Is your school polluting our waterways  - find out below

Why should we be concerned ?  Just like water from our homes, water from our schools eventually flows into nearby rivers, either via the sewer system and treatment plants or stormwater channels. 

Rivers are much closer than you think and what gets poured down the drains at school may be causing unnecessary pain for our rivers, especially the wildlife.  Pollution can also make our urban lakes and rivers unfit for swimming and other recreational uses. 

We all have some impact on the quality of water that passes through our daily lives. There are lots of ways each school can reduce its river footprint.  Try our quick general checklist below to see how yours can be a responsible school and help revive our rivers.

It is important before starting that you:

1. First discuss this with your teacher. 

2. Look through the check-list and identify those aspects of it where teacher help and supervision will be needed, such as when checking the toilets or showers etc.

 

Once you've done this audit, why not go on to do the checklist to find out how to save water around the workplace too.

Schools - river pollution general checklist

(Suggestion: you may want to print this out so you can write on it as you work through or download it as a pdf file here)

 

Canteen or staff kitchenette:

 

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Do those using these avoid pouring down the sink oil and fatty substances ?

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Do those using these avoid pouring milk down the sink ?

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Do they use liquid detergents and cleaning products that are river-friendly - low in phosphorus, chlorine and solvents ?  (look for the NP - no phosphorus symbol)

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Do they try to minimise the amount of detergent used when hand washing and in the dishwasher.  Many people say you need much less than the manufacturers recommend.

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Does the school have a composting or worm farm system to keep vegetable matter out of our
waterways ?

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In all these sinks are plug-hole strainers used to catch debris from the washing up ?

 

Toilets, bathrooms and showers:

 

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Do the cleaners use soaps and cleaning products that are river-friendly - low in phosphorus for example (see above).  For cleaning products, avoid those high in chlorides.

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Are the showers hooked up to a grey water recycling system ?

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If they are used, are the fresheners for the toilets and urinals non-toxic ?

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If the school has a septic tank system, is it serviced regularly ?

 

Parking areas, other hard surfaces and vehicles:

 

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Do the cleaners/gardeners sweep rather than hose down these areas to avoid washing oil, grease etc into stormwater drains ?

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Are school vehicles (where you have them) washed at a car washing facility that recycles and cleans its water ?

 

Classrooms and science laboratories:

 

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Do your teachers ensure no chemicals, solvents, paint residues etc are poured down the sink ?

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Does your school monitor the quality of the water leaving the school through the sinks in classrooms, laboratories etc ?

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Is your school involved in the Waterwatch program ?

 

Workshop (where this applies):

 

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Do the maintenance people/gardeners avoid washing paint brushes (or similar) in the sink or over the stormwater drain ?

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Do they avoid pouring paint and turpentine down the drain ?

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Do they dispose of excess or used oil, degreaser, mower or car fuel etc in an environmentally-friendly way ?  These have devastating impacts on our rivers and wildlife.

 

Gardens and lawns:

 

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Do those who maintain these areas avoid using fertilisers when the forecast is for rain ? Otherwise they simply wash down into our rivers helping to create algal blooms.

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Are steps taken to avoid soil erosion or run-off through areas of bare ground.  Soil clogs our rivers and smothers plant life.

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Are enviro-friendly pesticides and herbicides used in the garden areas?  Avoiding them altogether is better.  Try hand-pulling weeds instead. 

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Do your gardening staff avoid washing or rinsing weed spraying equipment in the sink or near the stormwater.  Even small residues of these poisons (see below) can also have serious impacts on rivers and wildlife.

 

Renovations or expansions:

 

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Does the school take steps to avoid soil erosion or run-off through exposed or excavated areas.  In most places now builders are required to take steps to prevent soil washing into stormwater drains...make sure yours do.

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Does the school ensure builders or tradies engage to do maintenance or building work are also doing the right things and not pouring the by-products of their work down the drains ?

 

There are 24 questions above.  If your school scored above 18, then you're doing a great job. Keep it up, and maybe try to get closer to 24 next time.  Between 14 and 18 there's clearly scope to do better. Under 14, then your school certainly has room for improvement.  Set some targets, and re-do this checklist in a few months time to see what difference there is.....the rivers will thank you. 

 

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