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Toluene is a member of the benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) group of pollutants, which are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are certain compounds that participate in atmospheric photochemical reactions; in other words, VOCs aid in smog and ground-level ozone formation. Though VOCs are released by plants, they are released in much greater quantities by anthropogenic sources. Toluene is a component of paint thinners, adhesives, some inks, rubber, pesticides, and nail polish, is an additive to gasoline, and is used in leather tanning. It most commonly enters surface or groundwater through petroluem spills, which accounted for 90 percent of all toluene spills in 1993. Additionally, the EPA found that the pollutant was present in the water or soil at 63 percent of domestic hazardous waste sites in 1991.

Fish and other aquatic organisms are sensitive to both acute and chronic toluene exposure, which can cause major nervous system and neurological damage. Toluene is also most hazardous when absorbed through the skin, which is the most common point of entry for aquatic organisms.


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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

  • Practice responsible disposal practices.

    Ensure that hazardous materials are properly disposed of and that no litter is left near waterways on your property.

    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.