Home*A*Syst Home Assessment Guide

Home*A*Syst Home Assessment Guide
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Home*A*Syst
Home Assessment Guide
Extension Bulletin WQ-51
Revised May 2008
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What’s inside?
Home*A*Syst chapters cover essential topics that every homeowner or resident should understand. Each chapter
contains key points, along with tables of assessment questions, to help you understand which risks apply to your situation.
Chapter 1: Site Assessment: Protecting Water Quality around Your Home .................................................................. 3
Chapter 2: Managing Household Trash: Preventing Waste, Reusing, Recycling and Composting ............................13
Chapter 3: Managing Hazardous Household Products...................................................................................................25
Chapter 4: Lead in and around the Home: Identifying and Managing its Sources .....................................................37
Chapter 5: Indoor Air Quality: Reducing Health Risks and Improving the Air You Breathe ....................................49
Chapter 6: Energy Savings for Your Home ......................................................................................................................63
Chapter 7: Managing Stormwater around Your Home...................................................................................................75
Chapter 8: Conserving Water around Your Home ..........................................................................................................83
Chapter 9: Caring for the Yard and Garden ....................................................................................................................93
Chapter 10: Protecting Your Drinking Water Well ........................................................................................................107
Chapter 11: Managing Household Wastewater: Septic Systems and Other Treatment Methods ..............................117
Chapter 12: Managing Liquid Fuels Safely: Gasoline, Heating Oil, Diesel and Other Fuels.....................................129
What is Home*A*Syst?
Home*A*Syst is a confidential self-assessment program you can use to evaluate your home and property for pollution and
health risks. In every home, potential pollution sources exist that can affect the health of your family, your community or
the environment. Drinking water, for example, can be affected by many contaminant sources: poorly maintained septic or
sewage systems, leaky fuel tanks, fertilizers, pesticides and hazardous household products.
Getting started
You can do Home*A*Syst’s risk assessment exercises one at a time or all together—it’s up to you. The main idea is to
take the time to find out if there are risks to your family’s health or pollution threats to your environment. Then, where
feasible, take action to reduce those risks and prevent problems.
This publication helps you accomplish three important objectives:
1. Identify environmental risks, concerns or problems in or near the home.
2. Learn how to better manage your home and property and how to find further information.
3. Take preventive actions to safeguard your health and the environment.
It’s up to you!
These Home*A*Syst chapters are not difficult to complete, and the results can benefit you and your family. For example,
working with your children can be a great educational experience for everyone. And actions you take to eliminate risks
may improve your property’s resale value. If you value a clean environment and healthy surroundings, then by using
Home*A*Syst—and making changes—you can invest in your family’s future and invest in your community.
Why is it important to take action?
Simply identifying risks does not prevent problems. Consider the following reasons for making voluntary improvements,
particularly for responding to medium and high risks identified in your home.
◆◆To safeguard your health!
You probably spend a lot of time in your home. Dangers in the water you drink or from hazardous chemicals in your
home must be eliminated quickly and effectively.
◆◆To prevent contaminating water supplies and other natural resources!
Protecting groundwater and surface water quality is essential to you and your neighbors and to others downstream. This
is important whether your drinking water comes from a private well or a municipal system. Everything is connected, so
what you do affects others.
◆◆To protect your financial investment!
Your home is often your most valuable investment. Knowing about potential risks or problems can help prevent costly
cleanups, repairs and legal troubles. And it pays not only to take care of your own property but also to make sure others
around you are using good management practices. Property values and tax burdens can be affected by pollution problems
on your property and in your neighborhood or city. In addition, taking steps to cut your use of water or other resources
can save you money.
Residential Environmental Assurance Program
Do you want to be a certified environmentally responsible neighbor and
be in the forefront of leadership on residential environmental practices in
your community?
Do you want everyone to know the effort you have made to make your
home and community environmentally safe?
The Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program and its partners
encourage you to become certified through the Residential Environmental
Assurance Program (REAP).
REAP the benefits for your family and neighborhood in making changes to
protect your health, home, water and much more. The assessments in each
chapter indicate what is needed for certification.
This bulletin does not substitute for any legal requirements of the federal, state or local government.
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his chapter will provide an
aerial view of your homesite
and help you to identify
activities that pose risks to water
resources. Completing the chapter
will provide information you can use
throughout the Home*A*Syst series.
This site assessment covers two areas:
1. Physical characteristics of
your homesite
‹‹Soil type and depth
‹‹Depth to bedrock
‹‹Depth to water table
‹‹Location of wetlands, streams
or lakes
‹‹Your watershed
2. A site map of your home
You will create a map of your
homestead, with buildings, roads,
possible pollution sources, and
other human and natural features,
to help you identify potential
trouble.
Chapter 1. Site Assessment: Protecting
Water Quality around Your Home
Why should I learn about my homesite’s physical
characteristics and how I manage my home?
What you do in and around your home can affect water quality both below
the ground and in nearby lakes, streams, wetlands or coastal ponds. This
chapter will help you identify some important physical characteristics of
your homesite, such as soils, geology, depth to groundwater and nearness to
surface water. It also invites you to draw a simple “aerial view” map of your
homesite. Your completed map will show the locations of important features
and activities in and around your home that may pose risks to your health
and the environment. Remember, this assessment is a starting point. It is
meant to encourage you to complete all of the other Home*A*Syst chapters
that relate to your homesite.
What is a watershed?
The water from your faucet and in nearby lakes or streams is part of a
much larger water system. Not everyone lives next to a pond or stream,
but we all live in a watershed – the land area that contributes water to a
specific surface water body, such as a pond, lake, wetland, river or bay.
The landscape’s hills and valleys define the watershed or “catchment”
area (Figure 1). It is like a bathtub. The watershed outlet – the mouth of
a pond, lake or river – is the tub’s drain. The watershed boundary is the
tub’s rim. A watershed’s drainage system consists of a network of rivers,
streams, man-made channels and storm drains, wetlands and the underlying
groundwater. Common activities – such as how you dispose of used motor
oil or fertilize your lawn and garden – can
affect water quality, even when
you do these things far from any
shore. Paying careful attention
to how you manage activities in and
around your home helps protect
your watershed and the water
you drink. It helps protect city as
well as private wells. You can
surf your watershed and obtain
information about local watershed
organizations by going to websites
given at the end of this chapter. Some
areas in Michigan have existing watershed
activities. Go to www.michigan.gov/
deqwater and select “surface water,” then
“watersheds” for more information.
Figure 1: Watershed illustration, showing the catchment area
(inside dotted lines), streams and receiving body of water.
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What influences the quality of your water?
Name your watershed:
Understanding the physical conditions of your residence and pinpointing
the locations of potential contamination sources are important first steps in
safeguarding your water supply. Physical characteristics such as soil type,
depth to groundwater and nearness to surface water may speed up or delay
a contaminant’s effect on water quality. Activities that affect water quality
include improper drinking water well construction and maintenance, pesticide/
fertilizer use and storage, unsafe septic system maintenance, garbage disposal
methods and animal waste storage (Figure 2).
(For help, see “Resources” at
end of chapter.)
New construction
Road runoff
Shoreline erosion
Sediments
Gasoline
Nutrients
Wastes,
detergents,
septic system
Fertilizers,
pesticides
Figure 2: Some activities and physical conditions that can harm water quality.
Part 1 – Physical Characteristics of Your
Homesite
Every home comes with its own set of physical conditions. The information
below will help you answer the questions in the assessment at the end of Part 1.
How can soil type affect water quality?
Soil plays an important role in determining where contaminants go and how
water moves. Nearly all soils are permeable – which means water and other
fluids can percolate or move through them. Different types of soils have
properties that permit water – and contaminants – to seep through or run off
at varying rates. For example, chemicals applied to a lawn and wastes from a
leaking septic tank can flow downward into groundwater or run across the land
into surface water. Many household activities can also produce problems that
go beyond property boundaries. Contaminants that enter groundwater through
a neighbor’s abandoned well may flow until they reach your well.
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________________________
Soil type:
_________________________
Soil depth:
_________________________
Depth to bedrock:
_________________________
Type of bedrock:
_________________________
What is your soil type?
Soil is grouped into three basic types based on particle size: clay (small
particles), silt/loam (medium particles) and sand/gravel (large particles).
You can get a good idea about your soil type by rubbing a moistened sample
between two fingers. Is it sticky like clay, gritty and crumbly like sand or
somewhere in between? Consult the soil survey manual for your county
conservation district or the soil survey website (see “Resources” at the end of
this chapter) to learn more about your soil. Indicate your soil characteristics to
the left.
What is your soil depth?
The depth of soil influences risks to groundwater. Usually, the greater your soil
depth, the farther water must seep down before reaching groundwater. Deep
soils have a better chance of filtering or breaking down pollutants before they
reach groundwater than shallow soils. Generally, soils that are less than 3 feet
deep present the highest risks for groundwater contamination.
How far down is bedrock and what type is it?
Bedrock depth varies; it can be at the land’s surface, just below the surface
or hundreds of feet deep. The depth of the soil and the type of rock influence
pollution risks. Shale, granites and other dense types of rock make an effective
barrier that blocks the downward movement of water and contaminants.
Other rocks, such as limestone, can be highly permeable, allowing water to
move freely. When bedrock is split or fractured, water can move through it
unpredictably, spreading pollutants rapidly over long distances.
On your property, what are the risks to groundwater?
Groundwater is the water below the surface of the earth that, from the
water table down, saturates the spaces between soil particles or fills cracks
in underlying bedrock. Soil particle size influences which pollutants are
able to reach groundwater. Clay soils, which are made of tiny particles,
slow the downward movement of water and in some cases can impede water
movement completely. Sandy soils allow for rapid water movement, and
silty soils occupy the midrange. Soils made of large particles pose the greatest
risk because they let water seep downward readily. The ideal soil is a mix of
midsize particles to allow infiltration and enough tiny particles, such as clay or
organic matter, to slow water movement and filter pollutants.
What is underground at your site?
There are several ways to find out about soil depth, bedrock type and
other features below the ground. Check your well drilling records (if you
have them), ask a neighbor who has a well, call a local well driller, and/
or call the local health department and ask for information on your well
or neighboring well logs. You may also contact the Michigan Office of
Geological Survey (517-241-1515), the U.S. Geological Survey
(517-887-8903) or the local county conservation district.
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What are the risks to surface water?
Soil type can also affect surface water contamination. Clay soils, which are
not very permeable, encourage surface water runoff. During a storm or flood
or even when you water your lawn, this runoff can wash contaminants from the
land’s surface into nearby surface waters. Runoff in cities goes to storm drains
and then to surface water.
Your yard slope (the incline from the horizontal) also is important. A steep
slope increases the risk for surface erosion and runoff. Combined with soil
type, it can have a large impact on the speed and amount of runoff. A steep,
clay soil slope would have greater runoff risk than a similar sandy soil slope.
A low-risk site would have a 0 percent (flat) to 4 percent slope (4-foot rise in
100-foot horizontal distance).
List nearby lakes, streams
and wetlands and distance
to your property:
___________________________
___________________________
___________________________
How deep is the water table?
If you a dig a hole, you will eventually reach soil saturated with water. The
water table marks the boundary between the unsaturated soil (where the pore
spaces between soil and rock contain air, plant roots, soil organisms and some
water) and the saturated soil (where water fills all pore spaces) (Figure 3). In a
wetland, the water table is just below the surface or at the surface. The water
table fluctuates throughout the year but is usually highest in the wet months
of spring and in late fall. In general, the closer the water table is to the land’s
surface, the easier the groundwater may be contaminated. A water table that is
less than 10 feet from the surface usually presents a high risk for groundwater.
Depth to your water table:
(Check with your local health
department.)
___________________________
How are groundwater and surface water interconnected?
Groundwater generally flows downhill, following the same path as surface
water, and eventually discharges into rivers, lakes, springs and wetlands. If
you keep impurities out of surface water but do not protect groundwater – or
vice versa – contaminated waters may occur where you least expect.
Pores filled with
air and water
Water seepage
Unsaturated zone
Water table
Saturated zone
(groundwater)
Bedrock
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Pores filled with
water only
Home*A*Syst
Figure 3: Groundwater,
water seepage, saturated and
unsaturated zones, and the water
table.
4 Assessment 1 – Homesite Characteristics:
Identifying the Risks
For each characteristic (row), three choices are given that describe situations
or activities that could lead to high, medium and low risks of groundwater
contamination. For some questions, your well drilling records or local well
drillers may be able to help. Some choices may not be exactly like your
situation, so choose the response that best fits. Write your risk level (low,
medium or high) in the column “Your risk.” Refer to Part 1 above if you need
more information to complete the risk assessment.
Runoff risks to
lakes, rivers,
wetlands or
other surface
water due to
soil type
Runoff risks to
surface water
due to slope
Risk to
groundwater
due to soil type
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Sand/gravel (large
particles).
Silt/loam (midsized
particles).
Clay (very tiny
particles).
Yard with 0-4% slope.
4-9% slope.
Greater than 9% slope.
Clay (very tiny
particles).
Silt/loam (midsize
particles).
Sand/gravel (large
particles).
Moderate depth (3 to 12
feet).
Solid limestone or
sandstone, or fractured
granite or shale.
Shallow (less than 3
feet).
More than 20 feet.
10 to 20 feet.
Less than 10 feet.
More than 100 feet.
25 to 100 feet.
Less than 25 feet.
Soil depth
Deep (over 12 feet).
Bedrock
Solid, not permeable or
fractured.
Depth to water
table
Nearness to
surface water
Your
risk
Fractured limestone or
sandstone.
Responding to risks
Do not depend solely on the physical characteristics of your soil, bedrock or
other site features to protect water quality. You must take informed steps to
prevent pollution. Make it your goal to consider the pollution risks identified
above in all your activities. Although you can’t change your soil type or the
depth to bedrock, you can take these factors into account when choosing home
management practices to prevent environmental problems. Note especially the
medium and high risks you identified. Keep them in mind as you complete the
following map and work on other Home*A*Syst chapters.
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Part 2 – Making a Map of Your Homesite
Why make a map?
Your property has some features you can change to minimize risks. Draw a
map of your homesite, identifying areas where you can focus your efforts. This
map will assist you in completing other Home*A*Syst assessments. And if
you involve children as you make your map and conduct the assessment, you
will help teach them the importance of having clean water.
The materials you need are readily available: measuring tape (optional),
clipboard, pencil and the grid on the last page of this chapter. The map you
create will be an aerial view – the way your property would look if you took a
photo of it from the air (see Figure 4).
Potential sources of contaminants
Drainage
Several management practices and home-structure situations could result in major impacts on
water quality. As you survey your property to make your map, be especially watchful for the
following:
‹‹Improperly located or poorly maintained septic system.
‹‹Underground storage tank containing fuel oil, gasoline or other petroleum products.
‹‹Improperly constructed well or an abandoned well.
‹‹Stockpiled animal waste close to the well.
‹‹Improper storage, use or disposal of yard and garden chemicals.
‹‹Machine maintenance workshop near your well.
P
Drainfield
Shed
Area where
water collects
Garage
Drainage
A
Septic tank
H
House
F
Heating
oil tank
100 ft.
Well
Ditch
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Site Assessment
Figure 4: Example of a homesite map
with surface water collection area, flow
direction, fuel (F), automotive products
(A), pesticides (P) and hazardous
products (H) storage.
Home*A*Syst
Instructions: your homesite map
Homesite features to include:
Property boundaries
Abandoned well
House and garage
Dry well
Outbuildings, sheds
French drains
Animal pens and yards
Floor drains
Septic tank and
Vegetable garden
drainfield
Lawn area
Ornamental ponds
Other cultivated areas
Water wells
Roads, driveways
Heating oil
Drainage ditches
storage tank
Storm drains
Pesticide/fertilizer
storage
Compost pile
Rain barrel
Rain garden
Trees
Nearest surface water
(lakes and streams)
Flower beds (nonveggie gardens)
Location codes. On your map, note the areas where you store chemicals and
other potential hazards by using letter codes. Make up your own code letters or
symbols as needed. Examples:
F = Fuel tanks for gasoline or heating oil.
A = Automotive products such as motor oil, gasoline and antifreeze.
P = Pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.).
H = Hazardous products such as solvents.
Other map-making ideas. For larger view maps, add landscape and humanbuilt features such as hills, rivers, lakes, ponds, roads, bridges, city wellhead
protection area and runoff drainways. Draw arrows to indicate the direction
of river and stream flow and stormwater runoff. Note potential sources of
contamination beyond the boundaries of your property, such as farm fields,
dumps and gas stations. Indicate seasonal changes at your homesite. For
example, are there wet areas in the spring or fall? Such areas might indicate a
high water table.
Don’t leave out things you cannot see. Inquire about previous or current
industrial or agricultural activities in the area. Old landfills and buried fuel
tanks are just a few possibilities. Find out if any underground fuel tanks exist
on neighboring properties. If tanks, septic systems or other potential sources of
contaminants exist upgradient (that is, “upstream”) from your water well, they
could affect the safety of your groundwater.
Putting it all together – and taking action
The final step is to put both pieces of your assessment together – the risk
assessment itself and your homesite map – so you can identify potential
problems on your property. If you have rated any items in the risk assessment
as medium or high risk and have identified potential contamination sources
in these areas, then you should be concerned. For example, you may have
discovered that your heating oil tank is located in an area with a high water
table or that you apply lawn or garden chemicals within 25 feet of a lake or
stream. Perhaps your soil is sandy and your gasoline storage tank is close
to your drinking water well. Maybe there is an old abandoned well on
your property that isn’t properly sealed. You will then want to investigate
the options to lower your risks. To protect your family’s health and the
environment and to safeguard your financial investment, you will want to take
steps to correct these problems.
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Blank graph sheet for drawing your homesite map
For Residential Environmental Assurance Program (REAP)
certification:
‹‹Complete all the blanks in the margins of this chapter regarding your
soil, bedrock, distance to surface water and depth to water table.
‹‹Complete a homesite map detailing features given on the previous page
under Instructions: your homesite map.
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Home*A*Syst
Resources
Locating lakes, rivers and wetlands:
http://gwmap.rsgis.msu.edu
Select Start the Viewer. Place indicator at your homesite and zoom in
on your part of the county. You will see lakes as blue areas and rivers
as black lines. Go to Visibility and select Groundwater Inventory and
then select Wetlands. You will see green outlined wetland areas. After
this you may go back to Visibility, and under Image Backdrops click
Aerial to view your homesite. To measure the distance from your
home to the lake, river or wetland, you can use the Measure feature in
the buttons at the top.
Soil information:
http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app
Michigan water information:
http://mi.water.usgs.gov/hydrosum.php
Watershed organizations:
www.michigan.gov/deq
Enter “Michigan Watershed Organizations” into search.
Watersheds:
Surf your watershed: www.epa.gov/surf
Watershed map: www.michigan.gov
Enter “Michigan’s major watersheds” into search and open map.
Watershed map and other information: www.iwr.msu.edu
For map go to “Tools & Data, Watershed mapping,” then log in and
select watershed site.
How Home*A*Syst can help. If you identify potentially hazardous or unsafe
situations in your site assessment, what should you do? Refer to the chapters
that relate to your home. There are 11 more chapters in the Home*A*Syst
series. They deal with specific concerns. For example, the chapter on liquid
fuels contains information on the safe management of gasoline, heating oil,
diesel and other fuels. The chapter on drinking water wells will explain how to
manage your private well water supply. These chapters will help you identify
problems and develop an action plan for protecting groundwater, your family’s
health and the local environment.
This chapter was written by Alyson McCann, Water Quality Program
coordinator, University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension, Kingston, R.I.,
and adapted for Michigan by Ruth Shaffer, Natural Resources Conservation
Service, and Jim Bardenhagen and Roberta Dow, Michigan State University
Extension. Updated in 2008.
Home*A*Syst
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here are many ways to reduce
the amount of household
trash you produce and many
alternatives to dispose of the waste
you make. This chapter helps you
examine your current waste disposal
practices and how they may affect air
and water quality on your property.
It covers:
1. Reducing the amount of
trash you produce
‹‹Shopping to reduce waste
(“enviro-shopping” and
“precycling”)
2. Creative methods to deal
with wastes
‹‹Reusing
‹‹Recycling
‹‹Composting
3. The hazards of waste
disposal on your property
‹‹Alternatives to on-site dumping
and burning
Chapter 2. Managing Household Trash:
Preventing Waste, Reusing, Recycling and
Composting
Why should you be concerned?
As the U.S. population increases, the amount of trash produced each year also
increases. Not only are there more people, but each person is producing more
waste than people did in the past. Studies estimate that in 2005, each person
produced around 4.5 pounds of waste each day, compared with 2.7 pounds in
1960. Surveys also found that most consumers do not realize what is in their
own trash. Many think they throw away more plastics—by weight—than they
really do, or that disposable diapers are the major problem. Figure 1 shows
what is really in the mountain of solid waste thrown away by Americans each
year. What would you find if you examined unwanted wastes from your
household over a year’s time?
How many words for trash?
What do you call the stuff you want to get rid of—trash, garbage, solid
waste, recyclables, refuse or junk? Here’s how we define it for this
assessment.
Trash and waste - two terms that refer to all items and materials that are
no longer wanted.
Reusables - items that are used again by a different user or for a different
purpose but not reprocessed. An example is a hand-me-down-jacket or a
peanut butter jar used for storing nails.
Recyclables - materials such as glass, metal, plastic, paper, even
refrigerators, that are processed back into raw materials and made into
new products.
Compostables or compost materials - organic matter (primarily yard and
food wastes) that decomposes and returns to the earth as nutrients and a
soil conditioner.
Garbage - stuff that gets truly thrown away by being taken to a landfill or
incinerated.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Household Trash
13
Figure 1: Annual amount of solid waste from U.S. households. EPA, 2005.
The problem with waste
Landfills and incinerators are the destination of most of our trash. In Michigan,
yard waste is not allowed in landfills or incinerators because it can be
composted. A list of other wastes that cannot be landfilled can be found on
the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) website (see “Resources”
at the end of this chapter). Environmental laws have closed poorly managed
dumps, improving the safety of remaining landfills and incinerators. Garbage
has become a serious transportation, environmental and economic issue for
consumers and municipalities. The good news is that these problems have
caused Americans to look for new ways to deal with their trash. Producing less
waste, reusing, recycling and composting not only save taxpayer dollars but
protect air and water quality and the health of people and wildlife.
14
Managing Household Trash
Home*A*Syst
Part 1 – Minimizing and Preventing Waste
If you don’t produce trash, you won’t need to get rid of it—it’s that simple.
But we all generate some trash, so we need to think about ways to make less.
Part 1 helps you examine your potential for cutting the amount of waste you
produce and for preventing some kinds of waste completely. At the end, fill out
the assessment table to determine your waste potential, using the information
below to help answer the questions.
Can you become a waste-conscious shopper?
=
You make purchasing decisions every day, and each purchase involves a
certain amount of waste. Whether you’re buying groceries, toys, furniture
or appliances, your selections determine the type and volume of waste
that must someday be discarded. But if you buy with the environment in
mind—that is, if you use your purchasing power to minimize your impact on
the environment—you will select products that produce a minimum of waste.
Precycling and enviro-shopping are terms that refer to this kind of purchasing.
The following questions are ones typically asked by an enviro-shopper before a
purchase is made.
How much do you need?
Among other things, enviro-shopping means buying only what you need. A
good price or a bulk package may tempt you to buy a larger amount of paint,
food or household cleaner than you really need. But what may seem like a
good deal when buying often ends up wasting money because the unused or
spoiled product is eventually thrown away. Make sure you can use what you
buy or know someone who can use the leftovers.
Are your purchases long-lasting and reusable?
Figure 2: Light bulb
comparison. Compact
fluorescent bulbs—even
though they cost more—last
10 times longer than ordinary
bulbs. In the long run, they
cost much less to operate.
In our throwaway society, it is sometimes hard to find good quality products at
an affordable price. Although durable products may be more expensive, they
are usually a better investment in the long run (Figure 2). Look for products
that can be repaired when broken. Children’s toys that are held together with
screws, for example, often can be more easily taken apart and repaired than
toys that are glued. Long-lasting products make good hand-me-downs, too.
Products and materials that can be reused—passed along or used for other
purposes—save money and conserve resources. If you have fabric scraps, for
example, they can be sewn into attractive, reusable gift bags that can reduce
your need to buy wrapping paper. In a world with increasing numbers of
disposable and single-use products, it is a real challenge to avoid waste when
shopping.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Household Trash
15
How much trash do you make each day?
This project is for the truly adventurous: carry a large plastic bag for 1 to 3 days and put all
your daily trash inside. Pick a typical week, and don’t change your buying habits. At the
end of the experiment, weigh the bag. If you carried your bag for 3 days, divide the total
weight by 3 to get the daily amount. You might want to keep wet wastes in plastic zip-top
bags so things don’t get too messy. Then analyze your trash. How much of the material is
paper? How much is recyclable? How much is hazardous? How much could have been
avoided? How many pounds of trash would you produce in a year?
Is the package recyclable?
Many product containers and packaging materials are potentially recyclable, such
as cardboard boxes, glass and many plastic bottles. To promote recycling, many
manufacturers use the international chasing arrows “recyclable material” symbol
(see Figure 3). But be careful—the symbol only means the product is made
from materials that are suitable for recycling if your local recycling program
will take them. If it cannot be recycled locally, then the product package is not
truly recyclable, at least not where you live. The list of materials that your local
program will accept changes over time, so you will need to keep up-to-date. If
you can’t recycle locally, you might be able to take some of your recyclables to
a neighboring community that will accept them. Much information can now be
obtained online; see “Resources” at the end of this chapter.
A
Recyclable material
Is the product or its packaging made from recycled materials?
A surprising variety of products are made from recycled material—everything
from carpets to salad dressing bottles. Once materials are recycled, they will be
made into new products or packaging only if there is a market for them. As a
consumer, you can use your buying power to support and encourage markets for
recycled-material products. This is sometimes called “closing the loop”—when
you recycle and buy recycled. This ensures that materials are cycled again and
again. Each year, for example, billions of aluminum beverage cans are melted
down and made into new cans. On product packaging, look for the words
“made from recycled materials” and especially for “made from postconsumer
recycled materials.” Postconsumer means that all or part of the packaging
is made from materials that have been recycled by consumers in community
recycling programs. Instead of words, some packaging materials (such as
corrugated cardboard) use the chasing arrows symbol in solid black or in a black
background (see Figure 3). This means that packages or products are made
entirely or predominantly from recycled materials.
Do I buy products with the least amount of packaging?
In America, we produce more trash per person than people anywhere else in the
world. About a third of the paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and metal we throw
away comes from packaging. Packaging serves many useful purposes—such as
preventing food spoilage and keeping products clean—but much is unnecessary,
wastes natural resources and soon after purchase ends up as garbage. Good
enviro-shopping means choosing products having the least amount of wrapping
(as long as safety is assured). Buying bulk foods and items that you know will
be used in a timely manner and selecting concentrated packaged products are
examples of ways to minimize waste from packaging.
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Managing Household Trash
Home*A*Syst
B
Recycled content
Figure 3: Recycling symbols.
A. Recyclable material symbol –
container or package is potentially
recyclable.
B. Recycled content symbol –
container made from recycled
materials.
If your packaging selections are limited, tell the store manager what you want
and write or call the product manufacturer about your community’s solid waste
situation and your preference for minimally packaged products.
4 Assessment 1 – Minimizing and Preventing
Waste
Use this assessment to identify areas where you can minimize waste. Write
your waste potential level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your
waste potential.” Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your
situation, choose the response that best fits. Refer to the information above to
help you answer the questions.
Packaging
purchased
Ability to
recycle
packaging
Quantities
purchased
Products
purchased
Product
durability and
potential for
reuse
Low waste
potential
Medium waste
potential
High waste
potential
I usually select
packaging that
minimizes waste.
I regularly purchase
containers/packaging
that can be recycled
locally.
I purchase only what
is needed and avoid
accumulating unused
products.
I try to purchase items
made from recycled
content.
Products are selected on
the basis of durability,
ease of repair and
potential for reuse.
I sometimes consider
packaging when
selecting products.
I sometimes consider
whether packaging
is recyclable when
making purchases.
I sometimes buy more
product than I can use.
I never consider
packaging that
minimizes waste.
I never consider
whether packaging
is recyclable before
buying.
I often purchase more
product than I can
use.
I rarely consider
products made from
recycled content.
I sometimes select
products on the basis
of durability, ease of
repair and reuse.
I do not seek products
made from recycled
content.
I never consider
durability, ease of
repair or reuse.
Your waste
potential
Responding to your waste potential
Your goal is to reduce the amount of waste you produce—especially waste that
ends up in a landfill or incinerator. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of
this chapter to record the high and medium waste potentials you identified in
the assessment above. Use the ideas in Part 1 to help you become an enviroshopper.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Household Trash
17
Part 2 – Reusing, Recycling and Composting
Once you make waste, it has to go somewhere. Part 2 reviews three ways to
keep materials out of the landfill or incinerator. For each item of trash, there
are three questions to ask:
1. Is it reusable?
Reuse should be your first objective because it typically causes the least
amount of environmental impact. By taking canvas or net shopping bags to
the store or mall, you will be avoiding bringing paper or plastic bags home.
Reusable bags not only reduce waste but can be cleaned and are stronger than
disposable bags.
Sharing old clothes and used furniture is a common form of reuse. If you
can’t share with friends or family, try to donate usable items to local charities.
Holding a neighborhood yard sale is a good way to eliminate unwanted
possessions and make a little money. You can usually find uses for more
materials than you realize. Give your packaging foam “peanuts” to a local
gift shop, for example, or see if neighbors can use your excess paint, lumber
or empty plastic pails. Consider donating or selling at a recycle store, or try
listing available materials on a postcard and posting it on a local community
bulletin board. You might find success posting on the Web using one of the
sale sites. Remember the expression “One person’s junk is another’s treasure.”
Often reuse is limited only by the imagination.
2. Is it recyclable?
Even though recycling is a good idea, it still requires the input of energy and
other resources, and it produces some waste and pollution. For example,
aluminum beverage containers can be recycled into new cans. They must be
collected and returned to the factory, where they are melted and formed into
new cans. The new cans are then trucked to a beverage company to be filled
and taken to stores. An aluminum can makes a complete recycling circle in as
little as 60 days (Earth911.org). A recycling success story!
Studies have shown that more than half of all household wastes are recyclable.
Remember to keep current about what your local recycling program
will accept. Find your local program using the clickable map at www.
michigan.gov/deqreswastecontacts. Plastic milk jugs, for example, are
usually recyclable, but wax-coated paper milk cartons can be recycled
in only a few areas. A growing number of communities require
recycling by law. You should not limit recycling to typical grocery
store-purchased materials such as aluminum cans, cardboard, glass
bottles and cans. Local scrap dealers or industrial salvage yards may
want your broken appliances, junk vehicles, wood wastes, other metals,
doors, windows and so on. A number of items such as motor oil and
car batteries are banned from disposal in Michigan. Local landfills
may have rules that ban other items as well. For more information, see
the brochure “Talking Trash” by going to www.michigan.gov/deq and
entering “banned landfill materials” in the search bar.
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Electronic waste
Computers, personal media players, cell phones, televisions, data assistants
and other wonders of modern technology are filling our lives and our garbage
cans. We rely on them daily to communicate, conduct business and educate, but
what happens to this equipment when it’s worn out or replaced by an updated
version?
Many electronics contain hazardous materials, such as lead in solder, cadmium
in circuit boards and mercury in batteries. Most older computer display screens
and televisions contain cathode ray tubes (CRTs). CRTs contain leaded glass to
protect the user from the x-rays inside the tubes. Lead is a hazardous material
that can cause environmental and health damage if not managed safely. Lead
in CRTs causes computers to be considered hazardous waste when disposed by
regulated generators in Michigan. Residents are encouraged to recycle their
electronic waste rather than have it end up in their local landfill or municipal
solid waste incinerators with the potential of leaching or emitting lead and
other heavy metals into the water or air.
Donating these items is becoming a common practice for extending the life of
working electronics and reducing their placement in landfills. Before donating
or recycling your old computer or other electronic device, make sure that the
data on it is completely deleted. Reformatting the hard drive or deleting files
may not be enough to protect you from identity theft. You need to completely
destroy the data on your hard drive. In 2006, the U.S. EPA developed two
fact sheets that provide information about donating electronic equipment and
a list of free software you can use to delete information from your computer.
See “Do The PC Thing for Consumers” at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/
conserve/plugin/pdf/pcthing-con.pdf.
Many Michigan communities have started electronic collections programs to
deal with the growing e-waste. Check with your local community or waste
hauler to see if and when a collection is available. Recycling options for
Michigan residents are available at www.michigan.gov/deq. Enter “electronic
waste management” into the search bar. A national resource for recycling
information is Earth911. By using your zip code, you can call or go online to
find recycling opportunities near you. Call 1-800-CLEANUP or go to
www.Earth911.org.
3. Can it be composted?
Yard and food wastes typically make up over 30 percent of the waste stream.
The amount of yard and food wastes that your home generates depends on your
eating and gardening habits, size of yard and region. Since 1995, Michigan
has banned yard clippings (leaves, grass clippings, vegetable or other garden
debris, shrubbery, tree trimmings) from disposal in Michigan solid waste
landfills because of its large volume, high moisture content, and potential to
contribute to landfill gas and groundwater problems. Composting—nature’s
recycling—is a much more effective way to handle organic waste. As an
alternative to landfill disposal, many communities have established yard waste
composting programs with convenient drop-off sites or curbside pickup.
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Managing Household Trash
19
Composting is a natural process that, with the help of microbes, earthworms
and fungi, turns kitchen and yard wastes into a high-quality soil amendment.
Many common materials can be composted in your own backyard: leaves,
grass clippings, plant trimmings, straw, kitchen scraps (but not animal waste
such as fat or bones), manure (except that of dogs, cats and other household
pets) and even paper. The final product is dark brown, crumbly compost that
has a clean, earthy scent. It can be spread on lawns or mixed with garden soil
as an excellent soil amendment.
Many compact and efficient composting bins are on the market for home
composting, or you can build your own (Figure 4). For more information on
composting, see Chapter 9, “Caring for the Yard and Garden.”
4 Assessment 2 – Reusing, Recycling and
Composting
Figure 4: Examples
of compost bins.
Use this assessment to identify preferred methods to keep waste out of the
landfill. Write your waste potential level (low, medium or high) in the righthand column. Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your
situation, choose the response that best fits. Refer to the information above to
help you answer the questions.
Low waste potential
Medium waste
potential
High waste
potential
Reuse
I reuse as many household
wastes as possible.
I reuse when
convenient.
I never reuse or
recycle.
Waste
recycling
I always recycle all
materials that centers
accept.
I recycle materials
when convenient.
I occasionally
or never recycle
materials.
Composting
All yard wastes and kitchen Some yard or kitchen I never compost.
scraps are composted at
wastes composted.
home or in a city program.
Your waste
potential
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to your waste potential
Your goal is to reduce waste or find the best alternatives for dealing with it.
Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this chapter to record the high and
medium waste potentials you identified above. The information in Part 2 can
help you plan changes.
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Managing Household Trash
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Part 3 – The Trouble with On-site Trash
Disposal
Disposing of household trash by burning or dumping on private property is
widely practiced but can pose threats to your health and the environment.
Although many rural areas have used these disposal methods for decades,
local and state laws are becoming more restrictive. At the end of this section,
complete the table to determine your risks, and consider alternatives to on-site
disposal methods.
Do you burn your trash?
Smoke from burning trash may
contain:
Arsenic
Benzene and other solvents
Cadmium
Carbon monoxide
Chromium
Dioxin
Formaldehyde
Hydrochloric acid
Lead
Nitrogen oxide
Polyaromatic hydrocarbons
Sulfuric acid
Many rural residents use burn barrels to get rid of many household wastes.
When paper, plastics, printing inks, batteries and other common materials
are burned, a noxious mix of chemicals is released into the air. Some of
these—such as lead or mercury—can be hazardous to breathe. Eventually,
most byproducts from burning are removed from the air by rain or snow and
are deposited on land or water. Because of concerns about such releases of
hazardous air pollutants, most states and localities have passed laws to restrict
what you can burn. In some areas, especially urban and suburban settings,
open burning has been banned.
The ash residue from burning also contains hazards, including heavy metals
and other toxic substances. If this ash is dumped on your property, it can
contaminate soil and water. To find out about burning restrictions that apply to
your property, check with your local fire department or township office. More
information about open burning can be found on the DEQ website at
www.michigan.gov/deq. Enter “open burning” in the search bar.
Do you dump household trash on your land?
Trash dumped on your property is not only unsightly—it may contain harmful
chemicals and disease-causing organisms that can leach out and contaminate
groundwater or be spread by wind and rain. Discarded paint, for example,
may contain lead or mercury. If not properly rinsed, pesticide containers will
contain toxic residue, and used oil filters usually hold petroleum products and
harmful metals. These pollutants can soak into the soil, pollute well water, and
find their way into nearby lakes, streams or wetlands. If your trash contains
hazardous substances—even in small quantities—they can cause problems.
Dumping, burying or burning trash on your property may also cause difficulties
when you want to sell your property. Prospective buyers may require you to
clean it up as part of the purchase offer.
Which wastes are hazardous?
By reading product labels, you can generally tell which ones have hazardous
ingredients. Look for words such as DANGER, FLAMMABLE, POISON,
FATAL IF SWALLOWED, CAUTION or WARNING. Use these products
according to their label instructions. For more information on dealing with
hazardous wastes, see Chapter 3, “Managing Hazardous Household Products.”
Home*A*Syst
Managing Household Trash
21
Especially for homes served by street drains and storm sewers, any solid
or liquid wastes exposed to the weather—including pet wastes—can wash
directly into lakes and streams. Storm sewers, remember, are rarely connected
to wastewater treatment facilities. Some materials, such as foam peanuts
and other plastic debris, can be transported by storm runoff to open water,
where they may be mistaken for food and eaten by fish or birds, killing or
injuring them. Another wildlife problem is caused by discarding tires that
provide a haven for mosquitoes. Find your local household hazardous waste,
recycling or composting program on the clickable map at www.michigan.gov/
deqreswastecontacts or call the Michigan DEQ Environmental Assistance
Center at 1-800-662-9278 with questions about proper waste management.
What do you do with unwanted medications?
Unwanted or unused medications can be a problem to the environment when
poured down the drain, flushed down the toilet or thrown out. Medications
have been found in groundwater and surface water and are a growing concern
nationally and internationally. They should not be burned in the trash or
disposed of on-site.
The following are suggestions for getting rid of medications:
‹‹Check to see if the local pharmacy is taking back unwanted drugs. Some
drugstores accept expired medications for disposal. Pharmacies cannot
legally accept controlled substances from citizens.
‹‹Find special collections for unused and expired drugs. Check with your
household hazardous waste collection or recycling program coordinators
to see if anything is available in your area. A list of contacts is at
www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-ess-p2-recycle-countycontacts.pdf
‹‹If a collection program is not immediately available, follow the handling
suggestions in the drug disposal section of the drug label/insert.
4 Assessment 3 – Waste Disposal on Your
Property
The following assessment can help you examine potential risks due to on-site
waste disposal. Choose the statement that best fits your situation and put the
appropriate risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.”
Refer to the information above in Part 3 to help you respond.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to reduce your risks. On the following Action Checklist, write
your high and medium risks. Use the ideas in Part 3 to help plan actions you
can take.
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Managing Household Trash
Home*A*Syst
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/ unsafe
situation
Your risk
Burning trash No household trash
Paper and cardboard are Burning conducted. Burning
burned. Burning done
guidelines ignored.
in approved container
and guidelines followed.
Only organic wastes
Household trash and liquids,
(leaves, grass
appliances, tires and other
clippings, food,
junk are discarded on site.
wood chips, etc.)
Hazardous and other wastes
are disposed of on
are improperly discarded
your property.
down sewer system, septic
system or storm drains.
is burned on site.
On-site
dumping
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
4 Action Checklist
Go back over the assessments and look for all medium and high waste or high
risk potentials you identified. Write them below. For each item listed, write
down the improvements you plan to make. Use recommendations from this
chapter and other resources to decide on actions you are likely to complete. A
target date will keep you on schedule. You don’t have to do everything at once,
but try to eliminate the most serious problems as soon as you can. Often it
helps to tackle the inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action:
Example: Products purchased without considering
if packaging is recyclable.
Find out about town recycling programs
and try to buy products whose packaging
can be recycled locally.
One week from today:
May 15
Home*A*Syst
Managing Household Trash
23
Resources
Recycling, composting and waste disposal information
Contact your local health or sanitation department, recycling center or
Michigan State University Extension office. Get the latest list of what is
recyclable, how to identify it and how to prepare it for recycling. Ask for
information on composting and other disposal alternatives.
List of local recycling programs:
Use clickable map at www.michigan.gov/deqreswastecontacts.
If no local recycling program:
www.1800cleanup.org or call 1-800-CleanUp.
Electronic waste:
For information about industry-sponsored electronics recycling or disposal
(computers, televisions, cell phones, etc.), contact the manufacturer. Many
national electronics manufacturers and major retailers have sponsored
collections and offer low- or no-cost recycling programs. Information can be
found about these programs by searching their corporate websites or asking
about them where you purchase your electronic products. You may also
contact your local Goodwill store.
For more information about electronics recycling in Michigan:
This Home*A*Syst chapter does not
www.michigan.gov/deq - Enter “electronic reuse and recycling” in the cover all potential issues or risks related
search bar.
to solid waste management that could
affect health or environmental quality.
Prescription drug disposal:
It is meant to serve as a starting point
www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-ess-cau-rxbrochure.pdf
for identifying and addressing the most
apparent risks. Other Home*A*Syst
Wastes that cannot be landfilled:
chapters on a variety of topics can help
www.michigan.gov/deq-ess-p2tas-BannedLandfillMaterials.pdf
homeowners examine and address their
most important environmental concerns.
Local regulations on burning and dumping
Contact your local township, city or county government office to find out
This chapter was written collaboratively
what waste management options are allowed and available. If you still have
by Shirley Niemeyer, Extension
questions, contact the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
specialist, University of NebraskaEnvironmental Assistance Center at 1-800-662-9278 or the DEQ Waste and
Lincoln; Michael P. Vogel, solid waste
Hazardous Materials Division or Air Quality Division District staff. You can
specialist, Montana State University
find your district office by going to www.michigan.gov/deq. Click “contact
Extension Service at Bozeman, and
DEQ” at the top of the page, and then click the District Office Locations link.
Kathleen Parrott, Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University at
Books
The green consumer supermarket guide. 1991. Makower, J. Penguin Books, Blacksburg. It was adapted for
Michigan by Terry Gibb, Roberta Dow
New York, N.Y. ISBN: 0140147756
and Jim Bardenhagen, Michigan State
University Extension. Updated in 2008.
Rubbish! The archeology of garbage. 2001. Rathje, W., and C. Murphy.
University of Arizona Press, Tuscon, Ariz. ISBN: 9780816521432
24
Managing Household Trash
Home*A*Syst
T
S
Y
tem
S
s
y
*
*A ent S
Essessm
OM
eA
HHom
S
ome products may be harmful
to your health and the
environment when they’re used
improperly. This chapter will help
you recognize and reduce your risks.
It covers safe use of products from
purchase to disposal.
This chapter is divided into
three parts:
1. Purchase and use
‹‹Product choice
‹‹Amount purchased
‹‹Safe use
2. Safe storage
‹‹Child safety
‹‹Containers and spill prevention
‹‹Ventilation
3. Disposal
‹‹What to do with leftovers
Chapter 3. Managing Hazardous
Household Products
Why should I be concerned?
Some products used around the home can pose threats to your health or the
environment if not used properly. Vapors from paint thinner and other solvents
can be harmful to breathe. If dumped on the ground, products such as motor oil
or pesticides may end up contaminating your drinking water or a nearby stream.
This chapter will help you make choices that will reduce risks to your family,
your drinking water and the environment. It is up to you to use, reuse or
dispose of these products safely. For each chemical or product, there are many
questions to think about:
‹‹Which product best meets my needs?
‹‹Is there a less harmful product?
‹‹What is the best way to store it?
‹‹How can I use it safely?
‹‹What should I do with leftovers?
‹‹Is it safe to use around children?
What does the word “hazardous” mean?
Hazardous products are used in many household jobs. Some are flammable and
will catch fire easily. Others will irritate or burn your skin. Poisons (toxins) are
often used around the house. Even products that you think are non-hazardous
can cause problems if not used properly. These are explained below. It is
good to know the difference between hazards to health and hazards to the
environment.
Household products that could be hazardous, if poorly managed:
Household cleaners—ammonia, bleach, oven cleaner, drain opener,
toilet cleaner.
Building supplies—treated lumber, sealants, some glues and cements,
wood preservatives.
Automobile products—antifreeze, motor oil and fluids, cleaning
solvents, lead-acid batteries, gasoline, mercury switches.
Home maintenance products—oil-based paints, mineral spirits,
paint thinner, paint stripper, products that can remove tough grease or
adhesives.
Hobby and recreational supplies—photo chemicals, marine paints,
electronic equipment cleaners, pool chemicals, lighter fluid.
Pesticides—weed killers, rat and mouse poisons, insect sprays,
fungicides, mothballs.
Personal products—hair sprays, fingernail polish, polish remover, hair
remover, spray leather protector.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Hazardous Household Products
25
Human health hazards
Chemicals contained in some of the products in your home can cause health problems,
especially if the user does not observe product label warnings. Health effects can range
from minor problems, such as itchy, red skin or sneezing, to major problems, such as
poisoning or burns.
You can be exposed to a hazardous ingredient by eating or drinking (ingestion), breathing
dust or vapors (inhalation), skin contact or eye splash. The amount of harm from hazardous
chemicals depends on:
‹‹The types of chemicals in the product.
‹‹How much of the ingredient you are exposed to.
‹‹Your weight, age and state of health.
Some harmful effects appear right away (acute poisoning). Common symptoms are nausea,
trouble breathing, itchy red skin, burning eyes, dizziness and headaches. Other effects, such
as damage to lungs or kidneys, take a long time to occur (chronic poisoning).
Environmental hazards
Household products can also be hazardous to plants and animals. For example, pesticides
washing into a stream can kill fish. Contamination of the environment can in turn affect us.
Our health can be threatened if the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe
become contaminated. Once released through improper use or disposal, some chemicals
can last a long time and have many effects. Some can become a part of living systems and
be passed from one plant or animal to another. If enough of a toxic (poisonous) chemical
builds up, it could harm normal body functions.
Some cleanup or dumping practices may not seem likely to lead to trouble, but old habits
should be looked at for possible risks. Remember:
✔✔Don’t dump oils, paints or pesticides on roads or down storm sewers.
✔✔Don’t dump anything in a wetland or stream.
✔✔Don’t dump used motor oil or antifreeze on the ground, down a storm drain or into any
surface water.
✔✔Don’t pour chemicals into a drain that leads to a septic tank.
✔✔Don’t spray pesticides on a windy day or near lakes, streams or wetlands.
✔✔Don’t burn hazardous materials in a barrel or outdoor fire.
✔✔Don’t flush old or unwanted medications down the drain or toilet.
Part 1 – Product Choice, Purchase and Use
Your choice of products is important. By carefully choosing the right amount of the right
product for the job, you can control the amount of hazard you bring to your home. These
facts will help you decide your risks from products you use.
How can you tell which products are hazardous?
READ THE LABEL AND ALWAYS STORE THE PRODUCT IN ITS ORIGINAL
CONTAINER. Labels contain signal words and important information about product use,
storage and safe disposal, first aid and ingredients. Take a look at the labels on some of
the products in your home. The label is especially important should someone accidentally
ingest the product and you are calling Poison Control for help (see the blue box on the next
page).
26
Managing Hazardous Household Products
Home*A*Syst
Many health problems can be avoided by carefully following label rules for safe use.
Remember, lack of a warning on a product label does not mean that the product is safe.
Use any chemical product with care and caution. Ask questions, and look for helpful
ideas from health agency workers, your local Michigan State University Extension office,
manufacturers, articles and books. Refer to Chart 1: Hazardous Products at the end of this
chapter.
The signal words on the label—CAUTION, WARNING and DANGER—can mean
different things, depending on the product. The signal word DANGER is required on
any product that is very flammable, corrosive or toxic. Products labeled DANGER,
FLAMMABLE, POISON, VAPOR HARMFUL or FATAL IF SWALLOWED may cause
environmental harm as well as human health problems. In all cases, they signal that one
should read the label and use care with these products. Some terms on labels, however, may
be misleading. Companies can promote their products as “ozone safe” or “environmentally
friendly,” but there is no common agreement about what these terms mean.
If you need more product advice than the label contains, you may want to ask for a material
safety data sheet (MSDS) from the manufacturer. (Most companies give a phone number
on their product label and will answer questions by phone.) You may also call the National
Pesticide Information Center, 1-800-858-7378, for instant advice on toxicology, health and
safety questions.
In case of emergency
Don’t rely only on the label for information. Poison Control—a national
computer data network—can give emergency health advice about a product.
1-800-222-1222
Keep this number close to your phone.
For reporting or information about spills of hazardous products, contact the
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at 1-800-292-4706.
Can a different product do the job?
When choosing from many brands of the same kind of product—for example, paint strippers
or degreasers—look for the least hazardous product that will do the job. Unless you read
the label, you may buy a hazardous product such as a petroleum-based cleaner when you
could buy a water-based detergent or a kitchen cleanser. Read the label to find out what is
the safest for you.
You may have some recipes for household cleaning products using common ingredients
instead of hazardous chemicals. But your homemade products may not be safer. If you
choose to make your own household products, be sure to follow these safety steps:
✔✔Use only one ingredient at a time. Never mix ingredients or products without
directions. Be sure to rinse between products used on one place.
✔✔Always test any cleaner on a small area before using it for the whole job.
✔✔Do not use food products such as vegetable oil or milk for cleaning. They may spoil or
allow mold or bacteria to grow.
✔✔Use clean containers when storing your homemade product. The date and all contents
should be clearly written on the label. Make sure containers do not look like food or
beverage containers.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Hazardous Household Products
27
Do you buy only what you need?
If you buy more than you need, hazardous products may build up and create
storage and/or disposal problems. Product containers may become damaged
and leak. Some products are not useful after long storage. Some products,
such as pesticides, may have been restricted or banned since they were bought.
If that happens, safe use and disposal of these products becomes much harder.
Avoid these problems by buying only what you need for the job at hand. If you
find you have more than you need, offer to give it to someone who may be able
to use it, or take it to a local household hazardous waste collection or Clean
Sweep program. (See “Resources” at the end of this chapter.)
4 Assessment 1 – Product Choice, Purchase
and Use
Use the following assessment to rate your risks in the purchase and use of
household products. For each question, put your risk level (low, medium or
high) in the column “Your risk.” Some choices may not be exactly like your
case, so choose the answer that fits best. Go to Part 1 above if you need help.
Product choice
Amount
purchased
Safe use
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
I always read labels
and choose the least
hazardous product that
will do the job.
I buy what I need for
specific jobs and use
up most of the products
within 6 to 12 months
after purchase.
I follow label
instructions and
take recommended
precautions against
exposure (such as good
ventilation, face masks,
gloves).
I sometimes read labels
and occasionally avoid
hazardous products.
I never read labels
and purchase products
regardless of hazards.
I buy more than I
need and keep excess
products more than a
year.
I buy more than I need
and throw excess away.
I follow some label
instructions.
I never follow label
instructions, even when
recommended.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your health risks and reduce possible harm to the
environment. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of the chapter to write the
medium and high risks you found. Use the advice above to help you reduce
your risks.
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Managing Hazardous Household Products
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Your
risk
Be prepared—make a
spill kit!
A spill kit is a very handy
item to keep around the
house should chemicals
leak or spill. A spill kit
contains items in one handy
box to assist in the cleanup
of dry or wet spills.
‹‹Plastic storage tote –
Holds materials in one
location.
‹‹Safety goggles –
Protect eyes, one of the
most sensitive areas on
the human body.
‹‹Chemical-resistant
gloves – Nitrile gloves
are suitable for most
household chemicals;
work gloves or gloves
with linings do not
provide adequate
protection.
‹‹Broom and dust pan –
To sweep up dry spills.
‹‹Garbage bags – For
easy handling of leaky
or spilled material.
‹‹Cat litter or sawdust –
To soak up liquid spills
before sweeping and
disposing.
‹‹Emergency telephone
numbers – To seek help
if needed.
Part 2 – Safe Storage
Leftover chemicals such as pesticides, paint, paint stripper, used motor oil
and antifreeze need to be stored until they are used up or disposed of. Safe
storage of hazardous products can help reduce your risk. Use the advice
below to help you fill out the assessment at the end of this section.
When you store hazardous products, do you:
✔✔Keep them out of reach of children and pets?
✔✔Store them in a locked, secure area?
✔✔Store them in their original containers?
✔✔Make sure all containers are clearly labeled and dated?
✔✔Keep containers tightly sealed and dry?
✔✔Store at least 150 feet from a well or wetland, lake or stream?
✔✔Store batteries in a covered plastic container, away from all chemicals?
✔✔Store flammable chemicals in a cool, well-ventilated area away from
sparks or flame?
✔✔Have a spill kit?
Are your storage locations and containers really safe?
If you can smell a household product being stored, the lid may be loose or
ventilation is not good enough to protect your health. Be sure to separate
corrosives such as acid or lye from other hazardous products to prevent
dangerous reactions or fire. Regularly check areas where you store
hazardous products (under the kitchen sink, in the basement or garage) to
make sure that containers are closed tightly, they are not leaking, and the
sides are not bulging.
To view a virtual house showing where hazardous products are commonly
found, what they are, their specific ingredients and disposal information, go
to www.purdue.edu/envirosoft/housewaste/house/house.htm (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Hazardous products can
be found throughout the home.
Image by Karla Embleton and Amy
Childress, Purdue University.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Hazardous Household Products
29
4 Assessment 2 – Product Storage Safety
Use the following assessment to rate your risks in the safe storage of household products. For each
question, put your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column “Your risk.” Some choices may
not be exactly like your case, so choose the answer that fits best. See Part 2 if you need more help.
Low risk/
recommended
Hazardous products stored
in a locked cabinet or other
location inaccessible to
children/pets.
Leftovers stored in original
Safe
containers and properly
storage
sealed. Products sorted by
type. Environment protected
from spills, such as with
secondary containment or
impervious floor. Products
protected from overheating
or freezing.
Ventilation Volatile products (such as
solvents and petroleumbased fluids) stored in locked
places with good ventilation.
Child
safety
Spill kit
Spill kit conveniently
available for chemical spill
emergencies.
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Hazardous products kept
out of direct reach of
children (on a high shelf)
but still accessible.
Original containers
stored in a disorganized
way. No protection
against leaks or spills.
Products protected from
overheating or freezing.
Hazardous products easily
accessible to children/pets
(unlocked cabinet, lower
shelf).
Leftovers kept in nonoriginal containers such as
used milk jugs or glass jars.
Stored unlabeled without
caps or lids. No protection
for leaks and spills.
Products not protected from
overheating or freezing.
No attention to storage
location, but each
container is in good
shape and tightly sealed.
Products stored in
basements, closets, crawl
spaces or other areas with
poor ventilation. Containers
in bad shape or left open.
No spill kit available.
Spill kit present but
difficult to access.
Your
risk
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your health risks and reduce possible harm to the environment. Turn to the Action
Checklist at the end of the chapter to write the medium and high risks you found. Use the advice above to
help you reduce your risks.
Part 3 – Product Disposal
Unless a product is entirely used, you will have to get rid of it. Even the containers of really
hazardous products, such as pesticides, must be disposed of safely. Use the advice below to
help you fill out the risk assessment at the end of this section.
What is the best way to get rid of leftover hazardous products?
You can avoid this problem by buying only what you need, using up your leftovers or recycling. Throwing
a product away should be your last choice. Giving leftover products to a neighbor who will use them
appropriately means you no longer have a hazardous waste problem. Some areas have swap programs to
increase sharing, and choices for recycling are growing. Used motor oil and antifreeze can be recycled in
many communities at car parts, car repair or oil change shops. Some products such as batteries are accepted
back through an industry-supported program such as Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC).
30
Managing Hazardous Household Products
Home*A*Syst
If these are not available, contact your local solid waste coordinator. To locate yours, go to the clickable map
at www.michigan.gov/deqreswastecontacts. Your local solid waste coordinator will be able to tell you when the
next household hazardous waste drop-off will be. If your area does not have such a program, contact your local
garbage hauler for disposal advice. Some products may be safely sent to a landfill. For example, leftover latex
paint can be dried in the can and then put in the garbage. Small quantities of oil-based paint can be solidified
by adding cat litter or an oil spill absorption product. A small number of items are banned from landfills in
Michigan. Information about what to do with these items is included in the “Talking Trash” brochure at www.
deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-ess-p2tas-BannedLandfillMaterials.pdf
Pesticides. Use a Clean Sweep or household hazardous waste dropoff program in your community to get rid
of unwanted or unusable pesticides. You will need to make an appointment and provide the amount and type
of pesticides you plan to bring in. This allows the hazardous waste coordinator to have the proper materials
for handling your pesticides. To find your nearest Clean Sweep site, go to www.michigan.gov/mda and enter
Map Clean Sweep in the search site and then click on MDA- Operation Clean Sweep. The pesticide label will
provide container disposal advice. Some pesticide containers may be returned to the dealer for safe disposal.
Pharmaceuticals. Most of us have leftover, expired or unneeded medications around the house. They
should not be flushed down the toilet or drain. Septic systems and city wastewater treatment systems are not
designed to remove these chemicals. They have been identified in groundwater and surface water. This is a
growing national concern. Check to see if the local pharmacy is taking back unwanted drugs. Some drugstores
accept expired medications for disposal, but pharmacies cannot legally accept controlled substances from
citizens. Find special collections for unused and expired drugs. Check with your household hazardous waste
collection or recycling program coordinators to see if medications are accepted in your area. A list of contacts
is at www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-ess-p2-recycle-countycontacts.pdf. If a collection program is not
immediately available, follow the handling suggestions in the drug disposal section of the drug label/ insert.
Sharps. Disposal of sharps (needles, syringes and lancets) poses a particular risk to sanitation and sewage
treatment workers, janitors, housekeepers and children. People exposed to loose sharps risk painful sticks or,
worse, life-altering diseases. Users of sharps need to have a clearly labeled sharps container. Safe disposal
options consist of drop-off collection sites (go to www.michigan.gov/deq and search for “sharps collection”),
residential special waste pickup services, mail-back programs, syringe exchange programs and home needle
destruction devices. Go to www.epa.gov/epaoswer/other/medical/med-govt.pdf for more info.
Is dumping or burning a safe choice?
Never dump or bury hazardous products near wells or water. Never pour products down storm sewers. Some
cleaning products that dissolve in water may be safely poured down the drain if flushed with plenty of water.
Septic system owners need to be careful and not dump large amounts of anything into the septic system. Never
burn hazardous waste in a burn barrel or stove. This may release toxic gases and leave hazardous ash. It may
also cause an explosion.
4 Assessment 3 – Product Disposal
The assessment on the following page gives general disposal advice. Check the waste group in the left-hand
column and see if any of your disposal practices pose risks to your health or the environment. See Chart 1,
“Hazardous Product Examples,” on page 33, for specific products.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Write your medium and high risks on the Action Checklist. Use the advice
above to help you reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Hazardous Household Products
31
Waste group
(refer to Chart 1)
Household trash
Low risk/
recommended
I use up hazardous
ingredients. I
Trash containing
recycle or dispose of
plastics or empty
hazardous product
containers of
hazardous ingredients. containers at licensed
landfill according to
label. No burning
done.
Strong acids and I share leftover
bases (corrosive) products or take to a
landfill after packaging
Found in hobby
products, cleaners and safely.
repair products.
I recycle batteries
Batteries
or take them to a
Mercury, cadmium
hazardous waste
and lead.
disposal program
I share, recycle or
Hazardous
take leftovers to a
products
hazardous waste
disposal program. I
follow the label for
safe disposal.
I handle all types
Pesticides
of pesticides as
(See Chapter 9,
directed on the label.
“Caring for the Yard
Unwanted or unusable
and Garden.”)
pesticides are taken to
a Clean Sweep site.
Pharmaceuticals I contact my local
household hazardous
waste coordinator
about take-back
programs in my area.
I never flush waste
medications down the
drain or toilet.
I use a community
Sharps
Hypodermic needles, take-back program
for used sharps. I
lancets.
store them in a clearly
labeled, safely stored
container, and seal it
when transporting to
collection program.
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
I burn hazardous
containers. I dispose of
ash from mixed trash on
my property but away
from my well or any
water.
I burn hazardous
containers near people
or animals. I dispose of
ash from mixed trash,
leftover pesticides and
chemicals on my land
or near a well or water.
I pour strong acids and
cleaners down a drain
connected to a septic
system without adding
water.
I pour strong acids and
cleaners into storm
sewers, creeks or
streams, or in a ditch
leading to water.
Your
risk
I dispose of batteries in I dump batteries and
my garbage, which goes chemicals in the same
to a licensed landfill.
spot, near a well, water
or stream.
I dispose of leftover
I don’t follow the
products in a licensed
label. I dispose of
landfill.
leftover products in
the same place, near a
well or water, or dump
leftovers in a stream.
I do not handle
pesticides as directed on
the label. I don’t bother
to properly dispose of
unusable pesticides at
Clean Sweep.
I make my unwanted
I flush all unused
medications unusable
medications down the
by filling pill bottles
drain or toilet.
with liquid soap and
removing personal
information from the
bottle label, then wrap
in bags and put in trash.
I collect used sharps
I throw sharps away or
in a clearly labeled,
flush down the drain.
puncture-proof
container. When it is
full, I seal the container
and put it in the trash
(NOT recycle bin).
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
32
Managing Hazardous Household Products
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Chart 1: Hazardous Product Examples
Household trash
‹‹ash/ sludge from home or garbage
trash burn barrel
‹‹used motor oil
‹‹unrinsed pesticide or chemical
containers
‹‹empty containers from other
hazard categories
‹‹fluorescent light bulbs/tubes
Clothing and fabric care
products, personal products
‹‹mothballs
‹‹dry-cleaning fluids
‹‹spot removers (solvent-based)
‹‹shoe/leather polishes
‹‹fingernail polish
‹‹polish remover
‹‹hair sprays
Hobby and recreation
products
‹‹artist paints and solvents
‹‹charcoal lighter fluid
‹‹strong acids and bases
‹‹household batteries (mercury or
cadmium)
‹‹chemistry set
‹‹photography and swimming pool
chemicals
Household cleaners
‹‹bleach
‹‹ammonia
‹‹oven cleaner
‹‹drain opener
‹‹toilet bowl cleaner
Medical
‹‹unwanted medications
‹‹used sharps
Pesticides
‹‹pesticides (general and
restricted-use)
‹‹old (banned) pesticides
‹‹unwanted pesticides (insecticides,
fungicides, herbicides, etc.)
Home*A*Syst
Automobile products
‹‹antifreeze, motor oil, grease
‹‹gasoline
‹‹solvents for oil and grease
removal
‹‹engine, parts cleaners:
transmission, carburetor, brake
quieter
‹‹paints and paint preparation
products
‹‹lead-acid battery
‹‹battery terminal cleaner
‹‹tire cleaners
‹‹rust removers
‹‹ignition wire dryer
‹‹gasket removers
‹‹aerosol paint and primer
products
‹‹lubricants
‹‹other fluids
Home improvement/
repair products
‹‹building and wood cleaners
‹‹wood polishes
‹‹wood floor and panel cleaning
products
‹‹paint stripper
Building and equipment
maintenance products
‹‹strong acids and bases
‹‹lead-based paint
‹‹oil/alkyd paints
‹‹paint primer
‹‹aerosol paint
‹‹stains and finishes
‹‹roof coatings and sealants
‹‹rust removers
‹‹silicon lubricants
‹‹other lubricants
‹‹adhesives, glues and caulk
‹‹wood-preservative products
‹‹brush or spray gun cleaners
‹‹wood and cement water
repellents
‹‹solvents for degreasers and
paint thinners, stains, varnishes
Managing Hazardous Household Products
33
4 Action Checklist
When you finish the assessments, go back over them to find high and medium
risks. Write them below. For each one you found, write down the changes you
plan to make. Use ideas from this chapter and other sources (see list below).
Pick a target date to keep you on track for making changes. You don’t have to
do everything at once, but try to change the greatest risks as soon as you can.
Often it helps to start with less expensive actions first.
List the high and medium risks
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action
Example: Cabinet with cleaning solvents and
paint stripper is not childproof.
Buy a lock and install on cabinet.
One week from today:
November 28
Resources
Hazardous products – Contact the manufacturer.
Pesticides – Contact the manufacturer, the Michigan Department of Agriculture
regional office in your area or your local Michigan State University Extension
office.
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Managing Hazardous Household Products
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Publications
“Reading a Pesticide Label.” Bulletin E-2182
(also available in Spanish: E-2182SP), Michigan State University Extension.
“Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety.” 1995.
EPA Booklet 730-K-95-001.
Contact: National Center for Environmental Publications and Information,
P.O. Box 42419, Cincinnati, OH 45242-2419. May be downloaded at
www.epa.gov/oppfead1/Publications/Cit_Guide/citguide.pdf.
“Toxics in Your Home.” Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council brochure.
Contact: Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, 426 Bay St., Petoskey, MI 49770.
Phone: 231-347-1181.
Further Information
The Ecology Center
117 N. Division St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1580
Phone: 734-761-3186
Email: [email protected]
Contact for educational environmental programs, classroom-ready
environmental material, phone call assistance, the “GEE-Wow!” children’s
newsletter and much more.
East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC)
21220 West Fourteen Mile Road
Bloomfield Township, MI 48301
Phone: 248-258-5188
Contact for various environmental and household publications, groundwater
information, brochures, flyers, fact sheets and more.
Hazards in the Home (Virtual)
www.purdue.edu/envirosoft/housewaste/house/house.htm
Household Hazardous Waste Programs
Go to clickable map at www.michigan.gov/deqreswastecontacts.
Michigan Clean Sweep Program
For disposing of pesticides. Go to www.michigan.gov/mda.
Enter “Clean Sweep” in search bar, click “MDA - Clean Sweep” then click
“Clean Sweep Contact Information by County.”
Michigan Technological Center for Science and Outreach
1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931
Phone: 906-487-3341
Email: [email protected]
Contact for general information on hazardous household products.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Hazardous Household Products
35
Environmental Hazards Management Institute (EHMI)
P.O. Box 932, Durham, NH 03824
Phone: 1-800-446-5256
www.ehmi.org
Contact for various environmental products and information (e.g., Household
Hazardous Waste Wheel).
West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC)
1007 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Phone: 616-451-3051
www.wmeac.org
Contact for sustainable living, sustainable agriculture and water quality
resources.
Contact your Michigan State University Extension office, county conservation
district office, or government office in your county or city for various other
materials related to this subject.
This Home*A*Syst chapter does not cover all possible risks due to household
hazardous wastes that could affect your health or environmental quality. Other
chapters on various topics help homeowners look at their most important
environmental concerns.
This chapter was written by Elaine Andrews, Environmental Resources Center,
Cooperative Extension, University of Wisconsin Extension, and adapted for
Michigan by Ann Chastain, Roberta Dow and Jim Bardenhagen, Michigan
State University Extension, and Jill Send, AmeriCorps. Updated in 2008.
36
Managing Hazardous Household Products
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T
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Chapter 4. Lead in and around the
Home: Identifying and Managing its Sources
his chapter addresses sources
of lead in and around the
home and explains the health
hazards associated with exposure to
lead. Completing the assessments
will help you identify and evaluate
lead-related risks to your family’s
health. This chapter is divided into
four parts:
Why should you be concerned?
1. Identifying lead sources
inside the home
Lead is a soft metal that has been used in ammunition, ceramics, printer’s ink,
children’s toys, solder, paint, coins, leaded crystal, water pipes and gasoline,
and for many other purposes. Lead is dangerous because it is so widely used
and lasts for hundreds of years in the environment. It never breaks down into
a harmless substance. You can take steps to reduce your exposure to lead, but
you cannot completely avoid it. Reducing exposure is especially important for
children.
‹‹Lead-based paint in or on pre-
1978 homes
‹‹Lead in drinking water from
contact with lead pipes, lead-based
solder or other plumbing sources
2. Identifying lead sources
outside the home
‹‹Leaded exterior paint
‹‹Automobile exhaust
‹‹Industry
3. Health effects of lead on
children
‹‹Avenues of exposure
‹‹Effects and symptoms of
poisonings
4. Living safely with lead
‹‹Cleaning existing lead
contamination in the home
‹‹Containing lead sources to prevent
poisoning
Lead poisoning is a serious but preventable health problem. Many public
health experts consider it the No. 1 children’s environmental health problem in
the United States. Many homes have one or more sources of lead. According
to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (19992000), an estimated 434,000 children ages 1 to 5 years had blood lead levels
of greater than or equal to 10 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL) at a given time.
The chief suspect is lead-based paint dust in older homes. Families can also be
exposed to lead from other sources.
Depending on the level, lead can have wide-ranging effects in humans. Even
very low lead levels in children can slow or stop mental development and cause
learning and behavioral problems. Lead can also cause high blood pressure.
Higher levels may cause damage to the nervous system and the reproductive
system. Sadly, the effects of lead poisoning are often not reversible.
Where are the lead sources in and around the home?
The most common sources of lead are deteriorating lead-based paint,
household dust (which can contain lead dust from deteriorating lead-based
paint or remodeling), soils contaminated by leaded paint or leaded gasoline
exhaust, and drinking water delivered through lead pipes or in contact with lead
solder or some brass faucets. Over the years, lead has been eliminated by law
in residential paint, gasoline, solder and water pipes. However, many older
homes contain lead paint, and even newer homes can contain lead from other
sources. Unlike many chemicals, lead does not break down and can remain for
long periods in paints, dusts and soil.
Home*A*Syst
Lead in and around the Home
37
✔✔Part 1 – Identifying Lead Sources Inside the
Home
Identifying and controlling sources of lead in and around your home is an
important responsibility. To determine potential risks from sources inside your
home, complete the assessment at the end of this section. The information
below will help you answer the assessment questions.
When was your home built?
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 74
percent of all homes built before 1980 contain potentially dangerous levels
of lead paint. Although lead has been banned from house paint since 1978,
the majority of U.S. homes were built before then. Homes built before 1950
are very likely to have high lead levels, especially in paint used on windows
and exterior surfaces. Levels as high as 25 to 35 percent lead by weight are
common. Some pre-1950 paint was 50 percent lead.
Does your interior paint contain lead? What is its condition?
Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead exposure for children.
Most exposure, however, comes from contact with contaminated household
dust rather than eating paint chips. As paint ages or as painted surfaces rub
against each other, lead-containing dust is created. If your lead-based paint is
perfectly intact, then the potential risk of ingestion is greatly reduced. But if
paint is cracking, chipping, flaking or being rubbed by contact, the danger of
lead exposure is much higher.
Testing for lead
In Michigan, two types of lead identification can be done on homes: a lead
inspection and a risk assessment. The inspection will look for how much
lead is in interior and exterior paint. The assessment will determine the lead
dangers in and outside the house and how to reduce them.
To find out if your paint contains lead – and if so, how much – have it analyzed
by experts who test samples in a laboratory or who examine paint on-site
using a portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) detector. Surface wipe samples,
which are used to test dust for lead contamination, may be taken by lead
professionals and sent to a lab for analysis. Some laboratories may analyze
surface wipe samples collected by the homeowner. Do-it-yourself home test
kits are available in stores. They indicate the presence or absence of lead but
do not indicate how much lead is present. Home test kits may not be reliable
for testing surfaces in your home; it is best to have such tests done by a
professional. Check with local health officials or the Michigan Department of
Community Health’s website at www.michigan.gov/leadsafe.
38
Lead in and around the Home
Home*A*Syst
If you find lead…
Remodeling or renovating in areas having lead-based paint is especially risky.
Scraping, sanding or burning lead-based paint creates extremely hazardous
conditions, and strict precautions need to be taken – especially if children,
pregnant women or pets are present. If possible, homeowners should use the
services of a certified lead-abatement contractor. Certified Michigan lead
service providers can be found at the LeadSafe website, or by calling the
Department of Community Health Lead Program toll-free at 1-866-691-5323.
Paint removal, replacement of lead-painted parts (such as windows, door jambs
and moldings), liquid encapsulants (special paint-like products that cover a
surface) and removal of leaded surfaces are some of the options for dealing
with lead paint. Lead-based paint removal by untrained workers who do not
use the proper methods and equipment can create a much greater health hazard
than just leaving the paint alone.
Is there lead paint on windows and door frames? What is
their condition?
Paints with higher lead levels were used where exposure to moisture was
greatest: windows, doors and exterior walls. If high lead-based paint is intact,
it poses little risk. If it is chipping or chalking off or is scraped or sanded
during repairs, then the risk of exposure is great. Lead dust, most dangerous to
kids and pets, is likely to come from weathering (chalking) paint and especially
from surfaces that bang or slide together, such as doors and windows
(Figure 1).
Figure 1: High friction
areas, such as inside
window frames, are likely
sources of lead dust, which
falls to the sill and floor.
Safety note
If you’re planning to do any remodeling yourself, you should
become knowledgeable about lead paint. Contact the National
Lead Information Center (NLIC) at 1-800-424-LEAD. Many
communities offer “Lead Safe Work Practices,” an 8-hour
training program through the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA). A do-it-yourself guide to lead-safe painting,
repair and home improvement may be obtained online at
www.michigan.gov/mdch. Enter “Don’t Spread Lead” in the
search bar. You may also want to contact local landfills about
what remodeling wastes they accept and if they have special
requirements for lead-contaminated waste from the home.
Home*A*Syst
Lead in and around the Home
39
How else can lead enter the home?
In consumer products—Lead is present in such products as lead-crystal glassware and leaded wine bottle
neck wraps made before 1990. It may also be in some foreign-made products such as toys, miniblinds, chalk,
crayons, ceramics and food cans (which may be made with lead solder). Although lead is now less common in
printing inks, it may be present in food packaging labels and newspaper print.
From the workplace—Do you work in construction, bridge building, sandblasting, shipbuilding, plumbing,
battery manufacturing, auto radiator repair, furniture refinishing or foundry casting? If so, leaded dust from
your worksite can be carried into your home on your clothing, skin and hair. Workers exposed to leaded dust
should shower and change clothes before entering the home.
In hobby and recreation supplies—If your hobbies include stained glass, furniture refinishing, pottery (using
lead glazes), or collecting pewter or lead figurines, you may be exposing yourself and others to lead. Hunters
and anglers who use or make lead bullets and lead sinkers also come in contact with lead. Exposure can also
occur at indoor firing ranges.
In ethnic medicinals or cosmetics—Various Hispanic and Asian communities utilize mixtures that contain
high levels of lead. Some stomach preparations are quite toxic.
Is your drinking water lead-free?
Although your drinking water is not usually a concentrated lead source like paint or soil, it can still
pose risks to your family. Lead can enter your water from several points: lead pipes that bring water
to the home, lead pipe connectors, lead-soldered joints in copper plumbing, and lead-containing
brass faucets and pump components. In some private wells, underwater pumps with brass fittings
can cause elevated lead concentrations in drinking water, especially with new pumps or if the water
is soft (lacking calcium or magnesium minerals). Water that is soft or acidic (less than pH 7) can be
corrosive and dissolve lead from pipes and fittings more easily. Lead solder with more than .2 percent
lead and faucets and other plumbing features with more than 8 percent lead were banned in the United
States in 1987. Buildings had to be built with certified “lead-free” (less than 8 percent) fixtures after
August 1998. Home water softeners, though they do have benefits, may increase the amount of lead
leached into your drinking water if lead is present in your water system.
What can you do to minimize lead in your water?
Water testing will show if lead is present in your water and whether your water is
“aggressive” (acidic or soft). This is a special test, not part of the partial chemical
test. Contact a state-certified laboratory or health agency for instructions on how
to take a lead water sample. To find a certified lab near you, go to www.deq.state.
mi.us/documents/deq-ead-tas-labs-michlabs.pdf. If lead levels are greater than 15
parts per billion (ppb), action is recommended.
A simple way to reduce lead concentrations is to flush your plumbing system.
You must, however, test a sample from flushed water to be sure that it is below
the lead level of 15 ppb. If your water system has not been used for more than
four hours, flush the system by letting cold water run for a minute or two before
using it for drinking or cooking.
Also, always use cold tap water for cooking and drinking; hot water is more
likely to release lead if present in the plumbing system. Never use water
with high lead levels (over 15 ppb) to mix infant formula. For severe lead
contamination, you may need to install a water treatment device, such as a
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Lead in and around the Home
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Figure 2: Using bottled water
for drinking and cooking is one
option for dealing with leadcontaminated water.
reverse osmosis system, a distillation system or an activated carbon filter.
Buying bottled water for drinking and cooking may be the easiest and least
expensive option for dealing with severe lead contamination (Figure 2). Be
aware, however, that bottled water is not necessarily lead-free. Water treated
by distillation or reverse osmosis is usually best. Call or write to the company
and request a copy of its most recent water test results.
✔✔Assessment 1 – Identifying Lead Sources
Inside the Home
Use this assessment to rate your lead-related indoor health risks. For each
question, indicate your risk level (low, medium or high) in the right-hand
column. Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation,
choose the response that best fits. Refer to the information in Part 1 if you need
help completing the assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
Age of home
Interior paint
Windows and
doors
Water supply
Water acidity or
corrosiveness
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Your
risk
Built after 1978.
Built between 1950 and Built before 1950.
1978.
No lead-based paint. Lead-based paint
Deteriorating lead-based
present but intact.
paint: it is chipping,
peeling or chalking, or
Friction and impact
recent remodeling has
areas tested negative
disturbed the paint.
for lead.
No lead-based paint. Lead-based paint
Deteriorating lead-based
Windows and doors
present but intact.
paint: it is chipping,
with lead-based paint
peeling or chalking, or
have been replaced.
Friction and impact
recent remodeling has
areas tested negative
disturbed the paint.
for lead.
No lead water pipes, Lead present in
Lead likely to be present
leaded solder or
plumbing, but water
in plumbing, but water
brass fixtures used in has been tested and
has not been tested and
plumbing.
precautions have been no precautions have been
taken.
taken.
Hardness is near 80
Hardness is 60-80
Hardness is 60 mg/L or
milligrams per liter
mg/L.
less.
(mg/L).
pH = 7.5 to 8.5
pH = 6 to 7.5
pH = less than 6
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this
chapter to record the medium and high risks you identified. Plan actions to
help you reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Lead in and around the Home
41
Part 2 – Identifying Lead Sources Outside the
Home
Is your family tracking lead into the home?
The soil around your home can be a significant source of
lead exposure, and levels tend to be highest where house
walls meet the ground (Figure 3). Lead-contaminated soil
is a problem when children play outdoors, soil is tracked
inside the home by people and pets, and vegetables are
grown in contaminated soil. Soils may be contaminated by
flaking, peeling or chalking lead-based paint that follows
the drip line of the house.
In high-traffic areas, leaded gasoline exhaust has been
responsible for high levels of lead in soil, with levels
highest near major roadways. The shift to unleaded
gasoline has reduced this risk, but after years of
contamination, lead levels can still be high in the soil.
If you live near industrial sources such as incinerators, lead
smelters and battery recyclers, you should be concerned
about lead in your soil. Urban residents should consider having
their soil tested before planting a vegetable garden.
Figure 3: Chipped paint can cause
lead contamination of the soil.
What can soil tests reveal?
Testing your soil is the only way to detect a lead problem. To take samples
yourself, contact a laboratory participating in the National Lead Laboratory
Accreditation Program, or hire a Michigan certified lead risk assessor to take
and submit a sample. You can also get your soil tested through a few local
health departments and Michigan State University Extension offices for a fee.
If high lead levels are found, there are several steps you can take. Planting
grass or covering soil with mulch can keep your family from tracking the soil
indoors. In some cases, removal and replacement of heavily contaminated
topsoil may be recommended.
What level is safe?
Lead exists naturally in soils. It is recommended that children and pregnant
women avoid soils with lead levels above 300 parts per million (ppm). If
you’re planting a garden in soils with levels above 300 ppm, information is
available for gardening practices (see additional resources at the end of this
chapter).
Lead levels in soil near busy roadways are typically 30 to 2,000 ppm higher
than natural levels. Soils adjacent to houses with leaded exterior paint are likely
to have higher lead levels. Levels near industrial sources can be dangerously
high, especially in downwind areas. Old orchards may also have high lead
levels due to lead-containing pesticides applied in the 1940s and 1950s.
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Lead in and around the Home
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✔✔Assessment 2 – Identifying Lead Sources
Outside the Home
Use the following assessment to rate your health risks due to lead outdoors.
For each question, indicate your risk level (low, medium or high) in the
right-hand column. Although some choices may not correspond exactly to
your situation, choose the response that best fits. Refer to the information in
Part 2 if you need help completing the assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
No lead-based paint, or
Lead-based
paint on exterior it is present but intact.
No bare soil around all
of house
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Your
risk
Lead-based paint is
weathered or chalking.
There is lead-based paint
in the soil around the
home, but no foot traffic.
Lead-based paint is
chipping, peeling or
chalking. There is bare
sides of the house.
soil and foot traffic
below painted walls.
Major roadway within
Major roadways No major roadway
nearby.
85 feet.
No
lead-related
industry
Lead-related
industry
Lead smelter, battery
Lead-related
or incinerators in the
previously in area.
manufacturer or
industry
area.
recycler, or other leadrelated industry nearby.
Soil tested to detect
No soil test conducted.
No soil test conducted.
Lead in soil
lead. Shoes taken off
Shoes taken off upon
No precautions
upon entering house and entering house and
taken to ensure leadtrack mats used at house track mats used at house contaminated soil is not
entrance.
entrance.
tracked inside.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this
chapter to record medium and high risks you identified. Plan actions to help
reduce your risks.
Part 3 – Health Effects of Lead on Children
Have children who live in or frequently visit your home been
tested for lead?
Children 6 years old and younger are much more likely to be affected by lead
than adults. They are more likely to ingest lead paint, dust and soil because
they naturally engage in hand-to-mouth activities. Children are also at greatest
risk from lead because their bodies are developing, and they absorb up to 50
percent of the lead they ingest. Adults absorb only about 10 percent.
Home*A*Syst
Lead in and around the Home
43
Most children with lead poisoning do not show visible symptoms, but all
have some degree of damage to the brain and nervous system. A blood test is
the only way to detect the problem (Figure 4). At higher levels of poisoning,
symptoms may include tiredness, a short attention span, restlessness, poor
appetite, constipation, headache, sudden behavior change, vomiting and
hearing loss. Many of these symptoms may be mistaken for other illnesses.
Lead is widespread in our environment, so it is almost impossible to have a
zero level in the blood. Lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter
(μg/dL) of blood. Levels of 10 μg/dL or higher are considered elevated in
children and are of medical concern.
Figure 4: A blood test is the only
way to detect lead poisoning in
children.
✔✔Assessment 3 – Health Effects of Lead in
Children
Use this assessment to rate your children’s health risks due to lead. Indicate the
risk level in the right-hand column. Refer to the information above if you need
help completing the assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
Children under 6 years.
living in or frequently
at the home have lead
blood test.
Blood lead level is 5
Blood test results Blood lead level is
under 5 μg/dL.
to 9 μg/dL.
in children
If home built
before 1978
High risk/
unsafe situation
Your
risk
Children under 6 years
of age in or often at the
home not tested.
Blood lead level is 10
μg/dL or higher.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this chapter to record the medium
and high risks you identified. Plan actions to help reduce your risks.
Part 4 – Living Safely With Lead
What are some safe cleaning practices you can use to reduce your risk of lead
exposure?
The first step to making your home a lead-safe environment is purchasing the correct supplies you need. You
may already have some of these items at home, but make sure to get latex gloves, absorbent wipes, garbage
bags, a spray bottle, liquid detergent, disposable towels and a mop. A final item to obtain is a high efficiency
particulate air (HEPA) vacuum, which can in some cases be obtained from your local health department.
Please note: a regular vacuum is not recommended because it will not capture lead dust.
A HEPA vacuum has a high efficiency particulate air filter built in that catches fine lead dust. This filter
catches up to 99 percent of the dust and dirt sucked into the vacuum. The HEPA vacuum should meet
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z9.2 standards and Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.
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Lead in and around the Home
Home*A*Syst
Check the vacuum owner’s manual before using, and do not open or change the bag or
empty any contents inside your home.
Inside the home
After obtaining a HEPA vacuum, use this vacuum on windows, floors and porches.
Follow this step by lightly misting with a soap solution. If a HEPA vacuum is not
available, carefully remove dirt and paint chips with a wet disposable towel, put it in
a plastic bag and put it in the trash. Replace towels until the surface is clean. Wipe
surfaces clean by applying pressure. This has been proven to be effective in removing
lead dust. Misting with the soap solution and then wiping with towels is a key step.
During this cleaning process, you should also keep windows closed until the cause of
the dust hazard is removed. If windows must be opened, restrict children from touching
window parts. Remove loose paint from the trough area, repaint and cover the trough
with metal or plastic. Install jam liners and sash kit, while replacing stops. Additionally,
any replacement of windows that occurs should be conducted by a Michigan certified
abatement company. Contact your local county health department for more information
about lead abatement and financial assistance options, or visit the Michigan Department of
Community Health lead website (see “Resources” at the end of this chapter). Encapsulant
paint can be used but only on frictionless surfaces.
When working with doors, many of the same steps above should be used. The key is to
eliminate all friction points. Install felt liner on door stops and scrape and repaint the door.
Rehang the door with new hardware if needed to eliminate further friction and/or impact
problems. Again, if you are replacing a large item such as a door, make sure to have this
done by a certified abatement company.
When working in storage areas, make note of places used to prepare or eat food. If lead
painted shelving or cabinets are used for food, cooking or eating utensils, linen or clothing,
remove and clean these items and store in a safe area until the hazardous lead area has been
treated. Replace, repaint and line all surfaces with vinyl, plastic or a similar covering.
Adjust doors, hinges and other hardware to further eliminate friction or impact.
For floors, damp mop vinyl and wood flooring with paper towels and a soap
solution. Start at the back of the room and work toward the exit door. You
will want to change towels often until no paint chips or dirt can be seen. Place
them in a garbage bag, and seal with a tape or a knot. The bag can be put out
for normal trash pickup.
Outside the home
When working on the outside of the home, put a tarpaulin down to catch
paint chips, wet painted surfaces to be scraped, remove loose paint on siding,
trim, railings and posts, and repaint. When the source of lead is deterioration,
remove loose paint and seal off the damaged area. The best scenario is to
replace the damaged component. This should be done by a certified abatement
company. The next best thing would be to repaint.
Figure 5: If possible, replace
lead-containing items with
new. Remember to use leadsafe work practices.
If swings, sandboxes or other children’s objects are in the contamination or
work area, relocate them to another area of the yard where ground cover is in
good condition. Instruct your children not to dig or play in the leaded soil. The
best-case scenario would be to remove soil to a depth of 6 inches and backfill
to the original ground height using non-leaded soil, then seed or sod the site.
Home*A*Syst
Lead in and around the Home
45
✔✔Assessment 4 – Safe Cleaning and Care
Practices
Use the following assessment to rate your cleaning and management practices
inside and outside the home. Indicate the risk level in the right-hand column.
Refer to the information in part 4 if you need help completing the assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
Vacuum used
for lead-safe
cleaning
Window areas
Door areas
Storage areas
(shelving, cabinets,
closets)
Disposal
techniques
Outside siding,
trim and fixture
areas of the
home
Soil outside of
home
Medium risk/
potential hazard
Use a HEPA vacuum for
cleaning.
All surfaces wet wiped;
paint chips removed and
window areas repainted.
Friction and impact
points eliminated; felt
liners installed; door
wetted, scraped and repainted.
Items used for food are
stored in lead-free area;
friction/impact points
eliminated; surfaces
repainted and relined
with a vinyl or plastic
covering.
Cleaning towels changed
often; all cleaning items
placed in sealed garbage
bag and put out in trash.
Loose paint removed;
deteriorated items
removed and replaced.
Children’s play
equipment moved onto
area with ground cover;
bare soil roto-tilled and
reseeded or sodded.
High risk/
unsafe situation
Use a regular vacuum
for cleaning.
Paint chips removed;
windows kept closed.
Paint chips removed
safely.
Items used for food are
stored in non-leaded
area; surfaces not
repainted and relined.
Paint chips left on
window area; window
kept open.
Paint on door is
chipping and not
removed.
Items used for food
remain in leadcontaminated area;
surfaces not repainted
or relined.
Towels reused or
cleaning items left in
open trash.
Paint chips removed;
deteriorated items repainted or sealed off
with vinyl or plastic
coverings.
Children’s play
equipment moved
onto area with ground
cover; bare soil
remains.
Loose paint chips
remain.
Bare, leadcontaminated soil in
play area.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this
chapter to record medium and high risks you identified. Plan actions to help
reduce your risks.
46
Lead in and around the Home
Home*A*Syst
Your
risk
✔✔Action Checklist
Go back over the assessments and look for all medium and high risks
you identified. Write them below. For each item listed, write down the
improvements you plan to make. Use recommendations from this chapter and
other resources to decide on actions you are likely to complete. A target date
will keep you on schedule. You don’t have to do everything at once, but try
to eliminate the most serious problems as soon as you can. Often it helps to
tackle the inexpensive and/or less time-intensive actions first.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action:
Example: House was built in 1935. Paint has
not been tested for lead.
Arrange for lead risk assessment of the
paint. Test for lead dust.
One week from today:
April 3
Resources
Blood tests
Contact your family physician, pediatrician or public health clinics.
Testing of paint samples and drinking water
Contact your local health department (offered only by a few) or private testing
laboratories.
Certified water testing laboratories: www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-eadtas-labs-michlabs.pdf
Approved lead laboratories: www.michigan.gov/leadsafe
Certified Michigan lead service providers: www.michigan.gov/leadsafe or call
toll-free 1-866-691-5323.
Educational information for parents and others
Contact your county’s Michigan State University Extension office.
Home*A*Syst
Lead in and around the Home
47
National Lead Information Center
To order a packet of material about lead, including information specific to your
state and locality, call the center toll-free at 1-800-LEAD-FYI. For personal
assistance on a lead-related question, call 1-800-424-LEAD.
Poison Control Centers
DeVos Regional Poison Control Center, Grand Rapids, Mich. Call toll-free at
1-800-222-1222.
Other useful websites
www.hud.gov/lead
www.epa.gov/lead
www.cdc.gov/lead
Publications
“Don’t Spread Lead: A do-it-yourself guide to lead-safe painting, repair
and home improvement.” Go to www.michigan.gov/mdch. Enter “Don’t
Spread Lead” into search bar.
“Get the Lead Out: Preventing Childhood Lead Poisoning through
Partnership.” At www.HealthyHomesCoalition.org.
“Lead in Your Drinking Water: Actions You Can Take to Reduce Lead in
Drinking Water.” At www.epa.gov/safewater/lead/lead1.html
“Lead Paint Safety: A Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, and
Renovation Work.” March 2001. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. Available
from the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323 or at
www.hud.gov/offices/lead. Publication # 1779-LHC. Also available through
EPA at www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadsafetybk.pdf.
“Reducing Lead Hazards when Remodeling Your Home.” 1997.
EPA 747-K-97-001. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/rrpamph.pdf
“Soil Lead Levels.” University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of
Plant and Soil Sciences, Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory.
www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest/lead1.htm
This Home*A*Syst chapter covers a variety of topics to help homeowners
examine and address their most important environmental concerns. See
the complete list of chapters in the table of contents at the beginning of this
handbook. For more information about topics covered in Home*A*Syst or
for information about laws and regulations specific to your area, contact the
Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program (MGSP) at 517-241-2154.
48
Lead in and around the Home
Home*A*Syst
This chapter was written by
Karen Filchak, Extension
educator, University of
Connecticut Cooperative
Extension, Brooklyn, Conn.
Revised with permission
from the author and adapted
for Michigan in 2008.
T
S
Y
tem
S
s
y
*
*A ent S
Essessm
OM
eA
HHom
T
Chapter 5. Indoor Air Quality:
Reducing Health Risks and Improving the Air
You Breathe
his chapter identifies where
indoor air problems come
from and what can be done
to eliminate them. Health hazards
related to air quality can be serious,
but there are many opportunities for
action. This chapter covers:
Why should you be concerned?
1. Identifying and controlling
potential sources of air
quality problems
What are the signs of trouble?
‹‹Combustion byproducts
‹‹Building materials
‹‹Biological contaminants
‹‹Household products and
chemicals
‹‹Radon
‹‹Methane
2. Ventilating indoor air
‹‹Ventilation
‹‹Air cleaning
Clean air is a precious asset – fresh, full of oxygen, clean-smelling and without
harmful pollutants. If you are like most people, you spend at least half of your
life inside your home. The air in many modern American homes, however,
may not be fit to breathe. It can be more polluted and dangerous to your health
than outdoor air. If your home has poor air quality, it may be simply annoying
or unpleasant, or it may lead to serious health problems.
It is not always easy to detect poor air quality. Although you can smell
paint vapors and see smoke, many harmful pollutants, such as deadly carbon
monoxide gas, are invisible and odorless. Common health problems, such as
irritated eyes and nose, headaches, dizziness, tiredness, asthma, viral infections
and respiratory diseases, may be due to substances in the air you breathe.
Some serious effects of poor air quality, such as lung cancer, may take many
years to develop. People react differently to contaminants depending on their
age, sensitivity and health status, and the type and length of exposure.
Part 1 – Identifying and Controlling Potential
Sources of Air Quality Problems
Finding the source—or sources—of pollutants should be your first step.
Addressing problems at the source is usually the most cost-efficient and
effective approach. If you do nothing else, dealing with the most troublesome
sources can lead to better health for everyone who breathes the air in your
home. Poor air quality is usually not the result of a single pollutant. Reducing
health risks to you and your family may require several actions.
Which sources exist in your home?
In addressing the problem of indoor air pollution, you need to think in terms of
a specific pollutant, such as formaldehyde or carbon monoxide. You also have
to track down the physical source of the pollutant—a furnace or damp crawl
space, for example. This chapter cannot cover all possible pollutants and their
sources, but it calls attention to the most common types and provides a starting
point for investigation and action.
Home*A*Syst
Indoor Air Quality
49
Part 1a – Combustion byproducts: what precautions
are you taking?
Fuel-burning appliances and equipment. Airborne combustion
byproducts come from oil and gas furnaces; wood and coal stoves; grills;
fireplaces; kerosene and gas space heaters; gas ranges, cooktops and
water heaters; and automobiles (Figure 1). Pollutants include carbon
monoxide, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, formaldehyde and tiny breathable
particles. These byproducts should be vented to the outside to prevent
accumulation indoors. Never use unvented space heaters, gas stoves or
other combustion equipment in an enclosed room. Also, never idle a car
in the garage, even if the door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up
quickly and enter the living area.
Wood or coal stove
Carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas, is a pollutant
of special concern because it is not easily detectable and can kill.
Symptoms of exposure such as headaches, dizziness and nausea may
be mistaken for other causes. A malfunctioning furnace or blocked flue
pipe can result in fatal CO levels. Another dangerous source of CO is a
charcoal grill used indoors.
Portable kerosene heater
CO detectors (alarms) look like smoke detectors. Some experts
recommend that CO detectors that meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
Standard 2034 or International Approval Services (IAS) 6-96 standard
be installed in all homes that have combustion appliances. CO is
lighter than air and readily disperses. It’s important to place the detector
according to manufacture’s directions. If only one detector is to be used,
then it should be placed near the master bedroom. Additional locations
include hallways outside other bedrooms, the living room, main hallway
or other rooms where people spend most of their time and can hear the
alarm. CO detectors should be considered a backup, not a replacement
for proper use and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances.
Gas range
To determine the safety of your combustion appliances, call the dealer
or a service professional for expert assistance. Yearly inspection of
the equipment and chimney or flue is recommended for most heating
systems. Like your car, your furnace needs cleaning and tune-ups to stay
in good condition. Even a well-running system can become a hazard if
the chimney or flue becomes blocked and gases cannot escape.
In addition, be alert for backdrafting. This occurs when the indoor air
pressure is lower than the outdoor air pressure—this causes combustion
gases to be pulled back into the living space instead of being fully
exhausted to the outside. Backdrafting is more likely in well-sealed,
energy-efficient homes, especially when exhaust fans are in use.
Tobacco smoking. The smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes contains
a wide range of throat and lung irritants, as well as hazardous and cancercausing chemicals. A smoky home environment puts everyone at risk, not
just the smoker.
50
Indoor Air Quality
Gas furnace or water heater
Figure 1: Examples of fuelburning appliances and devices
that may be present in a home.
Home*A*Syst
✔✔Assessment 1a – Combustion Byproducts
Use the assessment below to rate your risks related to combustion byproducts.
For each question, indicate your risk level (low, medium or high) in the righthand column. Although some choices may not correspond to your situation,
choose the response that best fits.
Combustion
appliances,
venting
Maintenance
of combustion
appliances,
chimneys and
flues
Carbon
monoxide
detectors (only
in homes with
combustion
appliances)
Tobacco
smoking
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/ unsafe
situation
All combustion
appliances are vented
directly to the outside.
Unvented gas or
kerosene heaters are
used only in open
spaces with a partially
open window.
Tobacco smoking is not
permitted in the home.
Smoking is permitted
Frequent smoking
occasionally, but only in causes smoky indoor
areas well-ventilated to air.
the outside.
Your
risk
Kerosene or gas space
heaters are frequently
used in closed rooms.
Not all combustion
appliances are vented
outdoors.
Chimneys, flues, gas/oil Chimneys, flues, gas/oil Chimneys, flues and
furnaces, woodstoves
furnaces, woodstoves
combustion devices
and other combustion
and other combustion
are not inspected, or
appliances are inspected appliances have been
the inspection record is
and cleaned at least
inspected only once or
unknown.
once a year.
twice in the past five
years.
A UL 2034 or IAS
A non-UL 2034 or
A carbon monoxide
6-96 standard carbon
non-IAS 6-96 standard detector is not installed.
monoxide detector is
detector is installed
installed and the battery and/or the battery is
is tested regularly (if
not tested regularly (if
applicable).
applicable).
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end
of the chapter to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use the
information in this chapter to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Indoor Air Quality
51
Part 1b – Which building materials, wood finishes
and home furnishings might be affecting your
indoor air?
Many products used to build and furnish a home can pollute indoor air. Four
of the most common types are discussed here: pressed wood products; carpet;
paint, varnishes and other surface finishes; and asbestos. Especially when
some of these materials are new, they can release hazardous emissions such
as formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
High temperatures and humidity can worsen the problem. Air pollutants can
also come from old or deteriorating materials, such as asbestos.
Pressed wood products. Pressed or manufactured wood products made
from wood chips or sawdust are widely used in home construction for
flooring, sheathing, shelving and cabinets. Furniture, too, is often made of
manufactured wood products. The primary concern with pressed wood is
formaldehyde, which is used in the glues that
INDOOR AIR QUALITY CONSUMER INFORMATION
holds these materials together. Formaldehyde
IMPORTANT HEALTH INFORMATION:
INSTALLATION GUIDELINES:
will off-gas, or be released into the air,
SOME PEOPLE EXPERIENCE ALLERGIC
• VACUUM OLD CARPET BEFORE REMOVAL
OR FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS, HEADACHES,
especially when a product is new. Some
OR
RESPIRATORY
PROBLEMS
• VACUUM FLOOR AFTER CARPET AND PAD
WHICH THEY ASSOCIATE WITH THE
HAVE BEEN REMOVED
individuals are very sensitive to formaldehyde.
INSTALLATION, CLEANING, OR REMOVAL
Sealing the surface of a wood product,
especially the edges, will reduce formaldehyde
emissions. Manufactured wood products
that are formaldehyde-free or have low
formaldehyde emissions (such as exterior-grade
products) are available.
Carpet. New carpets can release volatile
chemicals from carpet backing, padding
and fibers, as well as from the finishes that
give carpeting its antistatic and soil-release
properties, and the adhesives for installing the
carpet. The carpet industry is working to reduce
these emissions; the Carpet and Rug Institute
(CRI) now tests carpets for emissions (Figure 2).
OF CARPET OR OTHER INTERIOR
RENOVATION MATERIALS.
IF THESE
OR OTHER SYMPTOMS OCCUR, NOTIFY
YOUR PHYSICIAN OF THE SYMPTOMS
AND ALL MATERIALS INVOLVED.
• ALWAYS VENTILATE WITH FRESH AIR
(OPEN DOORS AND/OR WINDOWS, USE
EXHAUST FANS, ETC.)
DURING ALL
PHASES OF INSTALLATION AND FOR AT
LEAST 72 HOURS THEREAFTER.
SENSITIVE MATERIALS
PERSONS WHO ARE ALLERGY-PRONE OR
SENSITIVE TO ODORS OR CHEMICALS
SHOULD AVOID THE AREA OR LEAVE THE
PREMISES WHEN THESE MATERIALS ARE
BEING INSTALLED OR REMOVED.
• IF ADHESIVES AND/OR PAD ARE USED,
REQUEST THOSE WHICH HAVE LOW
CHEMICAL EMISSIONS
NOTE:
YOU CAN REDUCE YOUR EXPOSURE
TO
MOST
CHEMICAL
EMISSIONS
WHEN CARPET AND OTHER INTERIOR
RENOVATING
MATERIALS
ARE
INSTALLED, CLEANED, OR REMOVED BY
INCREASING THE AMOUNT OF FRESH AIR
VENTILATION FOR AT LEAST 72 HOURS.
(See Installation and Maintenance Guidelines
or ask for Owner’s Manual.)
• FOLLOW
DETAILED
INSTALLATION
GUIDELINES FROM MANUFACTURER OR
FROM CARPET AND RUG INSTITUTE
The manufacturer of this carpet
participates in a program which
seeks to develop ways to
reduce emissions by testing
samples of carpet. With fresh
air ventilation, most carpet
emissions are substantially
reduced within 48-72 hours
after installation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: CARPET AND RUG INSTITUTE 800/882-8846
Figure 2: Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) labels
appear on carpets tested for low emissions.
Planning to install a new carpet?
For better air quality, try to:
✔✔Choose a carpet that is certified by the CRI as a low-emissions carpet.
✔✔Ask the carpet dealer to unroll the carpet and leave it in a well-ventilated area for at least 24 hours before
it is brought to your home.
✔✔Plan to install the carpet at a time of year when you can provide extra ventilation by opening windows
during and for several days after installation.
✔✔Arrange for chemically sensitive persons to be out of the house for a few days after the carpet is installed.
✔✔Thoroughly vacuum the old carpet before removal and the floor after carpet removal to minimize dust and
biological pollutants in the air.
52
Indoor Air Quality
Home*A*Syst
Carpets of any age can act as a trap or sponge for chemical and biological
pollutants that are carried in the air or tracked in from outside. Damp, dirty
carpet is a breeding ground for biological pollutants. Carpets require regular
vacuuming and cleaning.
Paint, varnish and other surface finishes. Products used to finish, protect,
and beautify materials in the home are potential sources of indoor air pollutants
because they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These products
have strong odors. Products that are oil-, solvent- or alkyd-based release
more harmful vapors than water-based products. If you are not sure about a
particular product, check the product label. If the instructions on the label say
to clean up with soap and water, then the product is water-based.
Select low-VOC products. Provide lots of extra ventilation
when finishes are newly applied, or apply finishes outside the
home and wait until they are dry to bring the finished product
inside.
Lead, a highly toxic substance, was once a common ingredient in household
paint. Many homes still have lead-based paint. Lead dust can be released into
the air as the paint wears or during renovations. See Chapter 4, “Lead In and
Around the Home,” for more information.
Asbestos. Until about 1980, asbestos was widely used
in building materials to give strength, increase heat
insulation and provide fire resistance. It was used in roof
and siding shingles, floor tiles, soundproofing materials,
insulation around furnace pipes, heating ducts and flues,
and decorative finishes (Figure 3). When asbestos products
get old, they can become crumbly and disperse tiny fibers
into the air. If you breathe asbestos particles over time,
they can accumulate in your lungs and lead to serious
respiratory problems as well as cancer.
1
2
4
3
5
6
7
1. Roof coverings
2. Attic insulation
3. Fireplace insulation
4. Wall/ceiling plasters
5. Wood stoves
6. Oven insulation
7. Pipe insulation
8. Boiler insulation
8
Usually it is best to leave asbestos material that is in
good condition alone. If possible, prevent it from being
damaged, disturbed or contacted. Periodically check for
damage or wear. Get rid of damaged or worn asbestos
gloves, stove top pads or ironing board covers. Check
with your local health department or the Department of
Environmental Quality on landfills that accept asbestos.
If you need to remove asbestos, call a professional. For
listings, go to the Michigan Clean Air Consultant Directory
website at www.michigan.gov/deq and enter “clean air
consultant” in the search bar.
Figure 3: Examples of
possible asbestos hazards
in the home.
Home*A*Syst
Indoor Air Quality
53
✔✔Assessment 1b – Building Products and Furnishings
Use the assessment below to identify risks related to building product emissions and asbestos. For each question,
indicate your risk level in the right-hand column. Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your
situation, choose the response that best fits.
New building
materials,
paints,
varnishes and
furnishings
Carpet
Asbestos (in
homes built
before the
1980s)
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Low- or no-emission
furnishings, building
materials, paints and
varnishes are selected. New
items are given adequate
ventilation or sealed.
Low-VOC carpet is selected
and aired before and during
installation. Carpet is
vacuumed regularly using a
vacuum cleaner with a highefficiency filter; spills are
cleaned immediately.
Asbestos is present but
safely encased and isolated.
Areas with asbestos are
checked periodically.
New furnishings,
building materials,
paints and varnishes
are given increased
ventilation.
There is no attempt
to select lowemission products,
and ventilation is
inadequate.
New carpet is installed
without ventilation.
Carpet is maintained
with regular vacuuming
and rapid spill cleanup.
Old high VOC carpet
is poorly maintained.
Asbestos is present and
intact but located in
high-traffic areas.
Asbestos-containing
material is in poor
shape and crumbling.
People are exposed
to the dust and fibers.
Your
risk
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action
Checklist at the end of the chapter to record the
medium and high risks you identified. Use the
information above to help you make plans to reduce
your risks.
Part 1c - Biological contaminants:
how do they affect indoor air?
Your house is home to many organisms. Some
are wanted, such as pets, but many are uninvited.
Biological contaminants come from living or onceliving organisms. They include animal hair, dander,
saliva and feces; molds; dust mites; insect residues;
pollen; and microscopic organisms. These can
cause odors, damage household materials, lead to
allergic reactions, and cause infectious diseases
and respiratory problems. Sensitivity to these
contaminants varies from person to person.
54
Indoor Air Quality
Tips for controlling moisture in the home
✔✔Prevent standing water in places such as
basements or the drip pans of refrigerators and
air conditioners.
✔✔Fix leaks and seepage problems immediately.
✔✔Make sure rainwater drains away from your
house.
✔✔Use a vaporproof ground cover (such as 4- to
6-mil plastic) in enclosed crawl spaces.
✔✔Use fans that exhaust to the outside when bathing,
showering or cooking.
✔✔Vent all combustion appliances to the outside.
✔✔Use dehumidifiers and/or air conditioners to
remove excess moisture in warm weather.
✔✔Avoid oversized air conditioners.
✔✔Limit the use of humidifiers.
✔✔Limit houseplants.
Home*A*Syst
Figure 4: Dust mite,
a microscopic animal
related to spiders and
ticks. U.S. National
Library of Medicine National Institutes of
Health
Biological pollutants are found in every home and cannot be eliminated completely.
Their growth and quantities can be controlled, however, by keeping surfaces clean
and moisture levels low (see p. 54). Biological contaminants such as bacteria, molds
(fungi) and some insects will increase in damp or humid spaces. Good maintenance
practices can control moisture and reduce the need for chemical products such as
pesticides and disinfectants, both of which could add other pollutants to the air.
Dust control. Household dust includes some biological contaminants that are
common allergens. Animal dander is shed from skin, hair or feathers. Dust mites
(Figure 4) and their feces—the primary allergen—are easily airborne. Regular
cleaning, including dusting with a treated cloth, damp cleaning and laundering bedding
with hot water, as well as placing pillows and mattresses in plastic casings, are needed
to control these contaminants.
Regular vacuum cleaning may help control dust, but some particles are so small that
they pass through cleaner filters and become airborne. Some vacuum cleaners have
high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to retain more small particles instead of
recirculating them back into the air.
If dust-related allergies are a particular problem, limit the use of carpeting, upholstered
furnishings and “dust catchers” such as window blinds and knick-knack displays.
Follow recommended procedures for dust control, and keep sleeping areas as allergenfree as possible.
✔✔Assessment 1c – Biological Contaminants
Use the assessment below to identify risks related to air pollution from biological sources. For each question,
indicate your risk level in the right-hand column. Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your
situation, choose the response that best fits.
Dust
control
Moisture
control
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
House is cleaned
regularly. No furry pets
are kept in the home.
Little or no carpeting is
in the home.
There is no evidence
of condensation in
high-moisture areas
or seasonally. Excess
moisture is vented to
the outside.
Furry pets live in the
home, but the house
is cleaned regularly.
Pet hair and dust are allowed to
accumulate in living and sleeping
areas. House is mostly carpeted,
and carpet is poorly maintained.
There is evidence of
condensation in highmoisture areas or
seasonally. Exhaust
fans or dehumidifiers
are sometimes used.
Damp air is not exhausted. Crawl
space does not have a ground
cover or vents. There are leaks,
drips or standing water in, around
or under the house. Basement
has high moisture during summer
and/or moisture due to drainage
problems. Dehumidifier not used.
Your
risk
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of the chapter to record the medium and
high risks you identified. Use the information above to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Indoor Air Quality
55
Part 1d – Household chemical products, pesticides,
radon and methane
Household chemical products: what types of air quality
problems do they cause?
You may use a variety of potentially hazardous chemical products in your
home for maintenance, cleaning, personal grooming and hobbies. Some
products, such as those in spray cans, can release chemicals or particles into
the air during use. Others emit chemicals as the product dries or cures (such
as glues and caulking) or from off-gassing as the product ages (plastics and
air fresheners, for example). Potentially hazardous products include furniture
waxes, paint strippers, adhesives, some cleaning products, disinfectants,
degreasers, cosmetics, pesticides and hobby supplies.
Products having volatile petroleum materials (gas, lighter fluid, paint stripper,
nail polish remover) or other volatile organic compounds create more
unhealthy emissions than water-based products. Many everyday household
products such as chlorine bleach, ammonia, boric acid and deodorizers may
generate indoor air pollutants if used improperly. Some household products
contain pesticides and other toxic chemicals and require special precautions.
See Chapter 3, “Managing Hazardous Household Products,” for more on this
topic.
Reducing the hazard from household products. Choose the least hazardous
product and the smallest amount that will do the job. Always follow the label
directions and provide adequate ventilation (Figure 5). To avoid having to
store hazardous products, buy only the amount you will need, then use it up.
Give away leftovers or properly dispose of household chemicals that are not
needed. You can reduce the need for many household chemicals by practicing
preventive maintenance, such as giving quick attention to spills and stains or
promptly removing food wastes to control odors and pests.
Pesticides: are they in your home?
Pesticides are chemicals that kill or repel pests. Fungicides (for molds),
bactericides (for bacteria), insecticides (for insects) and rodenticides (for
rodents) are commonly used in and around the home. According to the
Environmental Protection Agency information, 75 percent of U.S. households
used at least one pesticide product indoors during the year reviewed. They
also state that 80 percent of most people’s exposure to pesticides occurs
indoors. Up to a dozen pesticides have been measured in the air in homes. In
addition to homeowner indoor pesticide usage, this may also be due to soil and
dust tracked in, or releases from treated surfaces and stored pesticides.
Pesticide products are available as pump sprays, aerosol sprays, foggers,
liquids, granules, powders, baits, pesticide-impregnated material (pet collars
and pest strips), sticks, crystals and balls. Various pesticides last for different
lengths of time. Highly persistent pesticides last for a long time. This can be
a problem in the home. Exposure to high levels of pesticides is generally due
to misapplication of the product. Reading the label before purchase and again
before use is important for proper selection and application. The label is the law.
56
Indoor Air Quality
Home*A*Syst
Figure 5: Provide adequate
ventilation when using
hazardous household products.
Before selecting a pesticide, consider the pest control options and level of
the pest problem. For example, one fly would not merit pesticide use. A
fly swatter would be a far better choice. Choose the option that also takes
environmental and health risks into consideration (see Chapter 9).
Mothballs and moth crystals, which contain paradichlorobenzene, are
commonly used in the bedroom storage area. These solid products volatize,
and the vapor can move through plastic bags into the room air. Some solid air
fresheners also contain the chemical. Paradichlorobenzene is known to cause
cancer in animals; less is known about its human effects.
After any pesticide use, the area should be well-ventilated. If you have
pesticides that you don’t plan to use or that are no longer usable, take them
to the local Clean Sweep pesticide collection day. Call your local resource
recovery or hazardous waste collection site, Michigan State University (MSU)
Extension or county conservation district office, or see “Resources” at the end
of this chapter for the Clean Sweep website.
Methane: is it present in your home?
Methane is an odorless, colorless, flammable gas. It is formed by the decay
of natural materials and is common in landfills, marshes, septic systems and
sewers. Methane at levels as low as 5 percent can form an explosive mixture
with air. Pockets of methane may be found naturally underground and seep
into your basement. It may enter by sewer lines or through cracks in the
foundation.
If methane is suspected, call your local health department. If there is a smell of
sewer gases in your home, call a plumber or other qualified person to identify
the source and correct it. If the odor is strong, evacuate the building until the
problem is corrected and the gas is removed.
Radon: is it present in your home?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in
many types of soil and rock. It enters homes through
cracks and openings in the foundation, floor or walls
that are in contact with the ground (Figure 6). Radon is
invisible, has no odor, and causes no immediate symptoms
or health effects. It is, however, a cause of lung cancer.
Smokers are especially at risk if radon is present.
Figure 6: Radon gas may enter
a home through openings in
contact with the ground and in
household water.
Home*A*Syst
Various parts of the country have different levels of radon.
Even if you don’t live in a high-risk area for radon, you
should take this potential threat seriously. Radon levels
can vary from home to home even within the same
neighborhood, and the only way to find out about radon
in your home is by testing your home. The generally
recommended level of radon in the United States is below
4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) of air.
Indoor Air Quality
57
Radon testing and treatment. Look for radon test kits that say
“meets EPA requirements.” An inexpensive screening test that lasts
four to seven days and costs $10 to $15 can give a rough idea of
how much radon is present. Your local health department may have
them for purchase. The test should be conducted when windows
and doors are closed. If a high level of radon is found (higher than
8 pCi/l), a second short-term test is recommended to verify the
problem. If the initial result was between 4 pCi/l and 8 pCi/l, a
long-term test can be done to provide the annual average exposure.
30,000
Deaths
per
year
✔✔Assessment 1d – Household Products,
Methane and Radon
Use the assessment below to identify risks related to household
chemical products and radon. For each question, indicate your risk
level in the right-hand column. Although some choices may not
correspond exactly to your situation, choose the response that best fits.
Methane
Radon
17,400
10,000
If an unsafe level of radon is verified by the second test, there are a
variety of things you can do to reduce radon. These involve either
plugging the leaks—such as caulking cracks in basement walls—or
changing the ventilation patterns of your home so that radon isn’t
drawn inside. Check with the indoor radon specialist, Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality, at 1-800-732-6642, or your
local health department, MSU Extension or local contractors for
advice. A trained and certified radon mitigator can be invaluable in
helping you reduce radon in your home.
Household
products
and
chemicals
21,000
8,000
3,900
Radon
Drunk
driving
Falls in Drownings
the home
2,800
Home
fires
Figure 7: Radon is estimated to cause
about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year,
according to the EPA’s 2003 Assessment
of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from
other causes are taken from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention’s
1999-2001 National Center for Injury
Prevention and Control Report and 2002
National Safety Council Reports.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
High risk/
potential hazard unsafe situation
Products with hazardous vapors
are avoided or used only outdoors
or indoors with proper ventilation
and safety precautions. Hazardous
products are stored according to
the labels.
No smell of sewer gases. No
history of coal or marsh gases in
area. No cracks in basement walls.
A radon test was conducted
properly, and the radon level is
below the threshold for action.
Products with
hazardous vapors are
used indoors with
some ventilation.
Only short periods
of exposure occur.
Your
risk
Products with hazardous
vapors are used indoors
without ventilation. Long
periods of exposure occur.
Hazardous products are not
stored according to labels.
Smell of sewer gases or
history of marsh or coal
gases collecting in area.
Radon is present at
Radon is present in excess
or near the threshold of acceptable levels, OR,
for action.
radon level is unknown; no
testing has been done.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of
the chapter to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use the
information above to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
58
Indoor Air Quality
Home*A*Syst
Part 2 – Ventilating Indoor Air
The removal or reduction of pollution sources is the first priority in improving
the air quality in your home. The second priority is to dilute the concentration
of air pollutants through increased ventilation of the home.
Even in homes with few sources of contamination, ventilation is needed,
especially during seasons when windows and doors are kept shut. Many homes
“leak” air, which may help maintain freshness but wastes energy. Newer
homes tend to have tighter construction, which makes it easier for pollutants to
build up to dangerous levels. Tight homes may also be susceptible to humidity
problems.
How well is your house ventilated?
Figure 8: Fans can help
to move air in the home.
Use your nose and eyes to help evaluate indoor air quality. Be aware of
persistent odors of chemicals, mildew or tobacco smoke. Steamy windows
in cool weather indicate high levels of moisture in the home. (See “Tips for
controlling moisture in the home” on page 54.) Lingering odors of grease and
food may mean that your kitchen needs more ventilation.
Home ventilation is usually measured in air changes per hour (ACH). This
is a measure of how many times per hour the volume of air in your home is
replaced with outdoor air. Many factors can affect the ACH rate, including
the structure of the home; weather; opening or closing of doors and windows;
heating, cooling and ventilating equipment; and use of fans (Figure 8).
A blower door test administered by a professional is needed to adequately
measure ventilation rates in your home. A blower door consists of a large fan
mounted in a frame that is temporarily installed in an outside doorway. The fan
forces air into or out of the home. Pressure readings obtained from the test help
in calculating air leakage and the ACH rate. The test can also help determine
where leakage is occurring.
Increasing the ventilation rate of your home will reduce the concentration of
air pollutants. Exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms are helpful, as long
as adequate replacement air is available. Some ventilation equipment can
increase ventilation while conserving energy. For example, a heat recovery
ventilator removes stale air from a house and brings in fresh air. The incoming
air is warmed by heat removed from the outgoing air. If you suspect the
ventilation in your home is inadequate, consult an energy professional.
What about air filters and air cleaners?
Air filters in your heating/cooling air circulation system need to be inspected
regularly and replaced or cleaned when dirty. Dirty or clogged filters will limit
the efficiency of the equipment. Standard air filters on heating and cooling
equipment will remove only the largest dust particles. Other high-efficiency
filters are more effective and will remove particles such as dust, smoke, pollen
and some microorganisms. Gases will generally go right through air filters.
Home*A*Syst
Indoor Air Quality
59
There are several types of air cleaners that clean the air in different ways.
Mechanical filters are made of fibers or pleated filter papers that trap small
particles as air passes through. Electrostatic air cleaners use an electrical field
to attract charged airborne particles; ion generators are used to give particles a
charge that makes them stick to surfaces in the home. Solid sorbent cleaners—
such as activated carbon or charcoal—can capture gaseous pollutants.
Note:
Remember that air filters and cleaners are of limited use in solving indoor
air quality problems. If poorly maintained, they could actually contribute to
your air quality problems. The effectiveness of filters and cleaners depends
on several things:
✔✔The contaminants removed from the air.
✔✔How much air passes through the device.
✔✔The kinds of airborne particles in your air.
✔✔Where the unit is located in relation to the pollutant sources.
✔✔Regular maintenance of the system.
✔✔Assessment 2 – Ventilating Indoor Air
Complete the assessment below to identify risks related to air freshness. For
each question, indicate your risk level in the right-hand column. Although
some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation, choose the
response that best fits.
Low risk/
recommended
Air freshness Indoor air usually
Ventilation
smells clean, in
all seasons. Extra
ventilation is provided
as needed.
House is wellventilated. Exhaust
fans are used in the
kitchen and bathroom.
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Air sometimes has
an odor or mustiness,
especially during
certain times of the
year.
“Leaky” house gives
some uncontrolled
ventilation.
Air nearly always
smells musty, damp,
acrid, smoky, heavy or
like “chemicals.”
House is poorly
ventilated. No
kitchen/bath exhaust
fans are used.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist on the
following page to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use the
recommendations above to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
60
Indoor Air Quality
Home*A*Syst
Your
risk
✔✔Action Checklist
Go back over the assessments and look for the high and medium risks you
identified. Record them below. For each medium and high risk listed, write
down the improvements you plan to make. Use recommendations from this
chapter and other resources to decide on an action you are likely to complete. A
target date will keep you on schedule. You don’t have to do everything at once,
but try to eliminate the most serious risks as soon as you can. Often it helps to
tackle the inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action:
Example: House not tested for radon.
Call health department to see if they sell
tests. Conduct test.
One week from today:
September 1
Resources
Publications
“The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality,” a 36-page illustrated
publication by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Identifies problems
and control methods for indoor air pollutants including radon, tobacco smoke,
lead and household products. Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse
(see “General” information on the next page). Available online at www.epa.
gov/iaq/pubs/insidest.html.
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, Mail Code 6609J
Washington, DC 20460
www.epa.gov/iaq
Asbestos - www.epa.gov/asbestos
Carbon Monoxide - www.michigan.gov/carbonmonoxide
Home*A*Syst
Indoor Air Quality
61
Pesticides
Michigan unwanted pesticide collection sites (Clean Sweep sites):
www.michigan.gov/mda
Enter “Clean Sweep” in search bar, click “MDA - Clean Sweep,” then click
“Clean Sweep Contact Information by County.”
National Pesticide Information Center
Phone: 1-800-858-7378
http://npic.orst.edu
Contact for pesticide answers and some EPA publications.
Radon
- www.michigan.gov/deqradon 1-800-RadonGas / 1-800-723-6642
- www.epa.gov/radon/pubs
“Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon”
“Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction”
“A Citizen’s Guide to Radon: the guide to protecting yourself & your family from radon”
- www.michigan.gov/deq
Enter “Clean Air Consultant Directory” in search bar.
Radon testing
Check the test kits at hardware and building supply stores, or contact your local or state
health department or the Department of Environmental Quality, MSU Extension office or
private testing laboratories. Recorded information about radon is available 24 hours a day
from the National Radon Hotline.
Call 1-800-SOS-RADON.
General
Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse (IAQ INFO)
P.O. Box 37133
Washington, DC 20013-7133
Phone: 1-800-438-4318, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (EST)
www.epa.gov/iaq/iaqxline.html
Ask for the list of currently available documents.
This Home*A*Syst chapter
covers a variety of topics to
help homeowners examine and
address their most important
environmental concerns. For
more information on topics
covered in Home*A*Syst or
for information about laws and
regulations specific to your area,
contact your local MSU Extension
office.
Clean Air Control
135 South 19th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-567-4004
Contact for information on services and testing procedures.
American Lung Association
Call your local organization or call 1-800-LUNG-USA (toll-free).
www.lungusa.com
Carpet and Rug Institute, Indoor Air Quality Testing Program
P.O. Box 2048
Dalton, GA 30722-2048
1-800-882-8846 (toll-free) or 706-278-3176
www.carpet-rug.com
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Indoor Air Quality
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This chapter was written by
Kathleen Parrott, associate
professor and Extension housing
specialist, Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University, and
adapted for Michigan in 2008
by Roberta Dow, Michigan State
University Extension.
T
S
Y
tem
S
s
y
*
*A ent S
Essessm
OM
eA
HHom
T
his chapter helps you identify
possible problems with your
home heating and cooling
systems, your house envelope (the
foundation, floors, walls, ceilings
and roof), as well as the surrounding
landscape. By keeping your home
systems and surrounding environment
in proper order, you can avoid
unhealthy situations, reduce energy
bills, increase your comfort level
and prevent structural damage. This
chapter covers:
1. Energy efficiency
‹‹Heating/cooling
‹‹Air-sealing and insulation
‹‹Domestic hot water, lighting
systems and appliances
2. Landscaping for energy
conservation
Chapter 6. Energy Savings for your
Home
Why should you be concerned?
Your house should be a safe, comfortable place that is affordable and durable.
How a home is constructed, insulated and heated/cooled directly affects how
it meets these objectives. A house is affordable only when costs for heating
and cooling are reasonable. Energy bills are lowest if a home is air-sealed
and properly insulated and if all mechanical systems are operating efficiently.
Before extensively air-sealing your home, it is critical to ensure that doing
so will not cause health or moisture problems. (For combustion appliance
issues, please see Chapter 5, “Indoor Air Quality.”) Also, landscaping can be a
significant factor in energy conservation for a home. Above all else, your home
must be a healthy place to live.
Energy consumption
The amount of energy consumed in your home depends on many factors,
including how well the home is insulated, the efficiency of appliances, the local
weather and climate, the landscaping surrounding your home and your lifestyle.
Does your house use too much energy?
Figure 1 shows how energy is used in a typical home. Your family’s lifestyle
will affect how energy is consumed in your home.
Other
Small
Computers
appliances 5%
1%
4%
Cooking
4%
Clothes
washers/dryers,
dishwashers
5%
Space heating
31%
Electronics
7%
Refrigeration
8%
Lighting
11%
Space cooling
12%
Water heating
12%
Figure 1: Residential energy consumption.
Building Energy Data Books, 2007.
Home*A*Syst
Energy Savings for your Home
63
The best and most accurate way to determine the energy efficiency of your
home is to have a home energy audit performed by a service professional. Not
only will the audit pinpoint high energy areas, but it will also suggest measures
for cutting your energy costs. If you are unable to have a professional audit,
consider doing a self-survey. Self-survey tools are available on the web (see
“Resources” at the end of this chapter). After conducting your survey, make
improvements to increase your energy efficiency and home comfort if they
make economic sense for your situation.
Part 1 – Energy efficiency inside the Home
The three key strategies to increase energy efficiency are air-sealing (leakproofing) your home, adding insulation and efficient windows, and using
more efficient appliances. The average home in the United States wastes 30
to 50 percent of the energy it uses. If every home installed energy-efficient
appliances and was well-insulated, individual homeowners and the national
economy would reap tremendous savings. The following sections will help
you identify where energy is being lost and how you can prevent future
losses. Complete the assessments at the end of each section to find out where
improvements can be made.
Part 1a – Improving heating and cooling systems
The single greatest energy consumer in your home is the heating/cooling
system (furnace, boiler, heat pump, wood stove and air conditioner—see Figure
1). This system has three parts: heating/cooling unit(s), such as furnaces and
air conditioners; ducts or other distribution mechanisms; and a thermostat to
control output. You can save energy in all three areas.
How old are the parts of your system?
If your primary heating/cooling unit is more than 15 to 25 years old, it is
probably not very energy-efficient. Even if it still works, you may benefit by
replacing it with a new energy-efficient model. A new device can pay for itself
in fuel savings in only a few years. Or, if you find long-term financing for new
equipment, the dollar value of the monthly energy savings may exceed the
monthly payment for the equipment, which would result in a positive cash flow.
Is your system getting proper maintenance?
All machines work more efficiently -- and more safely -- if they are
inspected and maintained. Your furnace, air conditioner and other heating/
cooling equipment should be checked and serviced every year by a qualified
professional. A forced-air system includes an air filter, which removes dust
and debris before it reaches the air blower and heat-exchange coils. Dirt on
the coils reduces efficiency, so you should change or clean your air filter on
a regular basis. Monthly maintenance, such as inspecting and changing air
filters, is recommended during the heating or cooling season.
Are you using your thermostat to save energy?
One of the easiest ways to save energy is to set thermostats at a lower
temperature in the winter and a higher temperature in the summer so that the
heating/cooling system runs less often. If a house is caulked and weatherstripped to prevent cold drafts, most people – when dressed appropriately –
64
Energy Savings for your Home
Home*A*Syst
will be comfortable at 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. To save more
energy, temperatures can be turned down to 55 degrees while you are sleeping
or when the house is empty. Check with your doctor if you have a medical
condition that requires different temperatures. If you have had problems with
freezing pipes during very cold weather, correct the problem before turning
down the thermostat. During the summer, a thermostat setting of 78 degrees
is recommended. During times when the house is unoccupied, a summer
thermostat setting of 80 to 85 degrees is recommended. Typically, you’ll
save 1 to 3 percent on your heating cost for every degree you lower your
thermostat for eight hours, or similarly save on your cooling costs by raising
the temperature for air conditioning.
Figure 2: Digital or clock
thermostats (programmable)
can be set to adjust the
temperature automatically.
Programmable thermostats can be set to adjust the temperature in your house
automatically. For example, they can turn the heat down every night at 11 p.m.
and bring the temperature back up by 6 a.m. before you get out of bed. The
newest kind of residential thermostat, a home energy manager, allows many
temperature settings throughout the week. Depending on your lifestyle, a
programmable thermostat can pay for itself in as little as one or two years.
Is your distribution system working well?
Unless there is a heating/cooling unit in each room, you probably have a
system to distribute hot or cold air from a central heater or air conditioner.
Over 90 percent of central heating systems and virtually 100 percent of central
residential cooling systems in America have forced-air distribution systems that
use air ducts to move warm (or cold) air to the rooms of the house. If the duct
system leaks, it can waste large amounts of energy.
Safety note
Your home receives
outside air from all small
holes and cracks in the
structure, including any
holes in the duct system
that are located outside
the conditioned space
(such as an attic or crawl
space). Duct sealing
is a job best left to a
professional.
Any ductwork located in an unheated or uncooled space (such as an attic or
crawl space) has a high potential for heat or cold air loss. Ducts in such spaces
should be insulated. Also, all joints in the duct system, everywhere in the
house, should be properly sealed to make sure all of the warm or cool air gets
where you want it to go.
Sealing a leaking duct system will reduce the amount of heated or cooled air
lost to unconditioned areas and outside air that leaks into the home. Though
this will reduce energy consumption, you must also be aware of how it might
affect combustion appliances and air quality in your home. The precautions are
listed in Chapter 5, “Indoor Air Quality.”
In addition to supply registers in each room to deliver heated/cooled air, there
must be a return duct to allow air to get back to the heating/cooling unit. Many
newer homes do not have a return register in every room but rely on the space
under a closed door to allow supply air to return to a centrally located return.
If you have a room that is uncomfortable (hard to heat or cool) when the door
is shut but is fine when the door is open, you probably have an air distribution
problem. You can increase the cut under the door or call a heating and cooling
specialist to resolve the problem.
The second most common heat distribution system uses hot water that is
distributed through pipes to radiators or convectors. Pipes carrying hot
water should be insulated everywhere, from boiler to radiator. Use a quality
insulation material. Cheap materials break down more quickly.
Home*A*Syst
Energy Savings for your Home
65
✔✔Assessment 1a – Improving Heating/Cooling Systems
Use the assessment below to identify where energy can be saved. Indicate your energy-loss potential (low,
medium or high) in the right-hand column. Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation,
choose the response that best fits. Refer to the sections above if you need more information to complete the
assessment.
Low
energy loss
Age of heating
and cooling
equipment
Maintenance
of heating
and cooling
equipment
Equipment less than 5
years old.
Air filters are checked
every month during use,
and cleaned or replaced
as needed. Equipment
is serviced at least every
two years.
Air-temperature A programmable
thermostat is installed.
thermostat
It is routinely used
to minimize energy
consumption OR an older
thermostat present but
temperature adjusted for
nighttime or when gone.
All ductwork is located in
Duct location
heated / cooled space.
Ductwork in
unconditioned
space (if
applicable)
Return duct
All ductwork in
unheated/uncooled space
is insulated.
Air-sealing
ducts and
registers
Seams in the duct system
are caulked or sealed,
especially where air
registers enter rooms.
There are air-return
ducts in every room OR
bedroom doors are left
open.
Medium
energy loss
High
energy loss
Equipment is 5 to 15
years old.
Equipment is older
than 15 years.
Filters are checked
and changed
occasionally, and the
system is maintained
on a regular basis.
Filters are not changed
or rarely changed,
and the system is not
maintained.
A programmable
thermostat is
installed, but it is
not used to modify
temperatures at night
or when the house is
empty.
An older thermostat
is in use. It is set to
maintain a constant
temperature.
Some ductwork is
located in unheated/
uncooled space.
Some ductwork in
unheated/uncooled
space is insulated.
All ductwork is located
in unheated space.
There is one central
air return. Bedroom
doors are shut at
night, but there is a 2
inch or greater space
under each door.
There are no visible
gaps in the duct
system.
There is one central
air return. Bedroom
doors are shut at night,
and there is little space
between the bottoms of
the doors and the floor.
Gaps are visible in the
duct system or around
the room air registers.
Your loss
potential
All ductwork is located
in unheated/uncooled
space and uninsulated.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to your energy-loss potential
Your goal is to reduce the amount of wasted energy. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this chapter to
record the high and medium loss potentials you identified in the assessment. Use the recommendations in Part 1a
to help you identify ways to increase energy efficiency.
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Energy Savings for your Home
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Part 1b – Preventing loss of heated (or cooled) air
Once you have reached a comfortable temperature indoors, your aim is to keep
it that way. Preventing unwanted air leaks and blocking heat transfer are two
important approaches to making your home even more energy efficient.
Have you air-sealed your home?
Every house has openings through which outside air can enter.
Some openings, such as open windows and doors, are obvious
air entry sites. Others, such as cracks around window frames,
are unintended air pathways (Figure 3). Uncontrolled leakage
of air can account for a large portion of the total heat loss in
a home—typically about 20 percent of the total heating and
cooling bill. Cold (or warm) air entering a home must be
heated (or cooled) if the home is to remain comfortable.
Figure 3: Air leakage is
often the primary cause of heat loss
from windows and doors. Seal leaks
with caulking and weatherstripping.
Sealing your home against air leakage is not difficult, but it
does require specific information to be done right. For details
on how to reduce air leaks, contact your local Michigan State
University (MSU) Extension office or the U.S. Department of
Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
Information Center (1-877-337-3463), or check out some of the
websites listed under “Resources” at the end of this chapter.
Safety note
** Proceed with caution.** As stated before, your home must be a healthy place to live. Air-sealing can
cause a dangerous situation by reducing the air available for combustion appliances. Do not attempt to
air-seal your home until you have taken care of these problem areas:
‹‹Unvented gas or kerosene heaters or unvented gas fireplaces/logs must be removed or vented outdoors.
‹‹If you have a gas cookstove that is not vented to the outside by a power-vented hood, do not
extensively air-seal your home. Alternatively, open a kitchen window 1/4 inch while cooking and run
an exhaust fan.
‹‹If you have a high level of radon in your home, properly air-sealing can help reduce the problem.
However, you should monitor radon levels carefully and contact a professional if the problem is not
resolved. (See Chapter 5,“Indoor Air Quality,” for more information.)
‹‹If you have natural-draft appliances, such as gas water heaters, some gas stoves and some gas dryers,
do not extensively air-seal your home without seeking the advice of an energy services professional.
Remember, a home’s energy efficiency depends on a balance between air
sealing, insulation, moisture control and ventilation. A proper balance of these
will provide a more comfortable, healthy home environment.
Does your home need more insulation?
Even if you air-seal your house, you still need to prevent the transfer of heat
(in or out) through walls, floors or ceilings. Insulation acts like a blanket to
retain the heated or cooled air your system produces. Insulation materials are
assigned an R-value, which is a measure of how well they resist the flow of
heat energy into or out of your home. The larger the R-value, the more heat (or
cool air) is kept where you want it.
Home*A*Syst
Energy Savings for your Home
67
The recommended amount of insulation for a home varies with geographic locations. If you have
extreme temperatures in your part of Michigan, you will need more insulation. Check with your
local building supplier. You can also go to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website for R-value
recommendations based on your zip code (www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/insulation/ins_16.html).
✔✔Assessment 1b – Preventing Loss of Heated (or Cooled) Air
As before, indicate your energy-loss potential in the right-hand column in the following assessment.
Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation, choose the response that best fits.
Refer to the sections above if you need more information to complete the assessment.
Low
energy loss
All potential leak points
are sealed or weatherstripped.
Windows and All windows and doors
are sealed with caulk
doors
and weather-stripping
and tested for leaks.
Newer, well-sealed,
double-paned windows
are installed.
Rim joists, sill plates,
Basement or
service entrances,
crawl space
windows and wall cracks
are sealed with caulk or
foam.
Attic insulation Insulation is equal to
or greater than levels
recommended for my
region.
Attic
Insulation in
walls (aboveground)
Insulation in
walls (heated
basements)
Medium
energy loss
High
energy loss
Only some potential leak
points are sealed.
Most potential leak
points are not sealed.
Only some windows and
doors are caulked and
weather-stripped. Older
or leaky storm windows
are used. Some windows
are sealed in winter with
plastic sheets.
Leaks have been detected
but are not fully sealed.
Windows are older
and not sealed.
Storm windows may
be absent.
Exterior wall cavities are
insulated with loose fill
or 3-inch to 5-inch batt.
Exterior walls are
insulated with rigid
foam or batt, according
to the regional
recommendations.
Your loss
potential
No sealing has been
attempted.
Insulation is
well below the
recommended levels
OR attic is not
insulated.
There is no insulation
in wall cavities.
Exterior walls and
rim joists are not
insulated.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to your energy-loss potential
Your goal is to reduce the amount of energy you use. On the Action Checklist at the end of the chapter,
record the high and medium loss potentials you identified above. Use the recommendations in Part 1b
to help you find ways to increase energy efficiency.
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Energy Savings for your Home
Home*A*Syst
Part 1c – Increasing efficiency of domestic water
heaters, lighting and home appliances
Water heaters
After heating and cooling your home, heating water for domestic consumption
is the next largest energy user. There are several ways to reduce the amount of
energy you use to heat water.
The simplest thing you can do to save energy used for water heating is to turn
down the water heater temperature. Each 10-degree reduction in water heater
temperature will save you 3 to 5 percent on your annual water heating bill.
Lowering the water temperature will also increase the lifetime of your water
heater and reduce the risk of someone being burned by the hot water. Children
and elderly persons are most at risk of being scalded by water that is too hot.
Most water heaters are factory set around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For most
household uses, that is higher than necessary. Usually, 120-degree water is
adequate unless you have an automatic dishwasher without a temperature
booster. In this case, you may need to keep the temperature at 140 degrees for
optimal dishwashing performance.
Wrapping your water heater with insulation can reduce heating energy use
by 4 to 9 percent. Except for some new water heaters that come with high
levels of foam insulation and do not need any more, the addition of insulation
usually pays for itself in less than one year. Water heater insulation blankets
are widely available at hardware and home improvement stores. They come in
standard sizes to fit 40-, 60- and 80-gallon water heaters. Be sure to follow the
manufacturer’s instructions for the installation.
Reducing hot water use will reduce the amount of energy needed. Repair any
leaking pipes and consider installing low-flow shower heads. Washing laundry
in cold rather than hot water will also save energy.
Hot water pipes should be insulated wherever they are accessible. Either
preformed foam insulation or wrap-around fiberglass insulation can be used.
Lighting
Lighting accounts for 11 percent of a typical home energy budget. Turning
off unused lights and making improvements to lighting can easily and quickly
cut your energy costs. Use compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which last
four to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and are four times more
energy efficient. If you can not afford a complete changeover, replace the
incandescent bulbs with CFLs in the lights that you use the most.
Choose outdoor lights with photocell units or motion sensors (or both) that turn
the light on only when someone is present. Also consider CFLs for exterior
lights (remember to include a cold-weather ballast).
Home*A*Syst
Energy Savings for your Home
69
Appliances
Refrigerators, clothes washers and clothes dryers are the common home
appliances that use the most energy (Figure 4). When you need new
appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Refer to the appliance’s
Energy Guide label for information on annual energy consumption and
operating cost. Consider unplugging appliances that are not used regularly—
many continue to use energy even when not actively used. Also, unplug
electrical converters when not in use—they too continue to use energy. See
“Resources” at the end of this chapter for ENERGY STAR® information.
Cost/year
0
$42
$83
$125
$166
$208
0
500
1000
1500
2000
2500
Electric blanket
Home computer
Television
Microwave oven
Dehumidifier
Well pump
Aquarium/terrarium
Dishwasher
Electric cooking
Freezer
Waterbed heater
Clothes dryer
Washing machine
Refrigerator
Pool pump
Spa (pump and heater)
kWh/year
Figure 4: This chart shows how much energy a typical appliance uses per year and its corresponding
cost based on national averages. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Information Center.
✔✔Assessment 1c - Increasing Efficiency of Domestic Water
Heaters, Lighting and Home Appliances
In the assessment on the opposite page, indicate your potential energy-loss level in the
right-hand column. Refer to the sections above if you need more information to complete
the assessment.
Responding to your energy-loss potential
Your goal is to reduce the amount of energy that is wasted. Turn to the Action Checklist
at the end of the chapter to record the high and medium loss potentials you identified in
the assessment. Use the recommendations in Part 1c to help you identify ways to increase
energy efficiency.
70
Energy Savings for your Home
Home*A*Syst
Low
energy loss
Water heater thermostat is
set at 120 degrees F.
Dishwasher has
temperature booster
turned on.
A new, highly insulated
Insulation
water heater or water
heater blanket is installed.
Low-flow shower heads
Hot water
are installed, and there
conservation
are no leaking faucets.
Clothes are washed
in cold water where
possible. A conscious
effort is made to conserve
hot water.
Pipe insulation All accessible hot water
pipes are insulated.
Energy-efficient lights
Energyefficient bulbs (CFLs) are used in all
instances in the home.
Turn off all lights,
Energy
televisions and power to
conservation
other appliances when not
in use.
ENERGY STAR® label
Energy
appliances chosen
conservation
when new appliances
purchased.
Water
temperature
setting
Medium
energy loss
High
energy loss
Water heater thermostat is
set at 130 degrees F.
Dishwasher has
temperature booster
turned on.
No heater blanket, but
water heater is inside
heated house (vs. garage).
There are no leaking
faucets. Clothing is
sometimes washed in
cold water. Some effort
is made to minimize hot
water use.
Water heater
thermostat is set at
140°F or higher.
Some accessible hot
water pipes are insulated.
Energy-efficient lights
(CFLs) are used in lights
with greatest usage.
Indoor and outdoor
lighting is on timers and
used only for security
reasons.
There is no pipe
insulation.
Energy-efficient
lights are not used
at all.
Lights, television,
stereos and other
appliances are left on
regularly.
No attention paid
to choosing energyefficient appliances.
Your loss
potential
An older water
heater with no added
blanket is in use.
There are leaking hot
water faucets, and no
low-flow fixtures are
installed. Clothes are
rarely washed in cold
water.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Part 2 – Landscaping for Energy Conservation
Landscaping can help conserve energy as well as beautify your property.
During the summer, properly placed trees and shrubs can help reduce cooling
costs. In the winter, well-placed landscaping can reduce home heat loss by
blocking cold winter winds. Additional benefits can be realized by selecting
plants that are relatively pest-free and by designing a landscape that requires
minimal water and fuel to keep it attractive.
The four main goals of energy conservation landscaping in Michigan are to:
‹‹Maximize the amount of heat obtained from the sun during winter.
‹‹Maximize shade during the summer.
‹‹Protect buildings from winter winds.
‹‹Channel summer breezes toward the home.
Home*A*Syst
Energy Savings for your Home
71
Is landscaping for energy conservation worth the effort?
A well-designed landscape that includes well-placed trees can save 25 percent
of a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling. Computer
models developed by the U.S. Department of Energy predict that three properly
placed trees will save an average household between $100 and $250 in annual
energy costs. Consider that a young, 8-foot shade tree may cost about as much
as an awning for a large window. As the tree grows, it will shade far more
than a single window and will provide hundreds of dollars of savings during its
useful life. Deciduous trees provide summer shade and then lose their leaves
in the autumn. This allows the sun to shine on the house and provide winter
warmth. The combination of shade and evapotranspiration (the process a plant
uses to release water vapor for cooling) can reduce air temperature as much
as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Well-placed shade trees can result in considerable
savings in energy for air conditioning. Compared with an unshaded home, a
shaded home may have from 15 to 50 percent reduced energy cost for cooling.
The figure will be higher for residents in mobile homes.
In winter, the ability of plants to block the wind will reduce air infiltration into
homes. Such air leaks can account for as much as a quarter of the heat loss
in the average home. Blocking winter winds can save energy used for home
heating by 10 to 40 percent, depending on the study and the degree to which
plants were used to block the wind.
Additional benefits from a well-designed landscape include dampening
the sound from nearby roads or other sources of noise. Plants also remove
particulate matter from the air and help control soil erosion, both of which help
reduce pollution.
Develop a plan for the landscape around your home. Include all the existing
features and plants and note the location of windows. Make sure the locations
of underground utilities have been included. Then use arrows to show sun
angles and the direction of prevailing winds for summer and winter. This will
help determine which areas need summer shade and where windbreaks should
be planted. Also, note the location or source of noise that could be blocked
or reduced by landscape plantings. A landscape is an extension of the indoor
space. Note frequent use areas such as play areas for children, storage areas,
areas dedicated to pets and other uses. Make sure that landscaping installed
for energy conservation does not block views that are important to the family.
Give yourself a year to complete your landscape plan. This provides the
opportunity to see how wind and sun affect your home in all four seasons.
Make notes on the plan about the weather characteristics you would most like
to modify. This will help set priorities when determining exactly which energy
conservation choices you will incorporate into your landscape. A landscape
that helps conserve energy can still be a source of enjoyment and beauty.
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Energy Savings for your Home
Home*A*Syst
✔✔Action Checklist
Go back over the assessments and record all high and medium risks and energyloss potentials. Next, list the improvements you plan to make. You can use
recommendations from this chapter or from other sources to help you pick actions
you are likely to take. Write down a date to keep you on schedule. You don’t have
to do everything at once, but try to eliminate the most serious problems as soon as
you can. Often it helps to tackle the inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium energyloss potentials here.
What can you do to reduce the energyloss potential?
Target date for action:
Example: Water heater is not insulated.
Buy a ready-made insulation blanket at the
hardware store.
One week from today:
March 8
Resources
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy provides information on
energy-efficient appliances. Visit www.aceee.org/consumer or call 202-429-8873.
Basic home energy audit
www.cityofames.org/ElectricWeb/SelfAudit/Default.htm or call 515-239-5177.
Energy demonstration centers in Michigan
www.warmtraining.org/medc
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Information Center
1-877-337-3463 or www.eere.energy.gov
On the website, go to “Quick Links for Consumers,” then choose “Your Home.”
This site provides information on appliances, lighting, space heating and cooling,
water heating, energy audit and much more.
Home*A*Syst
Energy Savings for your Home
73
ENERGY STAR® information
www.energystar.gov
Energy Smarts Checklist for Home Energy Efficiency
http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/fact_sheet_3.pdf
Michigan home energy services and resources
www.urbanoptions.com
Michigan residential energy efficiency information
www.michigan.gov/energyoffice
Select “Residential.”
Michigan State University Extension bulletins
Available from your local MSU Extension office, or some are printable from the
web: www.emdc.msue.msu.edu
See the following bulletins under subject “Home Maintenance and Improvement”:
E2091 Exterior Structural Items
E2092 Interior Structural Items and Outside Areas
E2788 Checklist for Building a New Home
E2789 Checklist for Existing Homes
E2790 Energy Conservation Tips
E2791 Energy Efficient Windows
E2792 Energy Efficient Applications
E2793 Controlling Hot Water Heating Costs
E2794 Weatherstripping
E2795 Selection of Weatherproofing Materials
E2796 Geothermal Heating
E2797 Choosing a Furnace
E2798 Insulation
E2799 Landscaping Tips
E2800 Landscaping for Winter Winds
E2801 Landscaping for Summer Cooling
E2802 Energy Efficiency in Lighting
More than 100 Ways to Save on Your Energy Bill
www.consumersenergy.com/apps/pdf/more-100-ways-save-on-bill12-06.pdf
This Home*A*Syst chapter covers a variety of topics to help homeowners examine
and address their most important energy concerns. See the complete list of chapters
in the table of contents at the beginning of this handbook. For more information on
topics covered in Home*A*Syst, contact your local MSU Extension office.
This chapter was written by Lori S. Marsh, Department of Biological Systems
Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and updated and
adapted for use in Michigan by Roberta Dow and Suzanne Ebright, Michigan
Groundwater Stewardship Program, 2008.
74
Energy Savings for your Home
Home*A*Syst
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his chapter examines potential
risks to the environment and
your health from stormwater
runoff. Two areas are covered:
1. Reducing pollutants in
runoff
‹‹Pesticides and fertilizers
‹‹Pet and other animal wastes
‹‹Automotive wastes
‹‹Winter deicers
‹‹Grass clippings and yard waste
2. Controlling runoff
‹‹Preventing soil erosion
‹‹Minimizing paved surfaces
‹‹Basement flood protection
‹‹Roof drainage
‹‹Landscaping
Chapter 7. Managing Stormwater around
Your Home
What is stormwater and why should you be concerned?
Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the
ground. It flows down slopes and roads, along ditches or from rooftops, over
paved areas, across bare soil, and through sloped lawns and fields. As it flows,
this runoff collects and transports soil, pet waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizer, oil
and grease, yard waste, litter and other potential pollutants. You don’t need
a heavy rainstorm to send pollutants rushing toward streams, wetlands and
lakes—your hose can supply enough water. Even if your house is not on the
waterfront, storm drains or storm sewers carry runoff from your neighborhood
to the nearest stream, wetland or body of water. Contrary to popular belief,
most storm sewers do not carry stormwater to sewage plants for treatment.
Often they flow right into the water you enjoy for swimming and fishing.
Polluted stormwater lowers the quality of Michigan’s lakes, rivers and
wetlands. Soil clouds water and degrades habitat for fish and water plants.
Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizers and animal wastes
promote the growth of algae, which crowd out other aquatic life. Toxic
chemicals such as antifreeze and oil from leaking cars, carelessly applied
pesticides, and zinc from galvanized metal gutters and downspouts threaten
the health of fish and other aquatic life. Bacteria and parasites from pet,
waterfowl and other animal waste can affect nearby inland lakes and streams.
As many people have discovered, stormwater can be a problem closer to home,
flowing into basements, where it can be difficult and hazardous to clean up.
Stormwater can also flow down an abandoned well or poorly sealed well casing
(pipe) and contaminate drinking water.
In Michigan and across the country, public officials are turning their pollution
control efforts from wastewater discharges to stormwater management in
urban and rural areas. The problem cannot be treated in the same way as water
pollution from discharge pipes. This pollution does not come from a few
sources. It is carried by stormwater from every street, parking lot, yard and
garden. The problem can be solved only by an individualized and collaborative
effort from everyone.
There are two ways to reduce the risks posed by stormwater:
‹‹Keep pollutants out of stormwater.
‹‹Reduce the amount of stormwater runoff.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Stormwater around Your Home
75
Figure 1: Chemicals used near
storm drains (storm sewers) can
be carried by rain runoff into the
drain and on into the nearby lake
or stream.
Where does stormwater go?
The next time you are home during a storm, head outdoors with your boots and umbrella
and watch where the rainwater goes. On the sketch of your property in Chapter 1, “Site
Assessment,” draw arrows showing the direction that stormwater flows off driveways,
rooftops, sidewalks and yards. Does water soak into the ground quickly, or does it puddle
in places and flow off lawns and gardens? Your soil type affects water infiltration (soaking
into the ground). As you might expect, water infiltrates sandy soil quickly but has a hard
time seeping into fine-grained silt or clay soils. Infiltration is preferred, but infiltrating
storm water still needs to be kept as pollutant-free as possible. During your walk, note how
far it is to the nearest storm sewer, ditch, wetland, stream or body of open water.
Part 1 – Reducing Pollutants in Runoff
Stormwater is unavoidable, but its effects can be reduced by keeping harmful
chemicals and materials out of the runoff (Figure 1). This section reviews the
major potential sources of contamination and offers ways to minimize them.
At the end of Part 1, fill out the assessment to help identify stormwater risks on
your property.
Are household products stored out of the reach of
stormwater?
Most households keep lawn and garden products such as weedkillers,
insecticides and fertilizers in storage. If stormwater or floodwater reaches
these products, it can transport them into surface water and your well. Pool
chemicals, salt from water softeners and a wide variety of other chemicals
and products also can cause trouble if they are washed away. Keeping such
products in waterproof containers and storing them up high and out of the
potential path of runoff or floods are important. You can avoid storage
problems by buying what you need for a particular use and then using it
according to the instructions on the label.
Use and handling. Safe storage is only the first step in preventing
contaminated runoff. When you spill chemicals, act quickly to contain and
clean up the spill. This is particularly important on paved surfaces. Granular
76
Managing Stormwater around Your Home Home*A*Syst
fertilizers and pesticides should be swept off of paved surfaces into the yard.
Never wash or dump paint, fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals into
the storm drain. Using more pesticides and fertilizers than you need invites
pollution problems. Timing of applications is also important. Avoid applying
pesticides and chemicals if heavy rainfall is expected within 24 hours. See
Chapter 9, “Caring for Your Yard and Garden,” for more information on using
these yard and garden products.
Are any motor wastes being carried away by stormwater?
Oil stains on your driveway and outdoor spills of antifreeze, brake fluid and
other automotive fluids are easily carried away by a rainstorm. If the runoff
from your driveway has an oily sheen, this is a sure sign of your need to
be more careful. Pans, carpet scraps and matting can catch drips. Routine
maintenance prevents your car from leaking and identifies potential leaks. Be
careful if you change your own oil to avoid spills and collect waste oil for
recycling. Oily car parts and fluid containers should be stored where rain and
runoff cannot reach them. Never dump used oil, antifreeze or gasoline down a
storm drain, in a ditch or on the ground. These wastes will end up in a nearby
lake or stream, or they may pollute your drinking water.
Washing your car in the driveway creates runoff problems
without the assistance of a rainstorm. Your hose provides
the water. The dirty, soapy runoff drains directly into
sewers, picking up oil and other pollutants as it goes. Try
washing your car on the lawn. Or better yet, take it to a
commercial car wash or spray booth that sends its dirty
water to a wastewater treatment plant.
Boats and campers with wastewater collection systems
should be drained at designated wastewater disposal sites,
not on the ground or into storm sewers, where they can
contaminate surface water.
Do you use road salt or other deicing products?
All road salt and deicers eventually wash off of paved surfaces and end up
in the soil or water. From your driveway or sidewalk, salt can readily flow
to storm drains and then into streams and lakes. Salt in high concentrations
is harmful to wildlife and plant life. Use less to keep these chemicals out of
natural systems. If you use too much, clean up the excess. Consider sand or
gravel as less toxic alternatives. Chipping ice off pavement is another good
choice.
How do you keep animal wastes from becoming a pollution
problem?
Droppings from dogs and cats and from commonly kept animals such as
rabbits, goats and chickens can be troublesome in two ways. First, pet wastes
contain nutrients that can promote the growth of algae if they enter streams
and lakes. Second, animal droppings are sources of disease organisms. The
risk of stormwater contamination increases if pet wastes are concentrated in
animal pen areas or left on sidewalks, streets or driveways where runoff occurs.
Droppings should be buried if local laws allow, flushed along with human
wastes down the toilet or placed in the trash (depending on local rules).
Home*A*Syst
Managing Stormwater around Your Home
77
Are yard and garden plant wastes kept out of stormwater?
If left on sidewalks, driveways or roads, grass clippings and other yard wastes will wash
away with the next storm. Although leaves and other plant debris accumulate naturally in
streams and lakes, homeowners can contribute excess amounts of plant matter by letting
their clippings and other plant debris go down the storm drain. This can lead to water that
is overfertilized and unsuitable for recreation. This risk is especially high in urban areas
because of the large areas of hard surfaces enabling more runoff.
Burning is not an environmentally friendly alternative. Hydrocarbons and nutrients
released by burning leaves contribute to water and air pollution. Rain washes smoke
particles out of the air, and runoff picks up dust and ashes left on pavement or in ditches.
Avoiding problems with plant waste is easy—sweep clippings back onto the grass, and
compost leaves on your property to recycle nutrients for later use. Many communities
have plant material pickups and provide wood chips and compost for gardening.
✔✔Assessment 1 – Reducing Pollutants in Runoff
Use the following assessment to rate your stormwater pollution risks. For each question,
write your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.” Although
some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation, choose the response that fits
best. Refer back to Part 1 if you need more information to complete this assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
Storage of
pesticides,
fertilizers and
other potentially
harmful chemicals
Handling and
use of pesticides,
fertilizers
and outdoor
chemicals
Vehicle washing
Motor wastes
Medium risk/
potential hazard
Stored in waterproof
Stored in waterproof
containers in garage, shed containers but within
or basement above reach of reach of stormwater.
stormwater.
Spills or misapplications
cleaned up properly and
immediately, particularly
on paved surfaces.
Amounts applied according
to label. Applications
timed to avoid rain.
Cars, trucks, campers, etc.,
taken to a commercial car
wash or spray booth.
High risk/
unsafe situation
Your
risk
Stored in nonwaterproof containers
outdoors or within
reach of stormwater.
Applications applied
Spills or
when rainfall is
misapplications not
imminent or predicted. cleaned up. Products
used in amounts
higher than label
recommendations.
Cars, trucks or other
vehicles washed on a
lawn or gravel drive.
Cars, trucks or other
vehicles washed on
driveways, streets or
other paved areas.
Oil drips and fluid spills
Drips not cleaned up.
Used oil, antifreeze
cleaned up. Dirty car parts Car parts and other
and other wastes
and other vehicle wastes
vehicle wastes piled on dumped down the
kept out of stormwater
unpaved areas outside. storm sewer, in a ditch
runoff.
or on the ground.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Continued on next page...
78
Managing Stormwater around Your Home Home*A*Syst
...Assessment 1 continued
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Pet and animal
wastes
Animal and pet wastes
(droppings) are flushed
or buried away from any
garden, well, ditch or
area where children play.
Grass clippings,
leaves, mulch
and other yard
waste
Clippings, leaves and
other yard wastes swept
off paved surfaces and
onto lawns away from
water flow routes.
Leaves and other yard
wastes composted.
Animal wastes left to
decompose on grass or
soil. Wastes scattered
over wide areas away
from ditches, play areas,
well or storm drain.
Leaves and other yard
wastes piled on the
lawn next to the street
for collection. Leaves
and other yard wastes
burned outdoors away
from paved areas or
ditches.
Animal wastes left
on paved surfaces or
concentrated in pen or
yard areas or dumped
down the storm drain or
in a ditch.
Grass clippings, leaves
and other yard debris
left on driveways,
streets and other paved
areas where they
will be carried off by
stormwater. Leaves
burned on paved areas
or in ditches.
Your
risk
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this chapter
to record the medium and high risks you have identified. Use the recommendations in
Part 1 to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
Part 2 – Landscaping and Site Management to
Control Runoff
Some stormwater risks can be controlled by changes to buildings, paved surfaces,
landscaping and soil surfaces. This section reviews some easily addressed problems, as
well as major landscape alterations you might want to consider.
Are there areas of bare soil around your home?
You can find areas of bare soil in vegetable and flower gardens, in newly seeded lawns
and around construction projects. Even on gentle slopes, water from rain and snow can
remove large amounts of soil and deliver it to wetlands, rivers and lakes. Planting grass
or other ground covers is the best way to stop erosion. Putting straw over newly seeded
areas or chip mulch over gardens will slow erosion. Straw bales, diversion ditches and
commercially available silt fences around construction sites can help slow runoff and
trap sediment on site.
Can you eliminate paved surfaces or install alternatives?
Concrete and asphalt roads, driveways and walkways prevent rainwater from soaking
naturally into the ground. When you have the choice, consider alternatives such as
gravel or wood chip walkways. Avoid paving areas such as patios. Where you need a
more solid surface, consider using a porous pavement made from interlocking cement
blocks, brick pavers or rubber mats with spaces that allow rainwater to seep into the
ground. If you must pour concrete, keep the paved area as short and narrow as possible.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Stormwater around Your Home
79
Is your basement protected from stormwater seepage or
flooding?
Stormwater in your basement can be a hazard in three ways: the water can
carry chemical contaminants or disease organisms into your home; the water
can pick up chemicals stored in your basement and carry them into the sewer
or ground; and the water creates electrocution risks. Basement windows or
doors are common entry points and should be sealed against leaks. It is best if
window and door sills are at least a foot above ground level. If windows are at
ground level or below, they can be protected with clear plastic covers available
in building supply stores. Window wells that extend above ground level can
help divert stormwater. Your yard should be sloped away from the house
foundation to prevent water from pooling near the house and leaking into the
basement.
Does water from roofs flow onto pavement or grass?
Your house roof, like pavement, sheds water. If downspouts from roof gutters
empty out on grassy or plant areas, the water will have a chance to soak
naturally into the ground. Aim your roof downspouts away from foundations
and paved surfaces. Keeping gutters clean helps move water to intended
absorption areas. For roofs without gutters, you can plant grass, spread bark
mulch, or use gravel under the drip line to prevent soil erosion and increase the
ground’s capacity to absorb water. Consider using cisterns or rain barrels to
catch rainwater for watering lawns and gardens in dry weather.
Can you change the layout of your landscape to reduce
runoff?
An essential part of stormwater management is keeping water from leaving
your property or at least slowing its flow as much as possible. Many home
lawns have slopes that encourage water to run off onto neighboring property
or streets. Instead, you could provide a rain garden, a low maintenance
perennial garden that is designed to catch stormwater and allow it to soak into
the ground. It is planted in a wet spot,
a place where water naturally flows, or
a place where water can be diverted. A
rain garden, when installed correctly,
should not have standing water for more
than a day; it is not a pond. Building a
successful rain garden involves a good
location, some soil work and the right
plants. See “Resources” at the end of this
chapter.
If your yard is hilly, you can terrace
slopes to slow the flow of runoff and
make mowing and gardening easier. If you
have a large lot, consider naturalizing areas with native plants. If your property
adjoins a lake or stream, one of the best ways to slow and filter runoff is to
have a buffer strip of thick natural vegetation along the waterfront. A good
source for ideas is your local MSU Extension or conservation district office.
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Managing Stormwater around Your Home Home*A*Syst
✔✔Assessment 2 – Managing Runoff around Your Home
In the assessment, write your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.”
Select the answer that best matches your situation. Refer to the information in Part 2 above if you
need more information to complete this assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
Bare lawn spots promptly
seeded and topped with a
straw layer. Bare garden soil
covered with mulch.
Bare soil seeded and mulched
Bare soil
as soon as possible (before
during
construction is complete).
construction
or remodeling Sediment barriers used until
grass covers soil.
Bare soil in
lawns and
gardens
Paved surfaces minimized.
Alternatives such as wood
chips or paving blocks used
for walkways and other areas.
Stormwater diverted from
Basement
basement windows by
protection
window well covers and
other devices. Yard is sloped
away from foundation, and
downspouts direct roof
drainage away from house.
Roof drainage Downspouts and drip lines
direct roof drainage onto
lawn or garden where water
soaks into the ground.
Paved
surfaces
Landscaping
and buffer
strips
Yard landscaped to slow
stormwater flow and provide
areas where water soaks
into the ground. Unmowed
vegetation buffer strips
present along streams and
lakeshores.
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
Your
unsafe situation risk
Grass or other ground
cover is spotty,
particularly on slopes.
Spots in lawn or
garden left without
mulch or vegetation
for long periods.
Soil left bare until
Soil left bare and no
construction is completed. sediment barriers
Sediment barriers
used.
installed and maintained
to detain muddy runoff
until grass covers soil.
Some small areas paved
Paved surfaces used
for patios or basketball.
extensively.
No special water
diversion methods
installed, but stormwater
has never entered
basement.
Water diversion
methods attempted.
Stormwater
runoff has entered
basement or flows
near the foundation.
Some downspouts and
drip lines discharge water
onto paved surfaces or
grassy areas where water
runs off.
Most or all drip lines
or downspouts flow
onto paved surfaces.
Or downspouts
connect directly to
storm drains.
No areas landscaped to
No landscaping
encourage water to soak
to slow the flow
in, but yard is relatively
of stormwater,
flat and little runoff
especially on hilly,
occurs. Mowed grass or erodible properties.
spotty vegetation adjacent Stream banks or
to stream or lake.
lakeshores eroding.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to your risks
As before, your goal is to lower your risks. On the Action Checklist below, record medium and
high risks you have identified. Use the recommendations in Part 2 to help reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Stormwater around Your Home
81
✔✔Action Checklist
Go back over the assessment charts and look for the high and medium risks you identified. Record them below.
For each medium and high risk listed, write down the improvements you plan to make. Use recommendations
from this chapter and other resources to decide on an action you are likely to complete. A target date will help
keep you on schedule. You don’t have to do everything at once, but try to eliminate the most serious risks as soon
as you can. Often it helps to tackle the inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action:
Fertilizer and pesticides stored on soil floor
in storage shed.
Put fertilizer bags in plastic covered storage
bins, put on shelf out of hazard of flooding.
One week from today:
May 15
Resources
Landscape management
Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for information on landscape management. Contact
the Department of Environmental Quality Environmental Response Division for information on non-point source
pollution. Contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service or local drain commissioner for information on
stormwater management techniques.
Websites and publications
“Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality.” MSU Extension Bulletin WQ57
“Landscaping for Water Quality.” 2004. Jane Secord (ed.), Center for Environmental Study, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Available at www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-wb-nps-Landscaping-for-Water-Quality.pdf
Stormwater-related publications available from the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, 1007 Lake Drive
SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506; 616-451-3051; www.wmeac.org
www.RainGardens.org
This chapter was written by Carl DuPoldt, environmental engineer, Natural Resources Conservation Service,
Somerset, N.J., and Carolyn Johnson, water quality education specialist, University of Wisconsin Extension,
Milwaukee, and adapted for Michigan by Tom Cary, West Michigan Environmental Action Council, and Dean
Solomon, Roberta Dow and Jim Bardenhagen, Michigan State University Extension. Updated in 2008.
82
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his chapter helps you
understand the importance of
water and the water cycle. It
also examines the need to conserve
water. Two areas are covered:
1. Reducing water usage
indoors
‹‹Plumbing leaks
‹‹Insulated water pipes
‹‹Bathroom considerations
‹‹Water turn-off valves
‹‹Water-conserving appliances
‹‹Water conservation practices
Chapter 8. Conserving Water around
Your Home
“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin
Why should you be concerned?
Water is essential for life. Humans can survive for about a month without food
but only about seven days without water. Water, however, is a limited resource.
We have the same amount of water on earth today as thousands of years ago.
It moves around in the water cycle (Figure 1), so areas that may have been wet
may now be dry or vice versa. There is no new water—the water is reused and
recycled. For example, an apple may contain rain water from yesterday, which
was water that fell hundreds of miles away a year ago and was also drunk by a
dinosaur millions of years ago.
Clouds forming
Precipitation
2. Reducing water usage in
yard and garden
‹‹Landscaping choices
‹‹Lawn care practices
‹‹Irrigation techniques
‹‹Soil improvements and cultural
practices
‹‹Washing vehicles
Transpiration
Evaporation off fields
Infiltration
Water table
Runoff
Runoff
Groundwater
Evaporation off lake
Lake
Figure 1: The water cycle.
“Understanding Groundwater.”
Institute of Water Research/ Center for Remote Sensing, MSU.
The water cycle
Water moves from land to groundwater to surface water to air (Figure 1).
Precipitation—rain, snow, sleet and hail—brings water to the earth. This is
taken up by the ground through infiltration. Plants may take up the moisture
and release it back to the air through the process of transpiration. Some of
the precipitation runs off the surface of the ground and into surface waters such
as lakes and streams. These bodies of water may lose water to groundwater if
the water table is low or gain water from groundwater if the water table is high.
These bodies may also lose moisture through evaporation, which occurs even
in cold weather if the water is not ice-covered. In Michigan, the water moves
to the Great Lakes and then on to the Atlantic Ocean.
Home*A*Syst
Conserving Water around Your Home
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Do we have enough water?
Freshwater 3%
Most of the water on earth (about 97 percent) is salt water, which is costly to
convert to usable water for consumption by plants, animals and humans (Figure
2). Fresh water makes up only about 3 percent of the earth’s water, and most
(two-thirds) of this is frozen polar ice caps and glaciers. Fresh groundwater
and surface water make up 31 percent. With global warming and melting of
the ice, we are losing more fresh water to the saltwater oceans.
Other 0.9%
Ground
water
30.1%
Demand for water is increasing globally. Drought, overpopulation, increased
usage and pollution are all contributing to the water crisis. Global consumption
is doubling every 20 years. This is more than twice the rate of human
population growth. Pollution and overextraction further limit water resources
in many areas of the world. Scarcity of water may lead to water conflicts in the
future. Over a billion people in the world lack access to drinkable water. The
world’s 6 billion people are already using about 54 percent of all the accessible
fresh water contained in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. According to
data collected from NASA and the World Health Organization, 4 billion people
will face water shortages by 2050.
Saline
(oceans)
97%
Icecaps
and
glaciers
68.7%
Earth’s water
Freshwater
Surface
water
0.3%
Figure 2: Distribution of
Earth’s water.
U.S. Geological Survey.
Michigan, the Water Wonderland, is blessed with the surrounding Great Lakes
(20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water). However, this does not mean
that overuse or mismanagement of our water resources cannot affect our lakes,
streams, wetlands, wildlife, plant life, agriculture, industry or economy, or our
future water use. As populations grow, controversies grow over who controls
the water. Our precious water resources need to be protected and conserved for
current and future use.
Even in Michigan, water usage is a significant expense. There are pumping,
heating, water treatment and wastewater treatment costs. If you have a septic
system, water conservation can extend the time between tank pumpings (see
Chapter 11, “Managing Household Wastewater”). It can also extend the life
of your drainfield, saving replacement costs of $3,000 or more. If you have
municipal water and sewage, the more you use, the more you pay. Water
conservation can mean homeowner as well as community savings.
Per capita domestic water demand (m3/year/person)
60
50
40
Figure 3: Per capita household
water consumption for the world
and by region for 1995 and a
business-as-usual projection for
2025. Global Water Outlook to
2025: Averting an Impending
Crisis.
30
20
10
0
Asia
Latin Sub-Saharan Middle Developed Developing
America
Africa
East and Countries Countries
North Africa
1995
84
World
2025
Conserving Water around Your Home
Home*A*Syst
How can I conserve water?
“Water is not like oil. There is no substitute.” – Dr. Mark Rosegrant,
International Food Policy Research Institute.
Drought, overpopulation and pollution are all contributing to the water crisis,
but so are water waste and overuse. The domestic water consumption per
person for the world and by regions of the world is shown in Figure 3 with
a projection for 2025 if there is no change in behavior and with current
population and other projections.
Part 1 - Reducing Water Usage Indoors
Water use estimates vary, but the U.S. Geological Survey states that the
average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water in the home daily. That’s
a lot of water! Reductions can be made through repairing leaks, using new
technologies and changing water use behaviors. See what you can do to make
a difference.
Do you have plumbing leaks?
Plumbing can be a source of leaks and water loss. If you are on a public water
supply, check the water meter when no water is being used or is going to be
used in the house. After two hours, check it again. If there is any usage shown,
that indicates a leak somewhere. If you have a private well and you can hear
the pump come on regularly when you’re not using water, you have a leak.
The leak may be in the toilet, faucets, plumbing or appliances. To check for
a toilet leak, put some food coloring in the tank. If color appears in the bowl
without flushing, you have a leak that needs repair. It may require getting a
new flapper or adjusting the float rod on an old-style conventional toilet or
getting a new valve ring, gasket or flushvalve for newer toilets. Faucet leaks
generally can be repaired simply by replacing the washer.
Bathroom considerations
Three-fourths of the water used in the home is used in the bathroom; the toilet
accounts for over a fourth of this. Conventional (old-style) toilets using 5.5
gallons per flush use an estimated 13,000 gallons per year to get rid of 165
gallons of body waste. Installation of low-flow or ultra low-flow toilets can
save 1.5 gallons to 4.7 gallons per flush (Figure 4). The new ultra low-flow
toilets use a pressurized tank to provide high pressure flow of a smaller amount
of water, giving water efficiency with high user satisfaction.
If a new toilet is not practical, you can use a plastic bottle filled with water
or pebbles or a commercial toilet dam placed in the toilet tank to save water.
Leave 3 gallons in your tank for effective flushing.
Stopping use of the toilet as a disposal for things such as cigarettes, bugs and
small bits of paper also halts unnecessary flushes and water waste.
Preparing a bath may be another source of wasted water if the water is run to
get the proper temperature prior to plugging the tub. It is more economical and
wastes less water to plug the tub drain first and begin filling the tub, adjusting
the water temperature as it is filled.
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Installing low-flow plumbing fixtures such as faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads can
lower your hot water heating costs as well as your water usage. Aerators can cut flow by 50
percent. They mix air with water, which helps prevent splashing and cuts water use. If your
shower can fill a 1-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, then you do not have a water-efficient
showerhead. Older conservation models simply blocked some of the water flow. Today’s lowflow heads move the water through special openings that control droplet size, focus the stream
and, in some heads, increase the blast by adding air, creating turbulence or pulsing. Consumer
product evaluations have shown consumer satisfaction with many of the heads that are now
available. It’s best to check evaluations before you purchase one. Also, installing anti-scald
valves or lowering your water heater temperature may be recommended to prevent scalding
when the toilet is flushed if you have less than ¾-inch diameter piping.
Are your hot water pipes insulated?
Hot water takes longer to reach you in cold pipes because the water cools as it passes through.
Insulating pipes with split foam pipe insulation (see Chapter 6, “Energy Savings for Your
Home”) allows faster delivery of hot water, saving water, energy and money.
Equipment
Toilet
Conventional
Low-flow
Ultra low-flow
Gallons
per use
5-5.5
3.5
.8-1.6
Savings
36%
up to 85%
Showerheads (per min.)
Conventional
5
Low-flow
2.5
50%
Bath
Full tub
1/4 to 1/3 full
30-45
9-12
60-80%
Faucets (per min.)
Conventional
Low-flow
3
2.5
16%
Equipment/activity
Gallons
per use
Savings
Washing machine
Conventional top load
Wash recycle
Front load
X-axis
37
26
21
17.5
30%
43%
53%
Shaving
Open tap
1 full basin
5-10
1
80-90%
30
10-15
5
50-66 % over open tap
83% over open tap
Dishwashing
By hand - open tap
Dishwasher - full load
By hand - full basin,
wash & rinse
Figure 4: Water use by conventional and efficient household equipment or behaviors.
Do you and members of your family know where the water turn-off valves are?
There is a main water turn-off valve that stops water from coming into your piping system,
whether you have a drinking water well or city water. Knowing the location of this may
protect your home from flooding due to a burst pipe or damaged appliance. Also, under each
sink is a hot and cold water turn-off valve that controls water to the faucets. Toilets, clothes
washers and dishwashers also have turnoff valves.
Do you have water-conserving appliances?
Today, low-water-usage appliances are readily available. Efficient dishwashers and washing
machines can save .3 to 5 gallons per load. Front-loading washing machines use less water
than top-loading types. A few washing machines have suds-saver systems that put the wash
water into a tub or pump it into a built-in tank. The wash water is stored and is pumped back
for reuse for another wash load. The rinse cycle continues to be a single use.
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New water softeners also use less water than older models. Water softeners take the hardness,
calcium or magnesium, out of water by exchanging it on a column with sodium (in most
softeners) or potassium (which is better for the environment). Water plus sodium chloride or
potassium chloride is used to refresh the column so it can soften more water. Old softeners do
this on a timer and thus may flush too often if the timer is set for short cycles. New efficient
softeners have a sensor and refresh when the column needs it.
Do members of your family practice water conservation when they use water?
Teach members of the family to turn off the water in between various operations such as
wetting the toothbrush and brushing, cleaning the shaver and shaving, or wetting the hair and
soaping the hair. It saves water. Taking shorter showers and turning the water off between
soaping up and rinsing is a good practice. A 4-minute shower uses 20 to 40 gallons of water,
depending on your shower head.
Hand washing of dishes using one side of the sink with soapy wash water and the other side
with rinse water is more conservative than rinsing them with continuous running water (see
Figure 4). Using water from a chilled refrigerator dispenser or from a pitcher of water in the
refrigerator saves running the faucet until the water is cold for a drink. Running fully loaded
dishwashers and clothes washers provides optimum water conservation. For partial loads,
conserve water by adjusting the water levels to match the load size.
Using a garbage disposal requires running water. If you have a septic system, this also means
that you have to pump it more often because of the buildup of solids (see Chapter 11). If you
are on a city waste water system, it increases the city’s costs. Instead, consider composting
your vegetable waste. This saves water and gives the added benefit of compost for your garden
(see Chapter 9, “Caring for the Yard and Garden”).
✔✔Assessment 1 – Risks Related to Indoor Water Usage
Use the following assessment to rate your water conservation efforts. For each question, put
your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.” Choose the response
that best fits your situation. Refer to the information in this chapter if you need help to
complete this assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
Plumbing
Toilet
Medium risk/
potential risk
Water meter or well pump
indicates no change over
2-hour period when water
not used, therefore no
leaks. Or, leaks have been
corrected.
Low-flow or ultra low-flow Toilet tank contains
type.
plastic bottle filled with
pebbles or water, or
toilet dam.
High risk/
unsafe situation
Your
risk
Faucets drip and/or toilet
leaks water from tank into
bowl, and/or plumbing
joints leak.
Non-conserving toilet
present (pre-1980s) and not
modified to decrease water
usage.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Continued on next page...
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87
...Assessment 1 continued
Low risk/
recommended
Toilet usage Toilet used only for human
waste, not for small bits of
trash, etc. Know how to
adjust toilet flapper so it
doesn’t stay open.
Water-saving shower heads
installed. Shower turned
off when soaping up. Short
showers the rule.
Low-flow faucets present.
Faucets tightly turned off
after each use. Water turned
off after wetting toothbrush,
soaping hands, shaving
or shampooing. Faucets
repaired as needed.
Shower
Faucets
Family knows how to turn
off main water valves and
valves under sinks, toilets
and appliances.
Automatic dishwasher and
Wash
clothes washer run fully
machines
loaded. When purchasing
new equipment, machines
that conserve water selected.
Dishes washed in soapy
Hand
dishwashing water on one side of the sink
or produce and rinsed in water held in
the other side. Vegetables
washing
washed in sink or pan.
Food waste Appropriate food scraps
composted.
Main / sub
water valve
locations
Hot water
pipes
Medium risk/
potential risk
High risk/
unsafe situation
Toilet rarely used
for small bits of
non-human waste.
Toilet regularly used as
ashtray or wastebasket and
flushed each time small bits
of trash added. When flapper
is stuck open, have no idea
how to fix it.
No effort to save water
during showering. Showers
longer than 5 minutes.
Water-saving
shower head not
present, but short
showers taken.
Some faucets
with aerators or
low-flow type
present. Faucets
generally turned off.
Repaired as needed.
Valves located
but inoperable or
inaccessible.
Partial loads
run, but water
levels adjusted
accordingly.
Water run to
rinse dishes or
wash vegetables
but turned off in
between.
Pipes insulated with split
foam pipe insulation,
allowing faster delivery of
hot water.
Your
risk
No low-flow faucets or
faucets with aerators
present. Faucets often
left running. Faucet left
running while brushing
teeth, soaping hands, shaving
or shampooing in shower.
Dripping faucets present.
Family has no idea how to
turn off water if major leak
occurs.
Partial loads run without
adjusting water levels.
Water conservation never
considered when purchasing
new equipment.
Water run continuously while
washing and rinsing.
Garbage disposal used
regularly. No composting
done.
Pipes uninsulated.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
As always, your goal is to lower your risks. Use the Action Checklist at the end
of this chapter to record the medium and high risks you have identified. Use
recommendations in this chapter to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
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Part 2 - Reducing Water Usage in the Yard and Garden
Do you consider your landscaping?
Landscaping to minimize irrigation needs will save not only water but time and money.
It’s important to choose the right plants for your site, usage and region. Consider droughttolerant and native plants—they have adapted to need less water or to your area’s growing
conditions. When planning a lawn, consider the amount needed and whether other more
drought-tolerant plantings might be used to decrease the amount of thirsty turf.
What are your lawn care and irrigation practices?
Lawn care is often the biggest user of water at the home. See Chapter 9 for recommended
lawn watering and water-saving ideas. There are ways you can conserve water while
irrigating. Using a water meter will help you put down the amount you intend. Turning the
water on and off rather than using an automatic system means you’ll not be watering when
it’s raining. Using drip irrigation or soaker hose systems on trees, shrubs and gardens can
be more efficient than overhead watering, which loses water to evaporation or the wind.
Have you considered your yard and garden practices?
You can also improve water retention by improving your soil and
cultural practices. Adding compost benefits both sandy and clay
soils. It increases water-holding capacity in sandy soils and helps
rain to soak in rather than run off of clay soils. Mulching decreases
water loss by slowing evaporation from the soil and reduces weed
competition for water and nutrients.
Using rain barrels to collect rainwater for your garden allows you to
use the water gathered from gutter downspouts from your roof. A
screen over the barrel will prevent mosquitoes from taking advantage
of the water, too.
Washing with a hose uses about 50 gallons every 5 minutes.
Sweeping a sidewalk or driveway rather than hosing it clean is a big
water saver.
Have you checked your outdoor plumbing?
How many times do you drive down the road and see sprinklers that are broken and
running full tilt or misdirected and watering the street? These malfunctioning spigots
simply waste water without providing benefit. Check hose couplings, outdoor spigots, hot
tubs, pools and other equipment to ensure that you are not wasting water and your money.
Also, Michigan winters commonly cause damage to undrained or unprotected outdoor
piping. Draining lines that are not frost-protected will keep them from bursting.
Swimming pools with cracks can easily lose a lot of water. These pools need regular
“topping up”. Place a tape or mark at the water level to see how much it drops in 24 hours
when the pool is unused. If water loss is less than ¼ inch per day, your pool is simply
showing evaporative loss. If more, then check to determine where the loss is occurring. A
recirculating pump is a water saver. Have it checked to make sure it is working properly.
Water features can be water wasters. Fountains send water into the air to be easily
evaporated. Children’s water slides with constant running water from a hose overwater a
single spot on the lawn. Before choosing such features, consider the water usage impact.
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✔✔Assessment 2 – Risks Related to Outdoor Water Usage
Use the following assessment to rate your water conservation efforts. For each question, put your
risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.” Choose the response that best fits
your situation. Refer to the information in this chapter if you need help to complete this assessment.
Low risk/
recommended
Plant types
Watering
Irrigation
Mulch
Cleaning
Drought-tolerant or siteappropriate plants chosen
when selecting new plants for
yard and garden.
Sprinklers monitored and
kept adjusted so only lawn
or gardens are watered, not
roads and storm drains.
Drip irrigation or soaker hose
used for trees, shrubs and
gardens. Water meter present
on hose or water system that
you turn on and off on the
basis of conditions.
Organic mulch or weed
preventive, water-permeable
matting with mulch or stones
used in gardens. Weeds
removed.
Driveways, sidewalks and
impervious surfaces swept.
Medium risk/ High risk/
potential risk unsafe situation
No effort made to minimize
use of water-thirsty plants.
Sprinklers poorly monitored
and commonly watering
unvegetated surfaces, causing
runoff.
Drip irrigation or Sprinklers used for trees,
soaker hose used shrubs and garden. Irrigation
but without water done during windy and high
meter.
evaporation (hot) periods of
day. Watering system turned
on automatically, and no
provision made for plants’
needs and weather.
No mulch used,
No mulch used and weeds
but weeds
present.
removed.
Downspouts Roof rainwater collected in
Outside
equipment
Swimming
pool
Your
risk
a rain barrel for later use or
directed toward trees and
shrubs.
No leaking couplings, faucets
or hoses.
Water loss less than ¼ inch
per day. Recirculating pump
present and working properly.
Water routinely used to hose
off sidewalks, driveways and
other impervious surfaces.
Roof downspouts allow
rainwater to run off property.
Leaks in pipes, couplings,
faucets, hoses or attached
equipment.
Water loss greater than ¼ inch
each day. Recirculating pump
not present or not working.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
As always, your goal is to lower your risks. Use the Action Checklist on the next pages to record the
medium and high risks you have identified. Use recommendations in this chapter to help you make
plans to reduce your risks.
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✔✔Action Checklist
Go back over the assessments and look for the medium and high risks you
identified. Record them below. For each of your high risks, write down the
improvements you plan to make. Use recommendations from this chapter and
other resources to decide on actions you are likely to complete. A target date
will keep you on schedule. You don’t have to do everything at once, but try to
eliminate the most serious risks as soon as you can. Often it helps to tackle the
inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action:
Example: Water faucet in laundry room
dripping.
Change washer in faucet.
One week from today:
May 15
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Resources
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. www.epa.gov
Under “Quick Finder,” click on “Water,” then search “water
conservation.”
U.S. Geological Survey. http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthwherewater.html
Water Conservation. www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/backyard/watercon.html
Water Conservation Tutorial. http://www.epa.gov/seahome/watcon.html
or http://cobweb.ecn.purdue.edu/~epados/farmstead/watcon/src/main.htm
“Water Conservation for Home and Yard.” MSU Extension bulletin WQ 16.
“Water Usage.” Linda Heaton, Cooperative Extension Service, University of
Kentucky. ENRI-117.
For information on clothes washers rated under the USEPA and Department
of Energy ENERGY STAR® program, see the ENERGY STAR® webpage at:
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=clotheswash.pr_clothes_washers.
For information on dishwashers rated under the USEPA and Department
of Energy ENERGY STAR® program, see the ENERGY STAR® webpage at:
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=dishwash.pr_dishwashers.
This chapter was written by Roberta Dow, Michigan State University
Extension, Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program, 2008.
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T
S
Y
tem
S
s
y
*
*A ent S
Essessm
OM
eA
HHom
I
f yours is like most homes, it is
surrounded by lawns, gardens,
shrubs and trees that require
regular maintenance. This chapter
examines the potential impact of yard
and garden care on the environment
and on your health.
Topics:
‹‹Soil testing
‹‹Fertilizers, pesticides and
alternative control methods
‹‹Lawn type and maintenance
‹‹Ground covers and erosion protection
‹‹Composting
‹‹Conserving water
Chapter 9. Caring for the Yard and
Garden
Why should you be concerned?
Your yard and garden, the natural setting of your home, might be the last
places you would look for pollution problems. However, behind beautiful
landscapes are activities that may threaten your health and the environment.
Homeowners need to recognize that their practices may have a major impact
on the environment. Problems occur when exposed soil washes away during
a storm, harming wildlife habitat and choking waterways. If yard and garden
chemicals are applied improperly, they may find their way into drinking
water wells or pollute nearby lakes and streams. Closer to home, children
are particularly vulnerable to pesticides that are stored or used without proper
safety precautions.
Indiscriminate watering of lawns and gardens wastes large amounts of clean
drinking water. Gasoline-powered mowers, weed cutters, leaf blowers and
other devices make noise and pollute the air. A lawnmower powered by a twocycle engine spews in one hour the same amount of exhaust as a car driven 350
miles. It may seem that your contribution to pollution is minor, but the effects
of chemicals, soil loss and wasted water from hundreds of thousands of homes
in your region can really add up.
For more information about lawn
and garden care specifically for
those who live near water, refer to
MSUE bulletin WQ-52, “Managing
Shoreline Property to Protect Water
Quality.” For more information on
lawn care, refer to MSUE bulletin
WQ-53, “Lawn*A*Syst,” and E0012,
“Turf Tips for Water Quality.”
Healthy turf, gardens,
trees and shrubs add
beauty, energy efficiency
and value to a home. They
allow stormwater to soak
into the ground and help
filter impurities from the
air and water.
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93
Are you using your time and money effectively?
Americans spend a lot of money on lawn and garden equipment and accessories,
flowers, seeds and chemical products. They also dedicate many hours of leisure
time to caring for their yards and gardens. These inputs may be wasted, however,
if you do not follow environmentally sound practices. Develop a management
plan (see example plan in Figure 1). Think about the cost and effort to replace
lawns or plants damaged by overfertilization, poor cultural practices such as
scalping or misuse of pesticides. Areas with eroded soil are not only unsightly but
require hard work to return them to productive use. Imagine how much less time
lawn care would take if you did not rake and bag grass clippings.
Yard and Garden Management Plan
Goals:
• Provide lawn play area for children.
• Provide attractive setting for home with medium management and inputs.
• Provide bird habitat.
• Plant grass type for site conditions (heat, cold, drought, shade, wear tolerances;
fertilization needs; irrigation needs; and mowing height).
Lawn:
• Fertility program:
• Manage according to nutrient recommendations for lawn.
• Two fertilizer applications per year (1 lb N or less per 1,000 sq. ft. per application).
– 1 spring application (after first mowing).
– 1 fall application (around Labor Day).
Mowing:
• Set mower height at no less than 3 inches.
• Leave grass clippings on lawn.
• Remove no more than one-third of the length of grass blades at each cutting
(mow approximately once per week).
Irrigation:
• In-ground system present. Water lightly as needed.
Scouting:
• Look for wear from games when mowing; move usage if wear showing.
• Scout for pest and disease problems (once per week).
Gardens:
• Test soil (every 3 years).
• Fertilize according to nutrient recommendations.
• Add compost when working up beds before planting.
• Select native and pest/disease-resistant, low-maintenance, adapted, hardy perennial
plants – include plants that provide year-round visual enjoyment as well as plants
that provide bird habitat and food.
• Select and site plants so that pruning is not an annual need.
• Inspect plants for pests/disease prior to planting.
• Develop IPM plan.
• Plant perennials properly.
• Mulch beds to prevent moisture loss and discourage weeds.
• Keep mulch away from stems and trunks of woody plants.
• Add mulch as needed over the years.
• Automatic watering will be done according to a moisture meter in the soil.
Figure 1: Example of a short yard management plan.
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Caring for the Yard and Garden
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You can have low-maintenance lawns without
losing the well-kept appearance of your home.
Good management practices, such as raising the
mowing height, not only benefit the environment—
they can save you time and money.
When choosing plants for your yard, evaluate their adaptability for your site
first. Careful selection can provide great choices for a low-input (fertilizer,
pesticide, water, extensive maintenance), sustainable landscape plan. Native
plants that are adapted to your particular area have already demonstrated that
they are survivors with your geography, climate and native pests. Native plants
also provide food sources and habitat for native wildlife.
Whether using native or non-native species, avoid aggressive or invasive
plants. Invasive plants outcompete other vegetation and can disrupt the natural
balance of plant and animal resources in the area.
Managing your lawn, garden and landscaping
Attractive landscaping can greatly increase the value of your home and provide
you with much pleasure. A properly designed and maintained yard can help
reduce soil erosion and water runoff, stabilize shorelines and increase soil
water retention. First, determine the goals for your lawn and garden and
include them in your management plan. Do you desire a natural yard with
locally adapted or native plants, perhaps with little lawn and few annual
plantings; a heavy usage recreation area for the family; or a highly manicured
lawn with formal plantings of carefully pruned shrubs and beds of annuals?
The inputs (cost, labor, etc.) needed for these vary greatly, depending on your
goals. Normal applications of lawn and garden products generally pose few
problems. Poor maintenance, however, either through neglect or excessive
chemical applications, can lead to disruption of
the natural environment, soil problems, polluted
runoff and unsafe well water.
Has your soil been tested?
A soil test is the first step in determining how
much and what type of fertilizer is needed
for the plants you are trying to grow. Adding
fertilizer without first testing your soil is like
taking medicine without knowing that you need
it. Your soil already has some of the nutrients—
such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium—
needed for good plant growth. It is important to
find out how much of each nutrient is present.
Include your test results in your management
plan. Soil testing takes the guesswork out of
fertilizer use.
Figure 2: Soil test results from
MSU soil testing laboratory.
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95
Key to understanding a soil test:
Nitrogen (N)—Nutrient used in largest amount by plants. Necessary for protein formation. Because N is not
static in soil (may be lost to air, water, microbes and plants) and is affected by temperature, it is not measured
in the general soil test.
Phosphorus (P)—Nutrient associated with root growth and flower development. Test results are expressed in
pounds per acre and reflect relative availability of phosphorus for plant growth rather than total P in the soil.
Potassium (K)—Nutrient second only to nitrogen in amount absorbed by plants. Associated with overall
vigor, stress and disease resistance, stem strength and root growth.
Magnesium (Mg)—Essential for photosynthesis, the process by which plants make sugars utilizing energy
from the sun.
Calcium (Ca)—Important in plant cell wall formation.
pH—Measure of acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Influences the availability of nutrients in the soil. Adding
certain materials containing sulfur reduces soil pH (makes soil more acidic). Adding limestone (calcium or
magnesium) raises the pH (“sweetness” of the soil—makes it more alkaline/less acidic).
Cation exchange capacity (CEC)—A measure of the soil’s ability to hold or exchange positively charged
plant nutrients. This affects fertilizer management, nutrient loss and groundwater contamination. CEC
depends on the type and amount of clay and the amount of humus (organic matter) in the soil. Generally, low
CECs indicate low clay or humus content, and high CECs indicate more clay or humus. These soils usually
don’t lose nutrients as quickly as sandy soils.
Check with your local Michigan State University Extension office about testing your soil. A
standard soil test will determine the amounts of phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium,
the ion exchange capacity and pH (Figure 2). You receive a lab report for your sample and a
fertilizer recommendation based on your soil test results and the plants you wish to grow. Soil tests
should be conducted at least every three years.
It is important to note that most Michigan soils contain ample amounts of phosphorus, so additional
phosphorus is unneeded and can be harmful to surface water. Addition of phosphorus is necessary
only when soil tests show phosphorus deficiency or when seeding a new lawn or establishing sod.
What fertilizers do your lawn and garden need?
Your lawn and garden goals and the soil test results will determine fertilizer need and amount.
Even if you hire a lawn care service or plan to use natural fertilizers such as compost, cow manure
or other soil amendments, soil testing is important. It is particularly important for waterfront
property, where phosphorus should be avoided unless applications are indicated by your soil test.
If you live on a street that has a storm drain, think of yourself as living on a streambank, because
you are likely connected to nearby surface water by underground drainage pipes. Look for earthfriendly or lake-safe fertilizers to promote lake and river protection. These fertilizers contain a
high percentage of slow-release nitrogen and little or no phosphorus, and are free of pesticides (see
“Resources” at the end of this chapter).
Nitrogen is the key plant nutrient for promoting a healthy lawn. Applied at the right time and in the
right amount, it will be a major factor in achieving your goals. Applied at the wrong time and in the
wrong amount, it will make conditions worse by damaging the lawn and increase the potential for
nutrient movement off your property, either as runoff or in movement of water downward toward
the groundwater. If only one fertilizer application is planned per year, make it a fall application. If
a spring application is also planned, delay putting fertilizer on until after the first mowing. Sweep
excess fertilizer from walks and driveways back onto the grass before it is washed away by rain.
Clover in a yard may substitute for nitrogen fertilizer. This and other pea and bean family plants
(legumes) take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, where other plants can use it.
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What do the three numbers on a fertilizer label mean?
By law, fertilizer bags contain three numbers (fertilizer grade), which indicate
the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content in that particular fertilizer.
The first number indicates the percentage by weight of elemental nitrogen (N).
The second number indicates the percent available phosphate (P2O5).
The third number indicates the percentage of water-soluble potash (K2O).
Width (W)
Length
(L)
Area (A)
A=LxW
How much fertilizer do you need?
Once you know what soil nutrients are present in your soil, you must
also know the nutrient requirements of each plant type you are trying to
grow. To obtain plant nutrient recommendations, contact your local MSU
Extension office.
Before applying fertilizer, you need to know the size of the area (Figure
3) you wish to fertilize so that you know how much fertilizer you will
need. Over- or misapplication of fertilizers can pollute water resources,
kill your plants, and waste time and money. Be sure to leave a buffer strip
near lakes and rivers that is neither mowed nor fertilized to prevent excess
nutrients from degrading water quality. Planting native plants, which have
deeper roots than turf, in this area will also help to filter excess fertilizer,
prevent soil erosion and filter pollutants.
Are you taking proper care of your lawn?
Diameter (D)
A= π(½ D)2
= 3.14 x (½ D)2
Height
(H)
Base (B)
A=½BxH
Figure 3: Calculating areas
(A) of variously shaped lawns
or gardens.
It will be easier to keep your lawn healthy if the type of grass is suited
to your growing conditions—rainfall, temperature, soil type and
available sunlight. Contact your local MSU Extension office for a list
of recommended grasses for your conditions. Proper mowing height is
fundamental to a healthy lawn. Taller grass conserves water, prevents
weeds and promotes drought tolerance. A mowing height of 2.5 to 4
inches is recommended. It is also recommended that no more than onethird of the total leaf surface is removed at each mowing. Grass clippings
should be left on the lawn—in many cases, they supply enough natural
fertilizer that only minimal additional fertilizer is needed to keep your lawn
healthy. Clippings are a source of nitrogen, so you may be able to reduce
fertilizer needs by 25 percent or more. Switching to a human- or electricpowered mower can cut down air and noise pollution. If you reduce your
lawn size and grow plants that require little maintenance, such a mower
can be practical.
If you hire someone to take care of your lawn, you can still do your part to
make sure that your lawn is managed in an environmentally friendly way.
Research lawn care companies in your area that reduce the overuse and
misuse of fertilizers and pesticides in their services and that pay particular
attention to avoiding these inputs from degrading our water resources.
Such “healthy lawn” options may also include soil testing at the beginning
of the season, use of slow-release fertilizers, reduced nitrogen applications,
low- or no-phosphorus fertilizer options, providing customers with
maintenance and cultural practices related to mowing and watering, and
spot treating weeds only when necessary.
Home*A*Syst
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97
Oh, no! A spill!
Spills do happen. The trick is to be prepared. When a spill occurs, follow
the five C’s of spill response:
1. Caution: Always assess the dangers of the spill first. If the spill cannot
be controlled or contained without endangering life or safety, then
immediately call 911.
2. Control: If possible, control the source of the spill – shut off valves,
plug holes or set containers upright.
3. Contain: Stop the spread of the spill to groundwater, surface water,
wells or storm drains by using a shovel to make a soil berm or by
applying an absorbent material such as cat litter.
4. Communicate: Contact the appropriate authorities, if necessary:
a. Danger to health or safety: emergency number 911.
b. Danger to groundwater or surface water: Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality Pollution Emergency Hotline:
1-800-292-4706.
5. Cleanup: For a dry spill, sweep up product and dispose of properly
or use as intended. For a wet spill, use cat litter, activated charcoal
or sawdust to absorb the chemical, then sweep up and dispose of the
material properly. Never wash a spill down a drain. Most drains lead
directly to lakes, rivers or streams.
Be prepared—make a spill kit!
A spill kit is a very handy item to keep around the house should chemicals
leak or spill. A spill kit contains items to assist in the cleanup of dry or wet
spills in one handy box.
‹‹Plastic storage tote – Holds materials in one location.
‹‹Safety goggles – Protect eyes, one of the most sensitive areas on the
human body.
‹‹Chemical-resistant gloves – Nitrile gloves are suitable for most
household chemicals; work gloves or gloves with linings do not
provide adequate protection.
‹‹Broom and dust pan – To sweep up dry spills.
‹‹Garbage bags – For easily handling of leaky or spilled material.
‹‹Cat litter, oil absorbent or sawdust – To soak up liquid spills before
sweeping and disposing.
‹‹Emergency telephone numbers – To seek help if needed.
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Some types
of pesticides:
(chemicals that
kill or repel
pests)
‹‹Insecticides
‹‹Herbicides
‹‹Fungicides
‹‹Rodenticides
‹‹Nematicides
‹‹Bactericides
‹‹Algaecides
Are you using and applying pesticides wisely?
Although hand removal of weeds, insects and other pests is safest for
the environment and your health, chemical pesticides—if properly
used—may pose only minimal risk. The key is doing your homework
before you start treatment. Correctly identifying the pest is the first
step. Many plant problems are not caused by insects or
disease but are related to temperature extremes, waterlogged
soil, drought, lawnmower damage and overuse of chemicals. Learn when and where
pesticides are needed. Apply them only where pests occur. Select the least toxic
chemicals or ones that break down quickly into less harmful substances. Check with
your local MSU Extension office or garden supply store for more information.
Remember that pest prevention is simpler and cheaper than pest control. Selecting pest/
disease-resistant plants and keeping them healthy reduces potential pest problems. Be
sure to ask yourself if, for the sake of clean groundwater and an environment with fewer
chemicals, you can tolerate a few more weeds and bugs around your home.
Apply lawn pesticides only when needed and in favorable weather conditions. Always
read the product label—it’s the law. Avoid applications of pesticides to the whole yard
unless it’s critical. For example, why use a weed-and-feed product on the whole lawn
if you have only a few weeds? Spot applications directed to the pest problem avoid
overuse. Keep kids and pets off the treated lawn per label instructions.
Do you use integrated pest management?
Practicing integrated pest management (IPM) in your yard to maintain healthy plants
involves the use of a variety of strategies to control pest and disease problems. IPM
involves three methods of control: cultural, biological and chemical. Weeds can be
controlled by hand pulling or hoeing, and you can pick bugs off of vegetables and garden
plants. Clean up diseased and pest-infested debris to limit infestations and reduce future
problems. Using natural predators to control pests is another method. You can release
beneficial insects and microorganisms that feed on pest insects in your garden or create
habitat for pest predators and parasites (see “Resources” at the end of this chapter).
When you have no other choice, try to find non-toxic or low-toxicity chemicals such as
insecticidal soaps. Follow directions carefully, and mix only the amount you need. For
IPM to work, you will have to give more time and attention to your yard and garden.
Consider IPM strategies for your various plants in your management plan.
More yard and garden tips that protect water resources
Always store pesticides in original containers.
Store pesticide containers out of reach of animals and children, preferably in a locked cabinet.
Always read and follow pesticide and fertilizer label instructions.
Calibrate pesticide and fertilizer applicators to deliver correct rates. See owner’s manual.
Carefully measure area to be treated and products used.
Avoid fertilizer and pesticide applications when heavy rains are forecasted. Delay irrigation after
applications unless recommended on the label.
Apply pesticides at the appropriate time in the pest or disease life cycle.
Triple-rinse empty pesticide containers; drain the rinse water into your sprayer tank.
Spot treat pest problems, when possible.
Put together a spill kit. Avoid spills. Clean up spills quickly if they occur.
Take unwanted or unusable pesticides to local Clean Sweep site or hazardous waste collection program.
Check if your local program accepts cleanup wastes if you had a spill.
Home*A*Syst
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99
Some IPM strategies
Strategy
Category
of control
Example(s) or comments
Plant health—healthy, unstressed
plants are less susceptible to pests than
plants under stress.
Cultural
Use resistant varieties appropriate for the site and
conditions. Introduce only pest- and disease-free
plants to your garden.
Sanitation—removing or reducing the
number or source of the pests or disease. Cultural
Remove dead, dying or insect-invaded plant parts
or plants; rake up fallen diseased leaves; hand pull
or cultivate to remove weeds; pick off snails, slugs
or insects.
Barrier—preventing access.
Cultural—
mechanical
Put sticky material around a tree trunk or limb to
prevent movement of caterpillars or scale insect
crawlers or other pests; put cans open at both ends
around your transplanted tomato or other tender
plants to prevent cutworm damage. Use bird nets
and prevent grass in flower gardens with edging.
Traps—many types are now available
for a variety of insect problems.
Cultural—
mechanical
Sticky boards and traps with insect sex attractants
can be purchased for capturing specific insects.
Some lures attract only one sex. These may be used
to aid in proper timing of a chemical application.
Homemade traps for snails or slugs can be as
simple as a pie pan embedded at soil level and filled
with beer, or a grapefruit half partially hollowed
out and turned upside-down on the ground so
snails and slugs can collect under it. Trap crops
(more attractive to the pest) may also be used to
concentrate the pest or lure it away from other
crops.
Crop rotation—rearranging where you
plant related annuals—vegetables or
flowers—in your garden.
Cultural
Planting the same type of plant in the same place
year after year increases the pest problems for that
plant in that spot. For some soil-borne disease
or pest problems, rotation is a homeowner’s only
control option.
Microbial insecticides—use of bacteria
or fungi to control insect problems.
Biological
Use of bacteria to control caterpillars (Bt or
Bacillus thuringiensis) or Japanese beetle grubs
(Bacillus popillae).
Insect predators
(work best in controlled environments
such as greenhouses)
Biological
Releasing adult and larval stages of lady beetles to
control insects such as aphids, scale, mealybugs and
whiteflies. Release of predatory mites to control
plant-feeding mites.
Botanical insecticides
(plant-derived)
Chemical
Planting marigolds to discourage nematodes in
the soil. Pyrethrin-based insecticide derived from
mums.
Note: natural or plant-derived does not mean these
products are non-toxic or non-chemical.
Synthetic pesticides
Chemical
Range of widely available chemical-based products
to treat mite, insect, weed and disease problems.
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Do your landscape practices help prevent soil erosion?
Like pesticides and fertilizers, soil washed away by rain can pollute streams,
lakes or bays. Even if you do not live near water, soil will be carried there by
runoff from storms. Gardens, sparse lawns and construction sites with areas of
bare soil, especially on sloped land, are prone to soil erosion. You can protect
soil and reduce erosion by planting ground cover vegetation or using mulch
and/or landscape fabric. On steep slopes where mowing grass is a problem,
leave the natural vegetation or plant a vigorous ground cover. Building terraces
or retaining walls on slopes can also help prevent soil loss. Choose plants
suited to the area and insect- and disease-resistant.
Do you make compost?
Composting is a cost-effective method by which bacteria and fungi decompose
yard waste (leaves and grass clippings), vegetable scraps from the kitchen,
etc., to yield a soil-like product which is called humus or compost. Yard
waste is no longer permitted in landfills. Composting is an important
and environmentally conscious way of recycling and improving the soil.
Successful composting does require a balance of certain materials, which
are detailed in “Ingredients to create a compost pile” below. Composting
takes advantage of nature’s recycling system for breaking down plant and
other organic materials. You can simply put yard wastes in a pile, or you can
install homemade or store-bought bins. In addition to yard waste, you can add
vegetable trimmings and fruit peels from your kitchen. Your compost pile will
remain relatively odor-free if it is turned and aerated regularly.
Finished compost is valuable. It can be mixed into garden soil or spread on
lawns as a slow-release source of nutrients. One word of caution: animal
manures may contain high levels of nitrogen, and manures from various types
of animals have different levels. If manure is left in piles exposed
to the weather, nitrogen-rich runoff may result. If you mix manure
from horses, sheep, cows or other plant-eating animals into your
compost, be sure to add plenty of leaves, straw, sawdust or pulled
weeds to keep concentrations of nitrogen and other nutrients low.
This will help prevent contamination of groundwater. Do not
put pet wastes (from cats and dogs) in compost piles because of
potential parasite and disease problems. Try to locate compost
piles at least 50 feet from your well and from lakes and rivers.
Check with your local MSU Extension office, garden stores, the
library and your neighbors for ideas.
Ingredients to create a compost pile:
Green/moist: Materials containing a high
nitrogen content, such as grass clippings,
coffee grounds, vegetable scraps.
Brown/dry: Materials high in carbon, such as
dry leaves, straw, wood chips and newspaper.
Microorganisms: Naturally found in soil.
Water.
Air.
Home*A*Syst
Items to keep out of the
compost pile:
Pet waste.
Meat, eggs, dairy products and other
animal products.
Grease, oils or foods cooked with oils.
Invasive weeds and seeds.
Diseased plant materials.
Caring for the Yard and Garden
101
Do your yard care practices save water?
The average American’s indoor and outdoor water use is approximately
200 gallons of water each day. Approximately half of that water is used for
landscaping and gardening, depending on climate and time of year. This
is an immense amount of clean water—and only a small portion is actually
used by your plants. If you convert your landscape to plants adapted to your
area and weather, you will take the biggest step in conserving water. In dry,
sandy sites, you may choose native plants that are drought-tolerant. Some
perennials are hardier because their roots grow deeper than those of annual
plants, requiring little or no watering once established. For more information
on water conservation, see Chapter 8, “Conserving Water around Your Home.”
See Chapter 7 for more information on creating rain gardens for stormwater
management.
Watering wisely
Most plants can tolerate at least short dry periods. Watering should be timed
to meet the biological needs of the plants. Watering slowly and deeply helps
non-turf plants develop deep roots; in the long run, your plants will need less
frequent watering. Plants can absorb only so much water. Overwatering
wastes water and can injure certain plants. Turf likes light, frequent
watering—0.2 inch every other day, depending on weather—typically .5 to
1.5 inches of water per week (Figure 4). An alternative to watering lawns is to
allow established cool-season lawn grasses to go dormant during the hot, dry
summer rather than irrigating. This is a natural part of their life cycle. Drip
irrigation systems and soaker hoses are useful for gardens—they deliver water
to the intended plants efficiently. The time of day when you irrigate matters,
too. Watering prior to the hottest part of the day helps reduce stress on turf.
Figure 4: Sprinklers vary. To determine how much water your sprinkler is
delivering, place a can with straight sides in the sprinkler path. Measure with a
ruler the amount of water delivered in a given time period (example: 1 hour).
Assessment – Yard and Garden Care
The assessment on the next page will help you identify potential environmental
risks related to your yard and garden maintenance practices. For each question,
put your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.”
Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation, choose
the response that best fits. Refer to the previous pages for information needed
to complete this table.
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Caring for the Yard and Garden
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Low risk/
recommended
Soil is tested for nutrients,
and fertilizer is used as
recommended.
Non-chemical or lowPesticides
toxicity methods are first
considerations for pest
control. IPM used.
Turfgrass is suited to soil
Lawn (turf)
type, available sunlight and
type and
maintenance climate. Grass is regularly
mowed to 2 1/2 – 4 inches
in height. No more than
one third of grass leaf
removed at single mowing.
Ground covers, flowers,
Ground
trees and shrubs are
cover
planted to reduce soil
and other
erosion. Native or pestplantings
and disease- resistant,
hardy varieties selected.
Composting The compost pile is wellmaintained: it is aerated
regularly and contains
yard waste, vegetable
food scraps and a nitrogen
source such as manure.
Fertilizers
Water
requirements
of plants
Watering
methods
Grass, flowers, trees and
shrubs are able to survive
with normal rainfall.
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Soil not tested, but
fertilizer label is
followed.
Chemicals are used
according to label
instructions.
Soil is not tested. Fertilizer
is used without regard to area
and/or label instructions.
Chemicals are used without
regard to label instructions or
conditions.
Turfgrass is suited to
the site but is overfertilized and mowed
shorter than 2 1/2
inches.
Grass type is not suited to
available light, soil type or
climate. Grass is pest-prone
and mowed shorter than 2 1/2
inches. More than one-third
of leaf removed at single
cutting.
A hilly landscape or lack
of ground cover allows
soil erosion. Plants chosen
require high maintenance and
chemicals to survive.
A slow-spreading
ground cover is used.
The compost pile is
poorly maintained: it
is not aerated or lacks
the proper mix of
materials. Dog, cat
and other pet wastes
are added to the pile.
Landscape plants
require light to
moderate watering.
Watering done in the
morning, only as needed.
Low-water-use devices
such as soaker hoses used
for gardens. Sprinkler
system is monitored.
Yard/garden Management plan present,
management clearly indicating goals
and expectations.
plan
Your
risk
The compost pile is poorly
maintained: it contains
excessive high-nitrogen
sources, greasy meat or
diseased plant material and
is not turned regularly. The
pile is less than 50 feet from
a shallow well or surface
water.
Heavy watering is required
to keep the lawn and other
plants alive.
Watering is done by time
clock or daily without
regard to need or weather
conditions. There is
excessive water runoff.
No management plan present.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower risks. Complete the Action Checklist to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Caring for the Yard and Garden
103
Action Checklist
In the table below, write all the medium and high risks you identified. For
each risk listed, write down the improvements you plan to make. Use
recommendations from this chapter and other resources to decide on actions
you are likely to complete. A target date will keep you on schedule. You don’t
have to do everything at once, but try to eliminate the most serious risks as
soon as you can. Often it helps to tackle the inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action:
Example: Mower set at lowest height so
grass is stressed.
Set mowing height to highest setting
Before next mowing (one week
from today: May 30).
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Caring for the Yard and Garden
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Resources:
Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for information on
soil testing, lawn and garden care, composting, plant and pest hotline and diagnostic
services, the MSU Master Gardener volunteer program and the Michigan Master
Composter program. Also contact conservation districts, local garden centers, lawn or
landscaping services. Local watershed councils are valuable sources of information on
lakescaping (for those who live near water), watershed-friendly lawn and garden care,
and stormwater management, including rain gardens.
MSU educational materials
MSU Educational Materials Distribution Center (Extension bulletins).
www.emdc.msue.msu.edu
Composting
Resource Conservation Manitoba Compost Action Project.
www.resourceconservation.mb.ca
Urban/Suburban Composter: Complete Guide to Backyard, Balcony and
Apartment Composting. 1994. Cullen, Johnson and Leyerle.
St. Martins Press, New York, N.Y. ISBN No. 0312105304.
Earth-friendly or lake-safe fertilizers
www.socwa.org Click on “Lawn & Garden.”
Soil testing
Contact your local MSU Extension office or the MSU Soil Lab at:
www.css.msu.edu/SoilTesting.cfm
MSU Extension soil web pages for consumers.
www.msue.msu.edu/monroe Click on “Soil Test Website” in upper right corner.
Lawn care
MSU turfgrass website includes maintenance, renovation, pest management and weed
identification bulletins and web resources.
www.turf.msu.edu
LawnCare 101 DVD (E2937) available from your local MSU Extension office or
turfgrass website above.
Turf Tips for Water Quality. MSU Extension bulletin E0012.
Hiring a lawn care contractor
A Guide to Selecting a Lawn Service: Questions to Ask.
www.socwa.org Click on “Lawn & Garden.”
Choosing a Lawn Care Company: Guidelines on making informed decisions to help
create and maintain a healthy lawn. MSU Extension bulletin E2771.
Landscaping for water quality
Kellogg Biological Station Shoreline Management Demonstration and Information.
www.kbs.msu.edu/extension/ShorelineManagement.htm
Home*A*Syst
Caring for the Yard and Garden
105
Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality. 1999. Carol Henderson, Minnesota
Department of Natural Resources. MSU Extension bulletin WQ57.
Restore the Shore CD-ROM. 2002. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Available
from Minnesota’s Bookstore at 1-800-657-3757 or
www.comm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/bookstore.asp
Landscaping for Water Quality. DEQ. Jane Secord.
www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-wb-nps-Landscaping-for-Water-Quality.pdf
Life at the Water’s Edge
www.epa.gov/ecopage/aquatic/lifedge.pdf
Native plants
Michigan Native Plant Producers Association (MNPPA).
www.mnppa.org/
Wild Ones—Landcaping with Native Plants (fourth edition).
www.epa.gov/greenacres/wildones
Integrated pest management (IPM)
www.ipm.msu.edu/turf.htm
Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants
MSU Extension bulletin E2973.
What’s Bugging You—How to Deal with Insects around Your Home
MSU Extension bulletin E2649.
Clean Sweep program
For unwanted pesticides and mercury. Program contacts list:
www.michigan.gov/mda. Enter “clean sweep contact information” into search bar.
Pesticides
National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University.
www.npic.orst.edu or call 1-800-858-7378.
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222.
Stormwater management
7 Simple Steps to Clean Water: Tip cards on protecting water resources, including proper use
of fertilizers and pesticides.
www.semcog.org
This chapter was written by K. Marc Teffeau, regional Extension specialist, Wye Research
and Education Center, and Ray Bosmans, regional Extension specialist, Home and Garden
Information Center, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, and adapted
for Michigan by Roberta Dow, Greg Lyman, L. Andrew Norman and Jim Bardenhagen,
Michigan State University Extension. Updated in 2008.
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T
S
Y
tem
S
s
y
*
*A ent S
Essessm
OM
eA
HHom
K
eeping your well water free
of harmful contaminants is
a top priority for your health
and the environment. This chapter
helps you examine how you manage
your well and how activities on or
near your property may affect water
quality. This chapter covers:
1. Well location
‹‹How close is your well to
potential pollution sources?
‹‹How might your soil type affect
water quality?
2. Well construction
‹‹Do you know the age of your
well, its depth and how it was
installed?
‹‹Is your well casing properly
sealed?
3. Water testing and unused
wells
Chapter 10. Protecting Your Drinking
Water Well
Why should you be concerned?
The two sources of drinking water are surface water and groundwater. In
metropolitan Detroit, for example, more than 3 million urban and suburban
residents depend on surface water for their municipal drinking water
supply. This surface water is obtained from Lake Huron and the Detroit
River. Nationwide and in Michigan, about 95 percent of rural residents
use groundwater for their drinking water. Private wells, tapping into local
groundwater sources, provide clean, safe drinking water (Figure 1). However,
if these wells are improperly constructed or poorly maintained, they can
provide a pathway for fertilizers, bacteria, pesticides or other toxins to
contaminate the water supply. Once in groundwater, contaminants can flow
from your property to a neighbor’s well or from beneath a neighbor’s property
to your well.
These contaminants, which often have no odor or color, are difficult and
expensive to remove. Your only options may be to treat the water after
pumping, drill a new well or obtain water from another source.
Some rural residents use other water sources such as lakes, rivers or cisterns
for their drinking water. Public health officials advise against using these
unsanitary water sources for drinking water. Additional information on how to
safeguard all water resources may be sought from local Extension educators,
local conservation district staff members, state and federal environmental
agencies, local health department offices and the library.
‹‹Have tests of your well
water revealed any potential
problems?
‹‹Are abandoned wells on your
property sealed to prevent
movement of contaminants?
Water
table
Well
Clay
lens
Groundwater
Figure 1: Cross-section of land showing land surface features, water table, clay
and sand layers, and wells. “Understanding Groundwater.” Institute of Water
Research/Center for Remote Sensing, MSU.
Home*A*Syst
Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
107
Part 1 – Well Location
Your well’s location in relation to other features on or near your property will determine part
of your potential pollution risk. How near your well is to sources of pollution and whether
the well is downhill (downgradient) from these sources are the primary concerns. At the end
of Part 1, fill out the assessment table to determine your possible well location risks. The
information below will help you answer the questions in the assessment.
What pollution sources might reach your well?
Groundwater is water below the land surface that completely fills the pore spaces of soils and
void spaces of rock formations. Whether groundwater is just below the surface or hundreds
of feet down, the location of your well on the land surface is very important. Installing a well
in a safe place takes careful planning and consideration of such factors as where the well is
located in relation to potential pollution sources. When possible, the well should be located
where surface water (storm runoff, for example) drains away from it. If a well is downhill
from an aboveground leaking fuel storage tank or an overfertilized farm field, it runs a greater
risk of contamination than a well on the uphill side of these pollutant sources. In areas where
the water table is near the surface, groundwater often flows in the same direction as surface
water. Surface slope, however, does not always indicate the direction a pollutant might flow
once it gets into groundwater. Changing the location or depth of your well may protect
your water supply but not the groundwater itself. Any condition likely to cause groundwater
contamination should be eliminated, even if your well is far removed from the potential source.
Most states require that new wells be located a minimum distance from sources of potential
pollution (Figure 2). The Michigan Water Well Construction and Pump Installation Code
provides minimum well isolation distances from various contamination sources and buildings.
In general, it is best to provide as much separation as possible between your well and any
potential contamination source—at least 50 feet. Additional distances are needed for some
contamination sources. For example, agricultural chemical/fertilizer storage or preparation
areas should be set 150 feet from any residential water well, and fuel storage (both buried and
aboveground tanks greater than 1,100 gallons without secondary containment) should be 300
feet from the well. Separating your well from a contamination source may reduce the chance
of pollution, but it does not guarantee that the well will be safe.
Home and farm
waste disposal pit
Septic
system
Fuel oil
storage
Fertilizer,
Pesticide Underground
pesticide,
mixing and gasoline
oil and solvent
storage
loading area
storage
Water
well
Milking
center
Silage storage
Livestock
Manure
yard
storage
Soil surface
Unsaturated
zone
Water
table
Groundwater flow
Abandoned
well
Well water
cone of depression
Groundwater flow
Saturated
zone
Clay layer
Figure 2: Illustration of possible sources of groundwater contamination. Common to most farmsteads are sources
of nitrate contamination such as manure, milking center wastewater and nitrogen fertilizers, which must be properly
managed to protect groundwater. Likewise, city dwellers have to consider their animal waste, chemical storage and
fertilizers to protect their city water supply.
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Home*A*Syst
What’s underground? Soil and bedrock type, distance to the
water table
Pollutant risks are greater when the water table (top of the saturated area) is
near the surface because contaminants do not have to travel far to reach the
water. Contamination is more likely if soils are thin (a few feet above bedrock)
or if they are highly porous (sandy or gravelly). If bedrock below the soil is
fractured (has cracks that allow water to seep down rapidly, such as limestone)
then groundwater contamination is more likely. Check with neighbors,
well logs from your local health department, local farmers or well drilling
companies to learn more about what’s under your property.
✔✔Assessment 1 – Risks Related to Well
Location
Use the following assessment to rate your well location risks. For each
question, put your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled
“Your risk.” Although some choices may not correspond exactly to your
situation, choose the response that fits best. Refer to Part 1 above if you need
more information to complete the table.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
High risk/
potential hazard unsafe situation
Well level with or
uphill from most
pollutant sources.
Some surface water
runoff may reach
well.
Meets or exceeds all state
Meets minimum
Separation
minimum required distances:
distance
distances
10’
surface
water
requirements for
between
50’
septic
tank,
drainfield,
some but not all
private well
animal yard, fuel storage pollution sources.
and pollution
150’ - pesticide/fertilizer
sources
storage or mixing
Fine-textured soils such as clay Medium-textured
Soil type
loams and silty clay.
soils, such as loam.
Position
of well in
relation to
pollution
sources
Subsurface
conditions
Well is uphill (upgradient) from
all pollution sources. Surface
water doesn’t reach well or is
diverted.
Water table deeper than 30 feet. Water table at 20 to
30 feet.
Your
risk
Well located downhill
(downgradient) from
pollution sources or
in pit or depression.
Surface water runoff
reaches well.
Does not meet
minimum separation
distances for most or
all potential sources
(required to be at least
50 feet from well).
Coarse-textured soils
such as sands, sandy
loam or gravel.
Water table or
fractured bedrock
shallower than 20 feet.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end
of the chapter to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use the
recommendations above to help you plan actions to reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
109
Part 2 – Well Construction and Maintenance
Old or poorly designed wells increase the risk of groundwater contamination
by allowing surface water to reach the water table without being filtered
through soil. If a well is located in a depression or pit or if it is not properly
sealed and capped, surface water carrying nitrates, bacteria, viruses, pesticides
and other pollutants may flow directly into your drinking water.
You wouldn’t let a car go too long without a tune-up or oil change. Your
well deserves the same attention. Good maintenance means keeping the well
area clean and accessible, keeping pollutants as far away as possible, and
periodically having a qualified well driller or pump installer check the well
when problems are suspected. Be sure to check periodically that the well cap
and vent are intact and secure. At the end of Part 2, fill out the assessment to
determine risks related to well design or condition.
Vermin-proof
cap or seal
Basement wall
Electrical
control box
Well casing
Clay
Pressure tank
Conduit for wiring
Sampling
faucet
Discharge pipe
Pressure
switch
Sand lenses
Pitless adapter
Drop pipe
Pump
Fine sand
Sand and gravel
Screen
Adapted from “Planning Your Well: Guidelines for Safe, Dependable Drinking
Water.” University of Illinois-Champaign Cooperative Extension, 1998.
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Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
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How old is your well?
Well age is an important factor in predicting the likelihood of contamination.
Wells constructed more than 70 years ago are likely to be shallow and poorly
constructed. Older well pumps are more likely to leak lubricating oils, which
can get into the water. Older wells are also more likely to have thinner casings,
which may be cracked or corroded. Even wells with modern casings that are
30 to 40 years old are subject to corrosion and perforation. If you have an
older well, you may want to have it inspected by a registered well driller.
What type of well do you have?
A dug well is a large-diameter hole, usually more than 2 feet wide, and
constructed by hand or with a large boring machine. Dug wells are usually
shallow and poorly protected from surface water runoff. They pose a high
public health and safety risk. Driven-point (sand point) wells, which pose
a moderate to high risk, are constructed by driving lengths of pipe into the
ground. These wells are normally around 2 inches in diameter and less than 50
feet deep and can be installed only in areas with loose soils such as sand. All
other types of wells are drilled wells which, for residential use, are commonly
4 to 8 inches in diameter.
Are your well casings and well cap protecting your water?
Well drillers install a steel or plastic pipe casing to prevent collapse of the hole
after drilling. The space between the casing and the sides of the hole offers a
direct channel for surface water—and pollutants—to reach the water table. To
seal off this channel, drillers fill the space with grout (cement or a special type
of clay called bentonite). Older drilled wells may not be grouted. If your water
turns cloudy after a heavy rain or spring thaw, the space surrounding the well
casing may have a defective grout seal. You should visually inspect your well
casing for holes or cracks or space around the casing. Examine the part that
extends from the ground. If you can move the casing around by pushing it, you
may have a problem with your well casing’s ability to keep out contaminants.
Sometimes, damaged casings can be detected by listening for water running
down into the well when the pump is not running. If you hear water, there
might be a crack or hole in the casing, or your casing may not reach down to
the water table. Either situation is risky.
Home*A*Syst
Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
111
The depth of casing required for your well depends on the depth to
groundwater and the nature of the soils and bedrock below. A minimum of
25 feet of casing is required in Michigan for all wells. The well cap should
be firmly attached to the casing, with a screened vent allowing only air to
enter. Newer well caps provide protection from insects with a screened vent
and gasket. They can quickly be identified by the presence of vertical screws.
Older caps have no screen or gasket and have screws going horizontal to the
well casing. The cap must be at least 1 foot above the soil surface. Wiring for
the pump should be secured in an electric conduit pipe.
Is your well shallow or deep?
As rain and surface water soak into the soil, they may carry pollutants down
to the water table. In some places, this process happens quickly—in weeks,
days or even hours. Local geologic conditions determine how long this takes.
Shallow wells, which draw from groundwater nearest the land surface, are most
likely to be affected by local sources of contamination. However, deep wells
do not guarantee protection from contamination.
Does your water piping system have backflow prevention?
Backflow of contaminated water into your water supply can occur from back
pressure and/or back-siphonage. This can happen in a public or private water
system. If the drinking water system is connected directly to another piping
system or process (cross-connection) that operates at a higher system pressure,
back pressure backflow can occur. Typical causes of back pressure backflow
include: nonpotable piping systems equipped with pumping equipment such as
irrigation well interconnected with a potable system, steam or hot water boilers,
or exchange heaters. Anti-backflow devices should be installed on all faucets
with hose connections. This reduces the risk of contaminated water reentering
your plumbing from laundry, appliances, sinks, swimming pools, irrigation
systems, hot tubs and garden hoses. Inexpensive devices for faucets with hose
connections can be purchased from plumbing suppliers. Contact your local
plumbing inspector for information on the proper back-siphoning device for
your situation.
When was your well last inspected?
Well equipment doesn’t last forever. Every 10 to 20 years, your well will
require mechanical attention from a registered well driller or pump installer.
In addition to water test results, you should keep well construction details as
well as the dates and results of maintenance visits for the well and pump. It
is important to keep good records so you and future owners can follow a good
maintenance schedule. Your water well record (well log) can be obtained from
your local health department or from the company that drilled your well. If
neither of these sources has your well record on file, you can obtain records
from the online Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Scanned
Water Well Record Retrieval System (www.deq.state.mi.us/well-logs/). This
system contains water well records from 1965 through 1999. Some historic
records for wells submitted prior to 1965 may also be available. Newer well
records are accessible online at http://wellviewer.rsgis.msu.edu/default.htm.
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Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
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✔✔Assessment 2 – Risks Related to Well Type
and Condition
Use the following assessment to rate risks related to well type, well casing
and backflow. For each question, put your risk level (low, medium or high) in
the column labeled “Your risk.” Although some choices may not correspond
exactly to your situation, choose the response that fits best. Refer to Part 2
above if you need more information to complete the table.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Well age
Less than 20 years old.
20 to 70 years old.
More than 70 years ago.
Well type
Drilled well.
Driven-point (sand point). Dug well.
Casing height
above land
surface
Well casing
and cap
At least 12 inches
above the surface.
At surface or up to 8
inches above.
Casing below surface or
in pit or basement.
Grouted, drilled well.
No holes or cracks.
Cap tightly attached.
Cap with gasket and
screened vent (vertical
screws present).
Driven, ungrouted well.
No holes or cracks visible.
Cap without gasket or
screened vent (horizontal
screws present).
Ungrouted drilled or dug
well. Holes or cracks in
casing visible. Cap loose
or missing. Running
water can be heard.
Casing depth
Casing extends more
than 100 feet below
water table.
Casing extends 10 to 100
feet below water table.
Casing extends less than
10 feet below table.
Backflow
prevention
Anti-backflow devices No anti-backflow devices.
installed on faucets
No cross-connections
with hose connections. between water supplies.
No cross-connections
between water supplies.
Well inspection Well inspected within
the past 10 years.
and tune-up
Well inspected 10 to 20
years ago.
Your
risk
No anti-backflow
devices. Crossconnections between
water supplies.
Last well inspection
unknown, or done over
20 years ago.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risk. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of
the chapter to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use the
recommendations in Part 2 to help you plan actions to reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
113
Part 3 – Water Testing and Unused Wells
Water testing helps you monitor water quality and identify potential risks to
your health. Contaminants may enter drinking water from many sources. One
important source is old, abandoned wells which, if improperly sealed, can
provide a direct route for contaminants to enter groundwater. It is important
to identify older or abandoned wells and take appropriate action. Although
this part of the chapter focuses on local sources, contaminants can also come
from sources outside your property boundaries. At the end of Part 3, fill out the
assessment to determine water quality risks related to water contaminants and
old wells.
When was your water last tested?
At a minimum, your water should be tested each year for the two most
common indicators of trouble: coliform bacteria and nitrates. If you haven’t
had a full-spectrum, comprehensive water test, then you don’t know the basic
characteristics of your water. A more complete water analysis for a private well
will tell you about its hardness, alkalinity, conductivity, iron, nitrate, sodium
and chloride content. In addition, you may choose to obtain a broad-scan test
of your water quality for other contaminants, such as pesticides. A good source
of information is your local health department or even your neighbors. Ask
them what their tests have revealed.
What contaminants should you look for?
You should test for the contaminants that might be found at your location.
For example, if you have lead pipes, soldered copper joints or brass parts in
the pump, test for the presence of lead. Test for volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) if there has been nearby use or a spill of oil, liquid fuels or solvents.
Pesticide tests, though expensive, may be justified if your well has high nitrate
levels—more than 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l) of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) or
45 mg/l of nitrate (NO3)—and if pesticides are used routinely in the immediate
area. Test also if a pesticide spill has occurred near the well. Pesticides are
more likely to be a problem if your well is shallow, has less than 15 feet of
casing below the water table, or is located in sandy soil and is downslope from
irrigated lands where pesticides are used.
In some areas of Michigan, there are certain concerns to be aware of that may
be potential sources of drinking water contamination. Near Alpena, Rogers
City, Monroe and parts of the Upper Peninsula in special geographic areas
called karsts, the underlying bedrock is made up of carbonate rocks such
as limestone (Figure 3). Over time, the rock may dissolve away, creating
pathways for contaminants to reach drinking water sources. In other areas,
naturally occurring arsenic can be found in groundwater. Southeastern
Michigan is one such area (Figure 4).
In certain instances—for example, during an emergency when water supplies
might have been contaminated with bacteria—local health departments may
advise residents to boil water before drinking it. This is often called a boil
water advisory. Boiling water is not advised if the water is contaminated with
nitrates because boiling it will concentrate the nitrates, making it more harmful
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Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
Home*A*Syst
Known or
suspected
karst areas
Easily
soluble rock
Non-soluble
rock
Figure 3: Bedrock areas of
concern. “Understanding
Groundwater.” Institute of
Water Research/Center for
Remote Sensing, MSU.
>50 ug/L
>20 ug/L
>10 ug/L
<10 ug/L
Figure 4: Michigan’s
groundwater arsenic levels by
county. Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality.
when consumed. This is a particular concern for pregnant women, infants, children or those who
may be chronically ill. To be sure your water is safe, follow the guidelines by your local officials
and your health department or visit www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/emerg.html for more information
about disinfection of drinking water. You can seek further advice on water testing from your county
MSU Extension office or health department. You should test your water more than once a year if
someone in the household is pregnant or nursing; unexplained illnesses occur in the family; your
neighbors find a dangerous contaminant in their water; you note a change in water taste, odor, color
or clarity; or you have a spill or backflow of chemicals or fuels into or near your well. Water can be
tested by either public or private laboratories certified by the Department of Environmental Quality.
Keep records of your results to monitor water quality over time.
Are there any unused or abandoned wells on your property?
Many properties have wells that are no longer used. Sites with older homes often have an
abandoned shallow well that was installed when the house was built. If not properly filled and
sealed, these wells can provide waterborne pollutants a direct channel to groundwater. Contact
your local health department’s environmental health division for information on closing abandoned
wells and the form for recording the closure. A registered well driller may be hired to close these
wells. Effective well plugging calls for experience with well construction materials and methods, as
well as knowledge of the geology of the site. Costs will vary with well depth, diameter, difficulty
in removing well parts in the casing and soil/rock type. The money spent sealing a well will be a
bargain compared with the potential costs of cleanup or the loss of property value if contamination
occurs.
✔✔Assessment 3 – Water Testing and Abandoned Wells
Use the following assessment to rate risks related to well type, well casing and backflow. For each
question, put your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.” Although
some choices may not correspond exactly to your situation, choose the response that fits best. Refer
to Part 3 above if you need more information to complete the table.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
Water testing
Water test consistently Some tests do not
meets standards for
meet standards.
bacteria, nitrate and
other contaminants. No
change in color, odor,
taste or clarity.
Unused wells
No unused wells
present or they have
been properly sealed.
Unused wells not
sealed but capped
and isolated from
contaminants.
High risk/
unsafe situation
Your
risk
No water testing done or
results unsatisfactory in
meeting standards. Water
discolored after rainstorm
or during spring melt.
Noticeable changes in
color, odor and taste.
Unused, unsealed well
in poor condition and/or
near pollution sources, or
uncapped.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risk. Turn to the Action Checklist on the next page to record the medium
and high risks you identified. Use the recommendations above to help you plan actions to reduce
your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Protecting Your Drinking Water Well
115
✔✔Action Checklist
When you finish the assessment tables, go back over the questions and list below every high and medium risk you
identified. For each of these risks, write down the improvements you plan to make. Use recommendations from
this chapter and from other resources. Pick a target date to keep you on schedule for making the changes. You
don’t have to do everything at once, but try to eliminate the most serious risks as soon as you can. Often it helps
to start with inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium
risks here.
What can you do to reduce the
risk?
Example: Water hasn’t been tested for 10 Have sample tested. Contact local health
years. Smells different than it used to.
department for laboratory test bottles.
Target date for action:
One week from today: June 15
Resources
Drinking water quality standards:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water Bureau
517-355-8184; www.michigan.gov/deq
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Hotline
1-800-426-4791 (toll-free); www.epa.gov/safewater
National Drinking Water Clearinghouse
www.nesc.wvu.edu/ndwc/ndwc_index.htm
U.S. Geological Survey Michigan Water Science Center
http://mi.water.usgs.gov
Drilling and sealing wells: Contact your local well driller, county health
department or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Water
Bureau (517-241-1413).
Plugging Abandoned Wells. MSU Extension bulletin WQ40.
Groundwater, geology and locating wells: Contact the Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality, Office of Geological Survey (517-241-1515), your
local conservation district, the county health department or the Groundwater
Mapping website (gwmap.rsgis.msu.edu). You can also check this website or
with the health department to obtain well logs.
Well water testing: Contact the environmental health division of your local
health department, your county MSU Extension office or certified private
testing laboratories.
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This chapter was written by
Bill McGowan, Agriculture/Water
Quality Extension, University of
Delaware Cooperative Extension,
and adapted for Michigan by Lois
Wolfson, Ruth Kline-Robach,
Ted Loudon, Roberta Dow and
Jim Bardenhagen, Michigan
State University Extension.
Updated in 2008.
T
S
Y
tem
S
s
y
*
*A ent S
Essessm
OM
eA
HHom
T
his chapter helps you evaluate
your septic system and
pinpoint risks before they
become problems. It provides general
guidelines for safe management
of household wastewater. Local
laws, however, may impose more
stringent or additional requirements.
For example, some systems—such
as cesspools—may be banned
locally. Contact your local health
department, MSU Extension office or
environmental agencies, or a septic
system contractor for advice.
This chapter covers three
factors that affect your
pollution risks:
‹‹1. Design and location
Knowing your septic tank
capacity, soil type in the drainfield
and your system’s location.
Chapter 11. Managing Household
Wastewater: Septic Systems and Other
Treatment Methods
Why should you be concerned?
Wastewater treatment systems help protect your health and the environment.
Household wastewater from sinks, toilets, washing machines and showers—
carrying dirt, soap, food, grease, bodily wastes and pathogens—flows down the
drain and out of your house. Disease-causing microbes (pathogens), hazardous
chemicals and nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrates and organic wastes found
in wastewater can lead to human illness and polluted water. Wastewater must
be treated before these contaminants reach groundwater—the source of well
water—or nearby lakes, streams or wetlands.
Wastewater treatment is often out of sight and out of mind until problems
occur. Learn the basics about your household system and take simple
precautions to prevent problems. It’s a wise investment to keep your system
properly working. Replacing a failed system can cost thousands of dollars.
Untreated or poorly treated wastewater can contaminate your drinking water or
pollute water resources needed for wildlife, agriculture, industry and recreation.
If you live on or near a lake or stream and would like more information about
the special role you play in preventing contamination of your lake or stream
by household wastewater, please refer to MSU Extension bulletin WQ-52,
“Managing Shoreline Property to Protect Water Quality.”
‹‹2. Maintenance
Pumping the septic tank,
protecting the drainfield, watching
for signs of trouble.
‹‹3. Inputs to the system
Reducing the amounts of water,
solids and harmful chemicals
going into your system.
Figure 1: Septic tank with soil absorption field (drainfield or leachfield).
Home*A*Syst
Managing Household Wastewater
117
Are you hooked up to a city or community sewer system?
Even if wastewater is not treated on your property, you can still lessen the
impact that your wastewater has on your community and the environment.
Conserving water and being careful about what you put into your sinks and
toilets are ways you can help. Call your local sewage treatment authority for
more information. Using your system wisely saves taxpayers’ dollars and
protects our water resources.
Do you have a septic system or other on-site system to treat
wastewater?
This chapter is geared toward homeowners or tenants who have septic systems
buried in their yards. A typical septic system consists of a septic tank followed
by an absorption field, also known as a drainfield or leachfield (Figures 1 and 2).
The chapter sections on system maintenance and reducing inputs will also apply
to those households with holding tanks or septic tanks followed by a mound,
sand-filter or other alternative on-site treatment system.
Access cover
Inlet
from
house
Water
level
Baffle
Observation
pipe
T-pipe
Scum
Sludge
SEPTIC TANK
Outlet
Water
level
SOIL ABSORPTION FIELD
(laid on gravel bed)
(not to scale)
Figure 2: Cross-section of
single-chambered septic
tank and drawing of soil
absorption field (drainfield).
How does a conventional on-site
septic system work?
Wastewater flows through a sewer pipe out of
your house and into the septic tank, a watertight
box or cylinder commonly made out of concrete
or a plastic material (Figure 2). Today, doublechambered septic tanks are increasingly more
common because they provide better retention
of sludge, thus protecting the drainfield. Lighter
solids such as grease, hair and soap float to the
top of the tank, forming a scum layer. Heavier
solids settle to the bottom, forming a layer of
sludge. A baffle near the tank inlet slows the
incoming rush of water so that the sludge is not
stirred. A baffle or T-pipe located at the tank’s
outlet keeps the solids from leaving the tank and
entering the absorption field. Bacteria in the
tank break down some of the sludge into simple
nutrients, gas and water. The remaining solids
are stored in the tank until they’re pumped out.
118
Managing Household Wastewater
Ground surface
Backfill
Perforated pipe
Washed gravel
Original existing soil
Figure 3: Cross-section of
portion of drainfield.
Home*A*Syst
6-18 inches
2 inches
4 inches
6-12 inches
The liquid waste, called effluent, flows out of the tank and into the soil
absorption field (drainfield) (Figure 3). The soil absorption field is usually
perforated plastic pipe laid in gravel-filled trenches in the ground. Effluent is
fed into pipes by gravity or mechanically pumped to improve distribution. As
the effluent percolates (moves slowly) downward from the pipes, additional
particles and pathogens are filtered out by the soil. Bacteria and natural
chemical processes break down or remove contaminants in the effluent. The
soil must be a suitable type and deep enough to treat the wastewater before
it reaches groundwater. To prevent contamination of water supplies, the
drainfield must also be set back (isolated) from any water well, wetland,
shoreline or stream.
Soils vary in their ability to treat wastewater. Well-drained, medium-textured
soils such as loam are best. Coarse gravel or sandy soils allow wastewater to
flow too quickly for treatment. In fine clay or compacted soils, water moves
too slowly. Beneficial soil microbes need oxygen to break down wastes
quickly. If the soil is saturated with water, it becomes anaerobic (lacking
oxygen). Under anaerobic conditions, bacteria digest waste slowly, unpleasant
odors are released, and the septic system can fail.
Aggregate
Topsoil
Fabric
Soil
Fill
What are some alternative systems?
If soil or site conditions are not suitable
for a conventional drainfield, an alternative
system might be used (Figure 4). In a
mound system, the drainfield is elevated to
Mound
provide additional soil depth for treatment.
A sand filter has layers of sand and gravel in which the wastewater
is treated before it is distributed into the existing soil. These
alternative systems may require a pump or siphon to send even doses
of effluent into the distribution system. Aerobic treatment units
mix wastewater with air on surfaces where bacteria can feed on the
organic wastes and pathogens. Aerobic tanks are used in place of
septic tanks, most often at sites that do not have adequate soil area or
depth for effective subsurface wastewater treatment. Holding tanks
may be used in temporary situations prior to a new system hookup or
at summer residences. In contrast to a septic tank, a holding tank has
no outlet and must be pumped frequently to dispose of wastewater.
Distribution network
From
septic
tank
Pump chamber
Mound system at grade
Distribution lines
From
septic
tank
To
dispersal
Sand
Gravel
Underdrain
Sand filter
Aerator
From
pretreatment
Sand filtration system
Figure 4: Some alternative treatment systems.
Graphics developed by and reprinted with
permission from the National Environmental
Services Center, West Virginia University,
Morgantown, W. Va.; www.nsfc.wvu.edu.
Home*A*Syst
To additional
treatment and/
or disposal
Aeration
compartment
Setting
Mixing rotor
Sludge return
Aerobic treatment unit
Managing Household Wastewater
119
Part 1 – Septic System Design and Location
Capacity of system
The septic tank and drainfield should have adequate capacity to treat all the
wastewater generated in your house, even at times of peak use, such as when the
house is occupied by a large family. The amount of wastewater flowing out of the
house is an estimated 150 gallons of wastewater per bedroom per day multiplied by
the number of bedrooms in the house. The estimated flow rate is lower if low-flow
toilets and water-saving faucets are installed.
The septic tank capacity should be large enough to hold two days’ worth of
wastewater—long enough to allow solids to settle out by gravity. A twocompartment tank or two tanks in series can improve sludge and scum removal and
help prevent drainfield clogging. A new three-bedroom house in some areas may be
equipped at a minimum with a 1,000-gallon septic tank. More commonly, however,
health departments are requiring at least 1,200- or 1,500-gallon tanks. Complete
the following exercise to determine whether your septic tank is large enough to
adequately process the wastewater generated by the members of your household.
The required size of the drainfield is based both on how much wastewater will
be put into the system and how much water the soil can take up. The design of
the drainfield depends on your soil type, which will determine the length of the
drainfield trenches.
The septic system is stressed when the amount of household wastewater exceeds
the system’s capacity. For example, additions of water-using appliances such
as a garbage disposal, washing machine or dishwasher can greatly increase the
wastewater load to your system. Also, if your home was originally built to be a
seasonal residence such as a summer cottage but you have converted the home to
a full-time residence, the original septic system may no longer be able to handle
the increased wastewater being generated. In all cases, conserving water, more
frequent pumping and updating your septic system so that it can efficiently and
safely process your wastewater may be required.
Is your septic tank capacity adequate?
The amount of wastewater generated by the average individual ranges from 50 to 100 gallons per day. Use
the following equation to estimate the wastewater generated by your household. Your septic tank capacity
should be large enough to hold two days’ worth of wastewater.
____ Number of individuals in household x 75 gallons per day x 2 days
= ____ gallons wastewater generated by your home in 2 days.
____ Septic tank capacity (contact health department if you don’t have records).
Which is greater?
____ 2-day amount
____ Septic tank capacity
If your 2-day wastewater amount is larger than your septic tank capacity, you need to reduce your
wastewater or upgrade your system.
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If you do not know the capacity of your system, ask the septic tank installer or
pumper, or contact the local health department or the previous owner of your
home to obtain information about the septic system.
Age of system
Septic systems are expected to last anywhere from 15 to 40 years, depending
on how well they are maintained and if they are appropriately designed for the
site. If your tank is made of steel, it will rust and need replacement. The older
your system, the more likely that it does not meet the latest standards. Even
a relatively new system can fail, however, if it is undersized or not properly
located and maintained.
Does your system need safety devices?
A holding tank or pumping chamber should have an alarm to warn you when it
is full. This prevents hazardous overflows. Backup power supplies should be
available on systems with pumps or other electrical components.
Separation distances
The septic tank and drainfield should be at least 50 feet from your drinking
water well and your neighbor’s well. The greater the distance, the lower
the chance of contaminating the water supply. If your system is downhill
(downgradient) from the well, you will be better protected. You should test
your well water more often if you find that your system is closer to your
well than recommended. For more information on testing or to find certified
laboratories, contact your local health department, your local MSU Extension
office or the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Environmental
Science and Service Division (see “Resources” at the end of this chapter).
Do you know exactly where your system is located?
To take proper care of a septic system, you must know where it is located. The
exact locations of septic system components are not obvious because they are
belowground. If the information is not in your home records, your county
health department’s records may give the answer. You may be able to locate
your septic tank by finding where the sewage pipe leaves the basement of your
house and noting the direction in which it goes through the wall. Your tank is
usually 10 to 20 feet away from the house in that direction.
Draw a map of your system.
National Environmental
Services Center.
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✔✔Assessment 1 – Risks Related to Septic
System Design and Location
Use the following assessment to begin rating your pollution risks. For each
question, put your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled
“Your risk.” Choose the response that best fits your situation.
Low risk/
recommended
Tank and drainfield
designed to handle
more wastewater than
required for the number
of residents.
Age of system Less than 5 years old.
Capacity of
system
(includes
holding tanks)
Safety devices Alarm on holding
Separation
distances
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Capacity just
meets wastewater
requirements.
Current flow of
wastewater greater
than current capacity of
system.
Your risk
Between 6 and 20 years System more than 20
old.
years old.
tank or pumping tank
chamber for overflow or
power cutoff.
Septic tank and
drainfield at least 50 feet
from all wells.
No alarm to indicate
chamber overflow
or power cutoff on
electrical pumps.
Tank and drainfield less
than 50 feet from all
wells.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower the risks. Use the Action Checklist at the end of
the chapter to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use
recommendations in this chapter to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
Part 2 – Septic System Maintenance
What about pumping and inspection?
Regular pumping is the most important action you can take to maintain your
system. The tank should be pumped by a licensed pumper about every three to
five years. A septage haulers directory is available at www.deq.state.mi.us/shr.
Use Table 2 to help you estimate how often your tank should be pumped. The
tank should also be inspected for cracks and the condition of the baffles. Never
crawl inside or lean into the tank—the gases inside the tank can be deadly.
A septic tank operates best when it is no more than one-third full of sludge and
scum. As more solids accumulate in the tank, particles are more likely to flow
out of the tank and into the drainfield, where premature clogging may occur.
The costs of pumping a septic tank ($100 to $350) are far less than the expense
of replacing a drainfield clogged by escaping solids ($3,000 to $6,000).
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By design, holding tanks must be pumped because they have no outlet.
Depending on the amount of wastewater generated and tank capacity, you may
need to pump every month or every week. If you assume that every person in
the house uses 25 gallons of water a day, four people can fill a 1,500-gallon
tank in 15 days. Overflows are a sure sign that you need to schedule pumping
more often.
Do you know when your tank was last pumped?
Keeping good records each time your septic system is pumped, inspected or
repaired will help you make cost-effective maintenance decisions (Table 1).
This information will also be valuable if you sell or transfer your property.
Table 1. Keep a septic system maintenance record.
Date
Work done
Performed by
Table 2. Years between pumpings.
Find your tank’s size (in gallons) along the left side of the table. Go across the
row to the column for the number of people in your home. Where the row and
column intersect, you’ll find the estimated number of years between pumpings.
Example: if you have two people in your household and a 1,000-gallon tank,
with average use and no garbage disposal, you would need to pump the tank
approximately every 5.5 years.
Number of people in your household
Tank size
(gallons)
1
2
3
4
5
6
500
5.5
2.5
1.5
1
.5
.5
1000
12
5.5
3.5
2.5
2
1.5
1500
18.5
9
5.5
4
3
2.5
2000
25
12
8
5.5
4.5
3.5
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How can you protect your drainfield?
‹‹Do not drive vehicles on the drainfield to prevent soil compaction and
damage to pipes.
‹‹Do not pave, build, pile logs or set a swimming pool over the drainfield.
Soil microbes need oxygen to digest wastes.
‹‹Divert water softener discharge, roof runoff, footer drains, sump pumps
and other surface runoff away from the drainfield. Don’t pile snow on the
drainfield. Saturated soil is less effective at treating wastewater.
‹‹Avoid trees and shrubs whose deep roots can damage piping. Grass is the
best cover.
‹‹Install an effluent filter on the septic tank outlet to prevent carryover of
solids into the drainfield.
‹‹Avoid draining a hot tub or swimming pool into the septic system or over
the drainfield.
What are the signs of trouble?
‹‹Foul odors in your home or yard tell you that your system is not working
well.
‹‹Slow or backed-up drains may be caused by a clog in the house pipes, septic
tank, drainfield or roof vent for your septic system.
‹‹Wet, spongy ground or lush plant growth may appear near a leaky septic
tank or failing drainfield.
‹‹Repeated intestinal illness in your family may occur if your water is
contaminated by poorly treated wastewater. Have your drinking water tested
annually for coliform bacteria and nitrates. (See Chapter 10.)
‹‹Algal blooms and excessive weed growth in nearby ponds or lakes can be
caused by excess phosphorus or nitrogen from septic systems.
Respond quickly to any problems you observe. You may need to expand or
modify your system to avoid further problems. Contact your local health
department before making changes. Many good publications and other
resources are available to help you (see “Resources” and “Publications” at
the end of this chapter). Call local contractors or visit an MSU Extension
office to get recommendations. Try to base your decision on what is best for
the environment and your health. Remember, what may seem to be the least
expensive option may not be economical in the long run.
How should I dispose of the discharge from my water softening system?
Check with your local health department to identify which of the following is the best option
for your site:
a. Dispose of water softener discharge via a subsurface perforated pipe in a stone trench.
b. Direct the discharge on the surface of the ground away from the septic system.
Note: this method may result in vegetation being killed from the salinity of the liquid.
c. Connect the discharge to a dry well that is separate from the septic system.
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✔✔Assessment 2 – Risks Related to Septic
System Maintenance
Use the following assessment to rate your septic system maintenance risks. For
each question, put your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled
“Your risk.” Choose the response that best fits your situation. Refer to Part 2 if
you need more information to complete the table.
Tank pumping
and inspection
(includes
holding tanks)
Drainfield
protection
Signs of trouble
Map and
records
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential risk
High risk/
unsafe situation
Septic tank pumped and
visually inspected on
a regular basis—every
3 to 5 years (or as
needed), and holding
tanks pumped as
needed.
Vehicles and other
heavy objects or
activities kept away
from drainfield area.
No deep-rooted plants,
pavement or structures
over the drainfield.
Household drains flow
normally. No sewage
odors inside or outside.
Soil over drainfield
firm and dry. Well
water tests negative for
coliform bacteria.
Septic tank pumped but
not regularly. Holding
tank occasionally
overflows or leaks
between pumpings.
Septic tank not pumped.
Holding tank regularly
overflows or leaks
between pumpings.
Your
risk
Vehicles, livestock,
heavy objects or other
disturbances permitted
in area.
Household drains run
slowly or soil over
drainfield is sometimes
wet.
Good map with house
No map or incomplete
well and septic tank
records.
location and distances,
plus records of system
repairs and maintenance
are kept.
Sewage odors noticed
in the house or near
the drainfield. Drains
plugged or back up.
Soil wet or spongy in
drainfield area. Well
water tests positive for
coliform bacteria.
No map or maintenance
records kept.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
As always, your goal is to lower your risks. Use the Action Checklist at the
end of the chapter to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use
recommendations in this section to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
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Part 3 – Septic System Inputs
What solid wastes are acceptable?
Your septic system is not a substitute for the trash can or a compost pile.
Dispose of tissues, diapers, sanitary napkins, cigarette butts and other solid
waste with regular garbage and not down the toilet. These materials do not
break down in your system, so they make your tank fill up faster. Avoid using
a garbage disposal in the kitchen sink—it adds to the load in your system.
Excess grease, oils and coffee grounds can clog your system. Consider
composting food waste and even some paper wastes as an alternative.
What household chemicals can go down the drain?
Wastewater treatment systems are not designed to neutralize the wide variety
of household chemicals used. Paints, solvents, oils and pesticides can pass
untreated through your system. See the product disposal assessment in Chapter
3, “Managing Hazardous Household Products,” for information on proper
disposal of hazardous chemicals.
Septic system additives are unnecessary. If a septic system is functioning
properly, the optimal bacterial action is already taking place. If a septic system
is failing, additives will not correct a failing system.
Why save water?
For septic systems, reducing water volume improves treatment effectiveness
and system operation. Less water flowing through the tank means more time
for solids to settle out and less chance of solid particles getting carried over to
the drainfield. Less water in the drainfield means better aeration for the soil
microbes at work in the system. There are many steps you can take to reduce
water use. See Chapter 8, “Conserving Water around Your Home.”
✔✔Assessment 3 – Risks Related to Septic
System Inputs
Use the following assessment to rate your septic system maintenance risks. For
each question, put your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled
“Your risk.” Choose the response that best fits your situation. Refer to Part 3 if
you need more information to complete this assessment.
Responding to risks
As always, your goal is to lower your risks. Use the Action Checklist on
the following page to record the medium and high risks you identified. Use
recommendations in this section to help you make plans to reduce your risks.
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Low risk/
recommended
No garbage disposal in
the kitchen. No grease,
oils or coffee grounds
down the drain. Only
toilet tissue in toilet.
Moderate use of
Cleaners,
cleaning products that
solvents and
other chemicals end up in wastewater.
(also applies to Hazardous chemicals
never poured down
holding tanks)
drain or toilet.
Solid wastes
Water
Conservation
Water-conserving
fixtures and practices
used. Drips and leaks
fixed immediately.
Medium risk/
potential risk
High risk/
unsafe situation
Moderate use of garbage
grinder and use of sink
for disposal of some
solids.
Heavy use of garbage
grinder and disposal
of many solids. Many
paper products flushed
down the toilet.
Heavy use of cleaning
products that end up in
wastewater. Wastewater
used to dispose of
hazardous chemicals.
Moderate use of
cleaning products that
end up in wastewater.
Small amounts of
hazardous chemicals
poured down drain or
toilet.
Some water-conserving
steps taken (low-flow
shower heads, fully
loaded washing machine
or dishwasher).
Your
risk
No water-conserving
practices. High-volume
standard bathroom
fixtures used (toilets,
showers). Leaks not
repaired.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
✔✔Action Checklist
Go back over the assessments and look for the high and medium risks you
identified. Record them below. For each of your medium and high risks, write
down the improvements you plan to make. Use recommendations from this
chapter and other resources to decide on actions you are likely to complete. A
target date will keep you on schedule. You don’t have to do everything at once,
but try to eliminate the most serious risks as soon as you can. Often it helps to
tackle the inexpensive actions first.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for action:
Example: Area over drainfield is always wet.
Have drainfield inspected for blockages and
cleaned as needed. Divert surface runoff.
One week from today:
May 15
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Resources
Drilling and sealing wells: Contact your county or regional health department
or local well drillers, or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality at
517-241-1413.
Drinking water quality standards. Call the Michigan DEQ, 517-355-8184, or
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Hotline
toll-free, 1-800-426-4791.
Groundwater and geology: Contact the U.S. Geological Survey,
517-887-8903; the Department of Environmental Quality Geological Survey,
517-241-1515; the local conservation district or your county health department.
Septage handlers: For a directory, go to www.deq.state.mi.us/shr.
Septic system installers and pumpers: For a listing by state of professional
pumpers, installers, inspectors and tank manufacturers in the United States,
including septic system information: www.septicyellowpages.com
Water testing: Contact your county or regional health department, your county
Michigan State University Extension office or the DEQ Environmental Science
and Service Division at 517-335-8812, or find DEQ-certified private testing
laboratories at www.deq.state.mi.us/labs.
Publications
“Managing Your Septic System.” MSU Extension bulletin WQ39
“Managing Shoreline Property to Protect Water Quality.” MSU Extension
Bulletin WQ-52
Contact your local MSU Extension office or order online through the
Educational Materials Distribution Center:
www.emdc.msue.msu.edu
National Small Flows Clearinghouse:
www.nesc.wvu.edu/nsfc
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Septic (Onsite) Systems:
www.epa.gov/owm/septic
Click on “Tools and Resources,” then “Homeowner.”
“A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems.” EPA-832-B-02-005.
U.S. EPA Publications Clearinghouse: 1-800-490-9198.
This Home*A*Syst chapter does not cover all potential risks related
to wastewater that could affect health or environmental quality. Other
assessments on a variety of topics are available from your local MSU
Extension office to help homeowners examine and address their most
important environmental concerns.
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This chapter was written
by Barbara Kneen, Cornell
University Extension,
and adapted for Michigan
by Eckhart Dersch, Ted
Loudon, Roberta Dow and
Jim Bardenhagen, Michigan
State University Extension.
Updated in 2008.
T
S
Y
tem
S
s
y
*
*A ent S
Essessm
OM
eA
HHom
T
his chapter helps you
identify potential risks to
the environment and to your
family’s health related to the way
fuels are stored and managed. This
assessment is divided into two parts:
1. Portable fuel containers
Fuel stored in portable containers
and in the gas tanks of gas-powered
machines is a potential risk to
groundwater and surface water. If
you own any of the following, this
part of the chapter applies to you:
‹‹Snowblower
‹‹Lawnmower
‹‹Chainsaw
‹‹Snowmobile
‹‹Campstove
‹‹Motorcycle
‹‹Weed trimmer ‹‹Yard blower
‹‹Space heater
‹‹Motorboat
‹‹Auxiliary generator
2. Large fuel tanks
This section is for homeowners with
aboveground, basement or underground fuel tanks in use or inactive
on their property. It examines:
‹‹Tank location ‹‹Tank management
‹‹Removal and abandonment
It applies to non-business tanks that
hold less than 1,100 gallons. Larger
tanks or those used for business
purposes (non-farm) are subject to
greater regulation. This chapter does
not cover the storage of liquefied
gases such as liquid propane (LP)
and liquid natural gas.
Chapter 12. Managing Liquid Fuels
Safely: Gasoline, Heating Oil, Diesel and
Other Fuels
Why should you be concerned?
The proper storage of gasoline, heating oil and other fuels on your property
is often overlooked. If you are like most people, you own at least one fuelburning device such as a lawnmower and probably keep fuel in portable
containers holding 1 to 5 gallons. For home heating and vehicle use, you also
may have larger quantities of fuel kept in underground, basement or aboveground storage tanks.
Fuels are hazardous materials. Improperly managed, they can pollute the water
you drink and the air you breathe. It is critical to prevent repeated spills and
leaks. As little as 1 gallon of gasoline can quickly contaminate groundwater
above health advisory levels. Petroleum products contain many toxic
compounds, including benzene, which is known to cause cancer. You cannot
depend on taste or smell to alert you to fuel in your drinking water. Leaks can
come from unexpected sources. Unknown or forgotten underground tanks have
come to haunt property owners.
Contaminated soil and water can reduce your property value, trigger
environmental liability and costly cleanups, and drive away lenders and
potential buyers. Vapors from fuel can ignite and start fires or collect
underground and explode.
Fuel stored in large tanks poses a greater risk of contamination than the small
quantities stored for power equipment. Though you should pay particular
attention to high potential risks from large tanks, you should recognize that fuel
stored in any amount increases the environmental risks around your home.
This chapter can help you evaluate how you manage liquid fuels, identify areas
of risk (Figure 1), and develop an action plan to reduce or eliminate potential
problems. Improving fuel storage and management has many payoffs. It
protects the health of your family, your community and the environment.
Better management also can safeguard your biggest investment—your home.
Aboveground
tank
Storage for
lawnmower
and gas can
Unused
fuel tank
Heating oil tank
in basement
Home*A*Syst
Figure 1:
Areas of fuel
contamination
risk at the
homesite.
Well
Managing Liquid Fuels
129
✔✔Part 1 – Portable Fuel Containers for
Handling Small Quantities of Fuel
How much fuel do you buy and use?
It is best to purchase and store minimal amounts of fuel for short periods.
This means buying in small quantities and not buying more than you need
for use in a season (6 months or so) of lawn mowing or snow blowing.
Do you have more than a gallon of leftover fuel at the end of a season?
Next time buy smaller quantities. If there are leftovers, try to use them
up. Excess gasoline can be poured into a car’s gas tank, for example, or
given to someone who can use it. Dilute one part old fuel with five parts
new fuel to protect your engine. Beware of oil-blended fuels, which
should be used only in engines designed for these fuels. Extra gas left in
equipment at the end of a season should be drained and used elsewhere.
Fuel stabilizers may extend the shelf life of fuels.
UL-approved containers
Fuel
Container color
Gas
Red
Kerosene
Blue
Diesel
Yellow
Do you store fuels in approved containers?
It is important to use only safe, approved containers to
store fuels. UL-approved containers (red for gasoline,
blue for kerosene and yellow for diesel) can be purchased
in places as convenient as your local hardware store.
Each container should be clearly labeled to identify its
contents and fitted with a spout or other device to allow
pouring without spilling. Storing fuels in uncovered
or non-approved containers is dangerous. For an extra
measure of spill protection, fuel containers can be kept
inside a tub or other container that would prevent leaks
from spreading (secondary containment).
Do not use
glass jars,
milk jugs
or other
non-approved
containers.
Are containers kept in a well-ventilated, safe place?
To avoid fuel vapors, which are a health hazard and a fire danger, keep fuel
containers and fuel-powered devices in secure, well-ventilated places. Storage
in an unattached shed or garage is safer than storage in a garage attached to
your home or in a basement. Keep containers out of traffic areas or off the
floor where they can be damaged by your car. Keep them out of reach of
children, and make sure the lids are tight to prevent easy access. Consider
plugging floor drains if fuel is stored where these are located, because a spill
could go down the drain. Further liquids could drive the contamination down
to your groundwater.
Do you check on your fuels or machinery regularly?
Periodically check for leaks from storage containers and fuel-driven devices,
especially if they have not been used for some time. A small leak can add
up over time. You can keep on top of things with regular inspection and
maintenance. Always recycle or safely dispose of engine maintenance
products. (See Chapter 3, “Managing Hazardous Household Products.”)
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✔✔Assessment 1 – Portable Fuel Containers
Check all the places where you store fuels—garage, basement or shed—and
examine how they are stored. Use the assessment below to evaluate your
practices. Some choices may not match your situation exactly, but answer
the best you can. Write your risk level (low, medium or high) in the column
labeled “Your risk.” Refer to Part 1 above if you need more information to
complete this chart.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Container
safety
UL-approved container:
Red for gasoline
Blue for kerosene
Yellow for diesel
Storage
location
Unattached garage
or shed away from
house. Well-ventilated.
Concrete floor without
floor drain. Or, in
secondary containment in
garage with floor drain.
Garage attached
to house. Poorly
ventilated area.
Inside the home living
space, in basement.
Garage floor with floor
drain or dirt floor.
Quantities
stored
Moderate amounts
purchased. Fuel stored
for less than 6 months.
Fuel kept more than 6
months before use.
Excess quantities
purchased. Fuel kept
more than 12 months.
Management
and disposal
Used up in equipment.
Stored on site
indefinitely or
evaporated.
Poured down house
drain, poured on
ground or sent to
landfill.
Your
risk
Non-approved
containers (for
example, glass or open
containers).
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Your goal is to lower your risks. Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of this
chapter and record the medium and high risks you identified above. Use the
recommendations in Part 1 above to help you plan actions to reduce your risks.
On the checklist, write down changes you plan to make, as well as a schedule
for making these changes. You don’t have to do everything at once, but try to
eliminate unsafe conditions first. If you need more information, contact local
fire officials.
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131
Part 2 – Large Fuel Tanks (Aboveground,
Underground and Basement Storage Tanks)
It is vital to know about fuel storage tanks on your property, both tanks
in current use and abandoned ones. As a tank owner, you have many
responsibilities and must keep up with increasingly strict laws. You may be
financially responsible for leaks from a tank on your property, even if you are
unaware of the tank’s existence. Standard homeowner’s insurance does not
typically cover the costly cleanups.
Part 2a – Tank location
This section covers aboveground, basement and underground
tanks. Answer only those questions that apply to you.
Remember to assess each tank separately.
Storage tanks located in basements with drains provide a
high risk for groundwater contamination should they leak.
Therefore, use of either a double-walled tank, pan-type secondary
containment under a single-walled tank or concrete floor diking
to contain spills and prevent them from entering the floor drain is
recommended.
Homeowners sometimes place fuel oil tanks too close to their
home. Placement under the eaves has resulted in falling ice
damage to tanks, causing fuel loss and environmental cleanup
costs. Tanks need to be stably mounted and placed away from
risk of vehicular or other impact. The type of tank and fuel will
determine the allowed placement distance from buildings. Check
with the DEQ before placing your tank.
Tank registration information:
Motor vehicle fuel tanks larger than
1,100 gallons or for business use need to
be registered or certified.
Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality (DEQ)
Waste & Hazardous Materials Division
Storage Tank Program
517-335-2690
[email protected]
DEQ Storage Tank Information Center:
www.deq.state.mi.us/sid-web
How far is your tank from wells and surface waters?
Fifty feet is the minimum distance between your tank and nearby private wells,
but the greater the distance, the better. Other factors related to distance can
influence the risk. Tanks are safer when located downslope (downhill) from
wells. Certain soil types—such as sandy soils—allow pollutants to seep more
rapidly into groundwater. The 50-foot minimum also applies to the distance
between tanks and streams, wetlands, ponds and other surface waters.
For each high-risk tank, consider removing it or moving it to a location as
far from wells and surface waters as possible. If a tank must be near a well
or water, aboveground tanks with secondary containment should be chosen.
Never try to convert an underground tank into an aboveground tank or vice
versa. For professional assistance, look in the yellow pages under “Tank,”
“Environmental,” “Petroleum” or “Excavating,” or go to the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) website listing for DEQ
qualified consultants (see “Resources” at the end of this chapter). If it is not
possible to remove high-risk tanks, be extra careful to monitor them for spills
and leaks.
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What is the distance to the water table?
In most places, if you dig straight down, you will eventually reach water.
This water table may be a few feet to more than 50 feet down. This distance
is important for several reasons. When water is close to the surface, there
is a good chance that it will come into contact with the steel walls of an
underground tank. In wet conditions, metal is more likely to corrode,
particularly if your soil has corrosive properties. Also, spills will reach the
groundwater more quickly if the water table is close to the surface. Your tank
may be exposed to similar water problems during flooding.
You can get help finding out about your water table from your local health
department or well driller or the Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program.
If you do not know how deep your underground tank is buried, assume it is no
more than 10 feet. Again, for each high-risk tank, consider removing it. The
cost of removing it and installing an aboveground tank may be far less than
paying for a future cleanup.
✔✔Assessment 2a – Tank Location
For the assessments in Part 2, start by gathering basic information. How many
tanks do you have and where are they located? Assess each tank separately.
Using your records or your memory, reconstruct the history of each tank.
When was it installed? Has it been serviced or inspected? Unless you know
for sure, it is wise to check for inactive underground tanks.
Evaluate your situation using the assessment below. Write your risk level (low,
medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.” Refer to Part 2a above if
you need more information.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Distance from
your well
Greater than 100 feet
Between 50 and 100 feet
from private water well. from private water well.
Less than 50 feet from
private water well.
Distance from
surface water
Greater than 100 feet
from wetland, stream,
river, pond or lake.
Between 50 and 100 feet
from wetland, stream,
river, pond or lake.
Less than 50 feet from
wetland, stream, river,
pond or lake.
Water table
level
Water table (distance
to groundwater)
consistently more
than 10 feet below the
surface.
Water table consistently
between 5 and 10 feet
below the surface.
Water table
consistently less
than 5 feet below the
surface.
Your
risk
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Continued on next page...
Home*A*Syst
Managing Liquid Fuels
133
...Assessment 2a continued
Low risk/
recommended
Basement
tank location
Medium risk/
potential hazard
In basement with
impervious surface floor
without a floor drain
or with a closed drain,
or tank has secondary
containment (doublewalled tank, pan or dike).
High risk/
unsafe situation
Your
risk
In basement without
impervious surface floor
or floor with drain and no
secondary containment
for tank.
Distance from Fuel oil tank located 5 or
more feet from building.
building
Fuel oil tank closer than
5 feet, gas or diesel
single-walled tank
closer than 40 feet or
underground tank closer
than 10 feet to building.
Aboveground gas or
diesel single-walled tanks
for motor vehicle fueling
40 or more feet from
building. Underground
tanks located 10 or more
feet from building.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Turn to the Action Checklist at the end of the chapter to record medium and
high risks you identified. Use the recommendations in Part 2a to help you plan
actions to reduce your risks.
Part 2b – Fuel tank management
This section deals with all three types of tanks—aboveground, underground
and basement. In the information below, review the parts that apply to the
tanks you have.
Is your tank old and possibly leaking?
This is your highest concern. Aboveground tanks
should be stably mounted and situated so that the tank
itself is not in contact with the ground and thus not as
prone to corrosion and leaking. Buried tanks more
than 15 years old have a dramatically higher chance
of leaking than newer tanks. Underground steel tanks
now must have corrosion protection. It is expensive to
put corrosion protection on existing tanks—it may be
more cost-effective to replace them. Even new tanks
and piping can leak, especially if they were incorrectly
installed.
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Managing Liquid Fuels
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Underground steel tanks must have corrosion protection such as interior tank
liners, protective coatings on the tank exterior and cathodic (electrochemical)
protection. Fiberglass tanks do not corrode but are vulnerable to ground
heaving and installation damage.
Leak detection for underground storage tanks is complicated but is critical
for tanks older than 15 years. Set up a schedule for regular leak and damage
inspection of all tanks, including heating oil tanks in your basement.
Have you checked pipes and hoses?
The pipes, hoses, valves and fittings connected to a storage tank can be major
sources of leaks. They are often overlooked, especially if buried underground.
Here, too, age is a factor. Piping fails because of corrosion, accidents and
weather-related factors such as frost heaving. Professional installation and
inspection are your keys to avoiding problems.
What signs of trouble should you look for?
Environmental changes. Your senses—sight, smell and taste—are important
for leak detection. Is there an unexplained oil-like substance on lakes or
streams? Is nearby soil stained with petroleum due to spillage (Figure 2)? Is
there a strong and constant smell of petroleum or wet places near your tank?
Have you or your neighbors smelled fuel odors near plumbing or sewer line
openings or in basements, or have you detected a petroleum flavor in your
drinking water? Have you seen an area of dead plants or an area where plants
don’t grow near your petroleum storage? Normally you can see leaks from an
aboveground tank, but you should be aware of leaks in areas you cannot easily
see, such as where the tank is in contact with the ground.
Mechanical changes. Be aware of unusual or changing pump operation. Does
your suction pump rattle, and does fuel flow unevenly? Does the pump hesitate
too long before dispensing? These may be signs of leaks or damage to the
piping.
Have you pressure-tested your tank?
Tightness testing (tank and pipe testing) involves
placing the tank, piping and contents under pressure
and checking for leaks. Many tank owners choose to
remove their underground tanks rather than do this
testing because it is expensive.
Whom to call
Figure 2: Contamination of groundwater due to
improper fuel storage and transfer.
Home*A*Syst
For more information on leak detection systems
and for names of approved tank testing methods
and suppliers, contact the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality Storage Tanks Program at
517-335-2690 or [email protected]
Managing Liquid Fuels
135
Do you keep track of fuel levels in the tank?
A less expensive way to check for leaks is to monitor the level of fuel over
time. Measure precisely the amount of fuel in the tank each month and
compare with the amount of fuel delivered and dispensed. Differences in
your records may indicate a leak. This method is not always accurate, and
small leaks will be missed. Underground tanks for heating fuel, because they
dispense automatically when in use, are best monitored in summer. If you
suspect a problem, contact your local fuel supplier.
What spill-protection actions have you taken?
Overfilling a vehicle is the most common—and most avoidable—cause of
spills. Fueling should be done on an impermeable surface. Never walk away
while filling a vehicle with fuel. Close supervision of fuel transfers is one
of your best forms of protection. Automatic shutoff devices are available to
prevent spills but are not suitable for every tank. Spills resulting from overfilling basement (home heating fuel) tanks can be reduced by installing a vent
whistle or fill-level indicator. Ask a tank or fuel supplier about these devices.
A concrete pad under an aboveground tank will allow you quickly to see
leaks or spills and allow for cleanup. Double-walled aboveground tanks are
available that provide secondary containment, should the tank leak.
A spill kit is a wise investment. It can be used to clean up tank overfill spills or
equipment fueling spills. See Chapter 9, “Caring for the Yard and Garden,” for
a sample spill kit.
Is your fuel secure from theft?
Preventing access to your gasoline and diesel pumps protects against theft
and lowers pollutant risks. Unauthorized users can damage your tank or spill
fuel. The simplest form of security is to lock your tank fill site and pump or
dispenser. Enclosing an aboveground tank with a 6-foot locked fence offers
more security.
Are your tanks protected from accidents and damage?
Aboveground tanks can leak if they are not well-supported or protected from
damage by vehicles and other objects. Tanks should be placed on a solid,
stable base or on footings made of cement blocks or concrete that resist
changes in soil moisture and frost heaving. In your basement, do not store
anything around or under the heating oil tank. Heavy objects can damage
pipes. If your tank is located in a garage or outdoors, it needs to be protected
from damage by vehicles. Installation of safety posts or other non-flammable,
ventilated barriers around it is recommended.
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✔✔Assessment 2b – Tank Management
Evaluate your situation using the assessment below. Write your risk level (low,
medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.” Refer to Part 2b if you
need more information.
Low risk/
recommended
Metal underground tank
less than 15 years old and
protected from corrosion,
diesel or heating oil) or fiberglass tank.
Leak detection Regular tank tightness
testing and monthly fuel
procedures
(underground tanks) use accounting.
Age of your
underground
tank (gasoline,
Medium risk/
potential hazard
High risk/
unsafe situation
Metal underground tank
less than 15 years old
and not protected from
corrosion.
Metal underground
tank more than 15
years old.
Fuel use accounting.
No testing or fuel use
accounting.
Tank regularly monitored Tank regularly
for leaks. Tank on
monitored for leaks.
impermeable
surface.
Tank not on an
(aboveground tanks)
impermeable surface.
Spill and overfill Close supervision during Automatic shutoff or
tank filling. Equipment
close supervision but no
protection (for
fueling done on an
impermeable surface.
gasoline or diesel)
impermeable surface.
Tank fill opening plus
Fill opening and pump
Tank security
pump
or
dispenser
(if
or dispenser lockable.
(for gasoline or
present) locked.
diesel)
Tank leak
detection
Damage
protection
(aboveground and
basement tanks)
Spill kit
Tanks and pumps stably
mounted on concrete
or on steel supports.
Protected from impact
damage.
Spill kit present for
tank-filling or equipmentfueling spills.
Tanks and pumps stably
mounted off the ground
but no protection from
impact damage.
Your
risk
Tank not regularly
monitored.
Unattended filling
and fueling. No
impermeable surface.
No locks present.
Equipment unlockable.
Tanks in contact with
the ground or on
poor footings. Tanks
vulnerable to vehicles
or other damage.
No spill kit available.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Use the Action Checklist on page 139 to record your medium and high risks.
Plan and take actions to reduce your risks.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Liquid Fuels
137
Part 2c – Tank removal and abandoned tanks
Unused tanks may pose the greatest potential risks to health, the environment
and financial assets. Sometimes old pumps or fill pipes reveal the location
of forgotten tanks. Former owners of the property, neighbors or local fuel
suppliers may be able to help locate old tanks.
Signs of an underground tank
‹‹Vent pipe (commonly 1-inch diameter) sticking out of ground.
‹‹Fill pipe, usually 2-inch diameter, with screw top (may be missing) or tilt top.
‹‹Mounded or sunken soil of somewhat rectangular shape.
‹‹Site where plants don’t grow.
‹‹Site with darkened soil.
‹‹Site showing change in soil texture suggesting hole dug for tank placement.
‹‹Fuel line going out from house wall to unseen tank.
‹‹Old gas pump present.
What should you do with an abandoned tank?
Inactive tanks remain an environmental threat until they are emptied and
removed. Underground tanks are a special problem because their corrosion
and leakage cannot be seen. Even when a tank is thought to be empty, there
is often sludge in the tank that can leak out. All of the underground piping
must also be removed. Hiring a professional tank remover who has liability
coverage is highly recommended. Frequently, tank removal kills or injures
non-experts. Contact your local fuel supplier, MSU Extension office or
Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program, or look in the yellow pages
under “environmental services” for tank removers. These contractors can help
you dispose of the tank at a landfill or with a scrap dealer. After tank removal,
the site should be checked for soil and groundwater contamination. If removal
of an underground tank might cause hazard to a building’s foundation, the tank
may be filled with inert material such as sand, cement slurry or pea gravel and
left in place.
What if contamination is discovered?
Tank owners may discover leaks when a tank is removed. Soil around and
under a tank should be inspected for obvious signs of leaking—odors, stains
or visible fuel. If you suspect contamination, a more extensive site assessment
should be promptly arranged. Whenever you find a leak or have a spill,
contact the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Remediation and
Redevelopment Division at 517-373-9837 for advice.
To protect yourself against legal claims, you should photograph and document
all steps taken to remove a tank. Your written records should include: state
agencies contacted, date the tank was filled or removed, persons or companies
that did the work, certified records that contamination was not found or, if it
was found, detailed records of the resulting site examination.
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Managing Liquid Fuels
Home*A*Syst
✔✔Assessment 2c – Abandoned Tanks
If you have an abandoned or unused tank, evaluate your situation in the following assessment. Write your risk
level (low, medium or high) in the column labeled “Your risk.” Refer to Part 2c if you need more information.
Low risk/
recommended
Medium risk/
High risk/
potential hazard unsafe situation
Tank removed Inactive aboveground
or left in place? tank removed from site or
Your
risk
Inactive tank
abandoned and left
underground (or
aboveground).
environmentally cleaned and
secured from addition of
materials. Underground tank
removed or filled with inert
material if too close to building
to be removed.
Tank site checked for
Inspected for
contamination? contamination of soil and
groundwater. If the spill or leak
is large enough, special reporting
and testing are required.
Site not checked for
contamination.
A boxed risk level indicates level required for Residential Environmental Assurance Program certification.
Responding to risks
Use the Action Checklist below to record your medium and high risks. Plan and take actions to reduce your risks.
✔✔Action Checklist
When you finish the assessments, go back over the questions, find all high and medium risks, and write them
below. For each of these risks, write down the improvements you plan to make. To help you decide what to do,
use recommendations from this work sheet as well as information from other resources. Pick a target date that
will keep you on schedule for making the changes. You don’t have to do everything at once, but try to eliminate
the most serious risks as soon as you can. Often it helps to start with inexpensive actions.
Write all high and medium risks here.
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Target date for actions:
Example: Gas for lawnmower stored in a
glass jug.
Buy a UL-approved container from the
hardware store.
One week from today:
May 15.
Home*A*Syst
Managing Liquid Fuels
139
Resources
‹‹“Handling and Underground Storage of Fuels.” Michigan State
University Extension bulletin WQ01. Available from county MSU
Extension offices or online at www.emdc.msue.msu.edu.
‹‹“Home Heating Oil Tanks.” Brochure available from Department of
Environmental Quality Environmental Assistance Center, 1-800-6629278, or www.michigan.gov/DEQwhmd. Go to “storage tank” link, then
“underground storage tank,” then “home heating oil tanks,” then “FAQ
home heating oil tank” for a PDF version of the brochure.
‹‹“On-Farm Fuel Storage.” MSU Extension bulletin WQ59. Available
from county MSU Extension offices or online at www.emdc.msue.msu.edu.
DEQ qualified consultants list:
www.deq.state.mi.us/sid-web/qc_search.aspx
Spills – Contact:
DEQ, Remediation and Redevelopment Division district office in your area or
the state office, 517-373-9837.
Storage – Contact:
DEQ Waste and Hazardous Materials Division Storage Tank Program,
517-335-2690 or [email protected]
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency information:
“Catalog of EPA Materials on Underground Storage Tanks.” Order number
EPA510 B00001. National Service Center for Environmental Publications,
1-800-621-8431 or go to www.epa.gov/nscep.
This Home*A*Syst chapter does not cover all potential risks related to fuel
management that could affect health or environmental quality. Other chapters
on a variety of topics help homeowners examine and address their most
important environmental concerns.
This chapter was co-authored by Richard Castelnuovo, staff attorney, National
Farm*A*Syst office, Madison, Wis., and adapted for Michigan by Dean
Solomon, Roberta Dow and Jim Bardenhagen, Michigan State University
Extension. Updated in 2008.
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The 2008 revision of this book was made by Bindu Bhakta, Michigan State University
Extension (MSUE); Suzanne Ebright, Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA); Terry
Gibb, MSUE; Rachel Hackett, AmeriCorps-Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program
(MGSP); Matt Swain, AmeriCorps-MGSP; Thomas Cogswell, AmeriCorps-MGSP; and
Melanie Stoughton, AmeriCorps-MGSP, and edited by Roberta Dow, MSUE.
Sincere thanks to the following people for reviewing one or more chapters:
Darren Bagley, Natural Resources, Genesee County MSUE
Valerie Bartell, AmeriCorps-MGSP
Lynda Boomer, Physical Plant, MSU
Ron Calhoun, Crop and Soil Sciences Dept., MSU
Michele Borgialli, Healthy Homes Program, Dept. of Community Health
William Elgar Brown, Water Bureau, Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
Laura DeGuire, Air Quality Division, DEQ
Lucy Doroshko, Pollution Prevention Programs Unit, DEQ
David Drullinger, Water Bureau, DEQ
Richard Falardeau, On-Site Wastewater Unit, DEQ
Mark Fife, Stormwater, DEQ
Rebecca Finneran, Horticulture, Kent County MSUE
Matt Flechter, Waste and Hazardous Materials Division, DEQ
Mike Gaber, Water Bureau, DEQ
Lois Graham, Water Bureau, DEQ
Aileen Gow, Urban Options
Paul Haan, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan
Sue Hendershott, Waste & Hazardous Materials Division, DEQ
Steve Hall, Jackson County Health Department
Pam Howd, Environmental Assistance Program, DEQ
Eric Johnson, Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program, MDA
Ruth Kline-Robach, Institute of Water Research and Center for Remote Sensing, MSU
Allen Krizek, Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program, MSUE
Michael Kamrin, Center for Integrative Toxicology, MSU
Steve Kulesia, Pollution Prevention Programs Unit, DEQ
Joe Lovato, Groundwater Mapping and Contamination Investigation Unit, DEQ
Judy Schaefer, Environmental Assistance Program, DEQ
Ruth Shaffer, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Dean Solomon, Charlevoix County MSUE
Jenny Stanger, Horticuluture, Monroe County MSUE
Jay Wagar, Healthy Homes Program, Dept. of Community Health
Special thanks to Jenny McKellar, Grand Traverse County, MSUE, for graphics and
manuscript preparation as well as a great deal of tenacity.
MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer.
Michigan State University Extension programs and materials are
open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender,
gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political
beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status. Issued in furtherance of
MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. Thomas G. Coon, Director, MSU Extension, East Lansing, MI 48824. This
information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names
does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned.
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