pollution. Chemicals used on boats may spill into the water; spilled fuel can also contaminate waters around marinas.

Marinas and boating activities can also contribute to nonpoint source pollution. Chemicals used to maintain and repair boats, such as solvents, oils, paints, and cleansers, may spill into the water, or make their way into waterbodies via runoff. Spilling fuel (gasoline or oil) at marinas or discharging uncombusted fuels from engines also contribute to nonpoint source pollution. In addition, poorly maintained sanitary waste systems aboard boats or poorly maintained pump-out stations at marinas can significantly increase bacteria and nutrient levels in the water.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is working with the USEPA and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to implement a no discharge zone for state and tribal waters of the St. Lawrence River.

What You Can Do 
what you can do
One of the easiest-and most important-ways that people can reduce runoff is to plant trees, grass and shrubs in bare areas.

Controlling and preventing nonpoint source pollution is every person's responsibility, including yours. There are many things all of us can do to reduce nonpoint source pollution, including:

  • Plant grass, trees and shrubs in bare areas. This is one of the most important things you can do to reduce nonpoint source runoff. The grass, trees and shrubs will reduce and absorb runoff, and their roots will hold the soil together, reducing erosion.

shoreline erosion
A lack of vegetation is making these soils vulnerable to erosion.
Rooted plants provide stability to banks and help slow the surface water flow rates.

  • Properly dispose of motor oil and household chemicals. Never pour chemicals on the ground or in storm drains, where they will eventually make their way into a stream or river. Motor oils and household chemicals can harm, and even kill, aquatic life. Used motor oil should be taken to oil recycling facilities.

close up of oil in water

  • Use fertilizers and pesticides sparingly on lawns and gardens. Excess fertilizer and pesticides can damage your plants. The excess often winds up in runoff and can lead to eutrophication in waterbodies. To reduce the use of pesticides, use beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises to control unwanted pests in the garden. Try a technique used in agriculture known as "scouting." Go out and survey your yard or garden to see what pests are present and then use pesticides only if natural predators cannot keep the pests in check.

Neighborhood cleanup days are a good way to reduce trash in and around nearby waterbodies.
Put trash in its place. Keep it out of storm drains, where it will clog up
the drain or end up in the nearest stream or lake.

For more information in your area contact the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Environment office:
Phone: (518)358-5937 or Fax: (518)358-6252  

This may also interest you.
storm water pollution document Preventing Stormwater Pollution at Construction Sites

This puplication was produced by the North Central Texas Council of Governments' Regional Storm water Management Program.
Click on image to view document.


Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division