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MacDill's watershed needs help from base populace

by Michael Harrison
6th Civil Engineer Squadron

MacDill's environmental flight recently completed an assessment of the health of our watershed. The watershed is comprised of all the parts of the base where water flows over land and into ditches, canals and Tampa Bay.

The assessment looked at general parameters and for visual evidence of impairment within different parts of the base. The assessment revealed that an abundance of and variety of plants and animals currently exists within our watershed. These natural resources are irreplaceable.

There were numerous observations of surface pollution that could negatively impact the watershed. The pollution included things as simple as individuals forgetting to cleanup small fuel and oil spills, leaky equipment and vehicles and hazardous materials stored outside in open containers. There were also mop buckets in the parking lot and sediment tracking from construction sites.

These types of things commonly get overlooked because they seem small compared to the magnitude of daily work activities. However, in the big picture all of the small sources of pollution add up and create problems in the watershed and Tampa Bay.

Most impact occurs during and after rain events when storm water runoff washes the pollution into our storm drains and canals. Because MacDill's stormwater flows into Tampa Bay, the harmful pollution can kill plants, fish and other animals.

The recent outbreak of red tide demonstrates just how susceptible Tampa Bay is to changes in water quality. The poor water quality and dead fish spoiled the aesthetic beauty and recreational benefits of living and vacationing in Florida.

It is important to keep our natural environment close to our hearts, not as an afterthought or by-product of our work or home lives. Individuals and teams both at home and at work can prevent watershed impact by taking action. Quickly sweep or clean up spilled materials, oil and other chemicals; properly dispose of trash and spill residue; maintain and repair equipment and vehicles; keep dumpster or trash collection areas secure and clean. Also always properly dispose automotive waste such as used oil, filters and batteries.

Volunteer opportunities are available on base, from storm drain marking to "adopt-a-canal," for those who want to assist in preventing pollution and preserving the beauty of MacDill's watershed. The 6th Civil Engineer Squadron also has a collection of educational videos and DVDs that discuss the importance of water quality and the issue of stormwater pollution and its prevention. These can be loaned out for squadron and shop training or for viewing at home, just call 828-0458.

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