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River pollution: Find out your home's impact

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The James River has been flooded with increased pollution in recent months. It comes in the form of water runoff, from homes and lawns. Now, an organization that protects the river is offering a way to become part of the solution.

The heavy winter snows have melted away, but their effects linger. The melting snow, along with rain, carry with them a payload of pollutants.

"If we put trash on the ground, it carries the trash into the stream," said Bill Street, executive director of the James River Association. "If we put too much fertilizer down, it'll carry the excess fertilizer into the water."

Street says in the past 4 months, the James River has received almost as much runoff as it typically would in a whole year.

"We're all part of the problem," he said. "We all need to be part of the solution."

That's the idea behind the "runoff calculator." Featured on the Association's web site, it estimates the runoff created by a given yard. You enter your address, answer some questions about your property, and at the end, you get a number.

Once you determine how much you contribute to the problem, the site offers some simple solutions. 

"Just by disconnecting a downspout from running straight into your driveway and (instead directing it) into the road to a lawn can really go a long way," Street said.

The idea is to make sure water coming off your roof is directed to a place where it has a chance to soak into the ground. Some people use rain barrels to capture water and use it for irrigation. 

The runoff calculator is meant to show people how their home is connected to one of the state's most valuable resources.

"It's the cumulative effect of 3 million people that live around the James River, how we live on the land, that really determines the health of the river," said Street.

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