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Home arrow Health arrow Best practices for environmental health : environmental pollution, protection, quality and sustainability

Oxygen-Demanding Substances

Oxygen-demanding substances, coming from organic sources which decompose, such as grass clippings, sugar-containing substances, carbon-based chemicals, and animal wastes, remove dissolved oxygen from the water which is needed to sustain life for aquatic organisms. Stormwater runoff is a prime source of providing large quantities of these wastes to the surface bodies of water. When aquatic microorganisms consume organic matter, they also consume dissolved oxygen. All organic chemicals, especially dyes, utilize dissolved oxygen.

Best Practices for Oxygen-Demanding Substances

  • • Oxygen-demanding substances can be reduced by providing stormwater detention ponds and filtration devices for the effluent before it goes into the body of water.
  • • All accidental spills need to be corrected immediately and grass and other organic materials should be stored or removed appropriately.


Pesticides which are used on properties for control of insects, rodents, unwanted plants, and fungi, can contaminate groundwater or surface water. (See Chapter 9, “Insect Control, Rodent Control, and Pesticides.”)

Best Practices for Pesticides (See Chapter 9, “Insect Control, Rodent Control, and Pesticides”) Sand and Salt Storage

Sand and salt storage areas used to provide the materials to make roads safe during severe winter weather can leach mixtures of salt and other chemicals into the groundwater supply or into surface bodies of water. This raises the chloride level and also introduces other chemicals into the water supply.

Best Practices for Sand and Salt Storage

  • • Keep the storage areas away from bodies of water or wetlands on high flat ground near a road.
  • • Enclose the storage area with a high impermeable fence to prevent rain and snow from carrying the salt and sand away from the area and contaminating water.
  • • Put an impermeable liner under the sand and salt and cover it with another heavy plastic liner.
  • • Remove all of the remaining salt and sand mixture as well as the liner when abandoning the site.


Sediment, composed of clay, silt, and sand, is the material created by the weathering of rocks, soils, and erosion caused by agriculture, urban development, and natural factors. The sediment may block stormwater systems, thereby creating flooding which may create more sediment. A variety of pollutants, such as toxic chemicals, metals, pathogens, phosphorus, etc., become attached to the particles in the sediment. The contaminants may come from industrial plants, municipal sewage treatment plants, septic tank systems, fertilizer and pesticides, other polluted runoff from urban and agricultural areas, air pollution, etc. Excess amounts of sediment degrade water quality by decreasing the clarity of the water and decreasing the light that can penetrate to submerged vegetation. When the sediment is disturbed as through dredging, all marine life and the food sources they feed on can become contaminated and the pollutants can bioaccumulate in the fish and shellfish consumed by people. (See endnote 16.)

Best Practices for Sediment (See Best Practices for Erosion, Best Practices for Non-Point Sources of Contamination, and endnotes 10, 11)

There are a huge number of Best Practices for erosion and sediment control. They may be found in endnotes 10 and 11. Some of the areas covered include soil stabilization, sediment control, wind erosion, snow control, tracking control, non-stormwater, waste management, and the postconstruction phase. Fact sheets and training modules are available.

Previously mentioned Best Practices include infiltration trenches, detention and settling ponds, biofiltration, filtration, and flow-through separation process.

Use the following techniques for construction sites.

  • • Clear the vegetation only from areas that will be immediately used during construction.
  • • Establish a single point which is stabilized for exit and entry of all vehicles and equipment.
  • • Protect the perimeter of the site using sediment or silt fences.
  • • Roughen up the exposed soils.
  • • Temporarily stabilize all exposed soils with vegetation, sand, straw, compost, or wood.
  • • Divert stormwater or the water from snow melting from flowing across the construction site.

Best Practices for Sediment Removal from Bodies of Water

Sediment removal from bodies of water can be accomplished through dredging, which may be either done mechanically or hydraulically. Where the sediment does not contain various contaminants, it can be used as clean fill in other areas. Where the sediment is contaminated, it can be contained by a cap of impervious material covered by sand, it can be confined in a special impervious facility, or it can be treated, thereby immobilizing the contaminants, destroying them, or extracting them from the sediment.

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