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Naturally, chlorine is only found in combination with other elements, chiefly potassium. It also has a variety of anthropogenic uses, from wastewater treatment to road deicing, and runoff from industrial sources and roads can be contaminated with chlorine compounds. When chlorine compounds, especially from deicing, reach local waterways, there is a long-term storage effect of the chemicals, which leads to serious issues in the ecosystem.

There are many animals and plants in ecosystems that formed symbiotic relationships with bacteria long ago, which have now become essential to their survival. As a known antiseptic, chlorine can harm the microbiota of organisms that live in streams and lakes. These salts also increase the salinity of aquatic ecosystems, which throws the delicate balance of osmosis and diffusion in cells out of balance. Many organisms simply cannot function in these conditions.

Once chlorine is present in an ecosystem, it can take many years of clean conditions to flush the contamination out of the environment completely. Below are some ways to ensure chlorine will not enter your local waterways:


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  • Adopt

    Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.

    Learn more about adopting a stream

  • Safely manage your pool.

    Turn off the chlorination system of your pool several days before draining, as this contaminated water has the potential to end up in waterways. NEVER drain a pool or spa into a street drain or a drainage ditch – these will send chlorinated water directly into waterways, killing aquatic life. Assure your pool cannot overflow during stormy weather.

    Resources include:
    1) Guidelines for Draining Your Pool or Spa – Metro Nashville
    2) Drain Your Pool the Right Way – City of London, Ontario
    3) 10 Ways to Maintain An Eco-Friendly Pool – Swim University
    3) Green Pool Products – Pool Center

  • Use nontoxic deicing methods.

    Deicing can be extremely detrimental to aquatic ecosystems. Make use of non-toxic options where possible. Encourage those responsible for significant deicing activity in your community to consider non-toxic or less toxic options.

    Resources include:

  • Allow for natural growth near waterways

    If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.

    Resources include:

  • Plant a rain garden

    Rain gardens can filter and infiltrate stormwater that flows across your yard.

    Resources include:

  • Reduce paved, impervious surfaces

    Impervious or impermeable surfaces, like pavement, contribute significantly to polluted stormwater runoff and alter stream flow habitat. If you’ve got excess pavement you’d like removed, consider a de-paving project with the Compact. Elsewhere, ensure that your downspouts drain to vegetation, gravel, or rainbarrels, rather than impervious surfaces. If you constructing or repairing your driveway, pervious pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate and filter through the ground. If you can’t do the whole drive, consider making only the portion closest to the street pervious.

    Resources include:
    1) De-paving Work – Cumberland River Compact (Call 615-837-1151)
    2) Rain Barrel Sales – Cumberland River Compact
    3) Rain Barrels Make Good Sense – UT Extension

  • Organize with others in your community. Make your voices heard and your votes count.

    Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official and let them know this is concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations.

    Resources include:

  • Spread the word.

    Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.