All activities, natural and "man-made", on earth produce some type of by-product from that activity. Under normal conditions these by-products, some known as pollutants, are re-cycled back into the environment. In fact, natural environmental processes have the ability to correct an imbalance if given enough time. However, if a persistent over load of a pollutant is allowed to continue, the environment has little chance to self-clean.
In the simplest of terms, a pollutant is a substance that once it gets into the environment, tends to elevate the "natural" background level of that substance. In many cases, there may not be any amount of the "manufactured" substance there in the first place.
Of most concern is the pollutants that get into water from both rural and urban activities. The main six types of pollutants that reduces the quality of the water.
- Sediment (Wind and water erosion of soils)
- Nutrients (Fertilizer, animal wastes, sewage treatment plants)
- Animal Wastes (Fecal coliform from livestock and septic systems)
- Pesticides (Herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc...)
- Salt (Mostly from applied road salt)
- Toxics (Manufactured and refined products like oil, paints, anti-freeze)
There are two general classifications of pollutant sources.
*** Point and Non-Point ***
Point Source Pollution
- Pollutants that are coming from a concentrated originating point like a pipe from a factory or a large registered feedlot with a specific point of discharge.
Point Source Pollution is registered sources of potential pollution and is regulated by federal, state and local laws. The Shawnee County Conservation District generally is not involved with point source pollution.
Non-Point Source Pollution
- An official definition used for several years in Kansas has been: Pollutants from as source that is not required to have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES). NPDES permits are required for cities, industries, storm water runoff from cities over 100,000 population, storm water runoff from certain industries and animal feedlots with more than 1000 animal units. Everything left over is a non-point pollutant source.
The conservation district likes to explain Non-Point Source Pollution this way. Pollutants detected in a concentrated water source such as a stream, river or lake, that come from a wide range of sources. These pollutants come from sources the common person has control over. You know, like that used oil poured into storm drains or on the ground. It is more of a way to express the accumulation of pollutants as a result of common, wide spread activities in both urban and rural areas.
The primary Non-Point Source Pollution (NPS) concern of the Shawnee County Conservation District for the past 40 years has been soil erosion. Since 1991 the district has broaden it's activities to address this and other concerns.
- Soil erosion from farmland fields as well as construction sites.
- Fertilizer runoff from both rural and urban areas.
- Pesticide runoff from both rural and urban areas.
- Animal waste management.
- Paint, oil, anti-freeze and other contaminants poured directly into storm drains.
- Activates near a water source that can easily be contaminated without care.
- Illegal dump sites.
- Failing septic systems.
The Shawnee County Conservation District through their Non-Point Source (NPS) Pollution Program is addressing these issues in part through a financial assistance program.