By Joel Noble, Clean Water Institute Intern, Summer 2021
The containers we use for our refuse all have the potential to be environmentally harmful when not used and maintained properly. Water that enters a trash can or dumpster and mixes with its contents is deemed “leachate” which is prohibited from entering waters owned by the state (i.e., every body of flowing water whether it is a stream in pristine condition or your nearest storm drain).
You can help limit damage to public water and wildlife by ensuring that your waste containers are in a covered area that does not accumulate rainfall and by ensuring that your container’s lid fits tightly and is free of any leaks or holes. Additionally, make sure you know the proper disposal methods for the things you throw away: chemicals in the form of batteries, paint, detergents, motor oil, and other home chemicals should not be disposed of with your general refuse. It only takes a small amount of leachate with harsh chemical contaminants to make a serious negative impact on your local water quality. Even if you are not in an area with many impervious surfaces or storm water management systems, proper disposal of waste is important to the environment and your immediate living space. Leachate in an environment with little to stop it from soaking into the earth can easily end up in groundwater. Groundwater in more rural areas is often your primary water source for all things in your home through a well on your property. Your actions towards water management in how you store and maintain your refuse container can go a long way in limiting negative impacts to your local water and wildlife.