Household Pollution Prevention – Help Keep Our Lakes Clean

Our lakes are the centerpiece of what makes Windermere unique. Situated between some of central Florida’s most pristine urban lakes, Windermere’s residents enjoy world-class fishing, water sports, and boating in these scenic waters. Pollution impacts water quality and recreation, habitat for fish and wildlife, and property values in our community. Preventing pollution is important for protecting these resources.

Much of the pollution affecting our lakes originates in neighborhoods far from shore. Pollution can result from household maintenance activities and from schedule services provided by contractors. Household cleaning chemicals and pesticides should have label requirements that designate the appropriate use, rate, application method, and disposal for each product. Signal words like CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER, FLAMMABLE, etc. indicate that the product has the potential to be harmful to humans, pets, and/or the environment. Disregarding label instructions for use or disposal is a violation of local, state, and/or federal law.

So how do we know if the professionals we hire are following the best management practices (BMPs) for protecting our lakes? And how can we ensure that regular maintenance work we do around the house is not causing harm to our waterways? Let’s take a look at some of the most common household activities and services that – if not done properly – are problematic for our lakes.

Example of oil pollution

Example of stormwater pollution


November outreach submitted to Town of Windermere
Text and images by Amy L. Giannotti, MS, CLM, AquaSTEM Consulting, LLC
Amy L. Giannotti, MS, CLM, ( is the founder of AquaSTEM Consulting, LLC – an environmental consulting company specializing in lake and aquatic plant management, aquatic habitat restoration, and science outreach initiatives. Amy is an Environmental Scientist and Certified Lake Manager and has over 20 years of experience working in marine and freshwater systems, including coastal and freshwater vegetation dynamics, exotic species management, impacts of nutrient enrichment and remediation efforts, stormwater management and watershed hydrology, and public speaking on environmental issues affecting lakes, estuaries, springs, and karst community ecology. She is currently serving as the Town of Windermere’s Lakes Management Consultant.

Lawn Care/Landscaping

Lawn Care and Landscaping Nutrient pollution is the most troublesome pollutant in central Florida lakes. Blowing leaves, grass clippings, and/or dirt into the street (or stormdrain) contributes excessive nitrogen and phosphorus to our lakes. This leads to blooms of algae, reduced oxygen levels, and poor water quality. Lawn and landscape debris should be gathered and removed with your yard waste collection service or used as compost in flowerbeds where the nutrients can benefit other growing plants as the material degrades.

Lawn and landscape debris are not the only concerns from yard maintenance activities. Weed killers, pesticides, and fertilizers have detrimental effects on wildlife and water quality when stormwater runoff transports them to lakes.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulates the licensing of commercial pesticide and herbicide applicators. Using or applying a pesticide inconsistent with the manufacturer’s product label is a violation of federal law. Always ask your service provider to see a copy of their pesticide applicator’s license. To learn more about the regulations governing pesticide application in Florida, visit this site. Always request a copy of the product used, targeted weed/pest, and rate applied for any herbicide or pesticide application on your property.

Fertilizers exist in a variety of formulations and require a proper dose to be calculated for each application. The rate and type of fertilizer selected depend on the time of year, local weather
forecast, targeted species of plants, etc. Exceeding the labeled application rate, dose, or timing is damaging to our lakes and is a violation of local and federal law. Plants are only capable of absorbing a specific amount of fertilizer. When applied in excess, fertilizer that is not absorbed by plants washes off into lakes and accelerates the growth of algae and invasive aquatic plants. Make sure your contractor is aware of the Orange County Fertilizer Ordinance, and always request a copy of the formulation, amount, and rate used in each application.

Car Washing

Ideally vehicles should be cleaned at a designated car wash where the shampoo and rinse water is captured on-site, but that is not always possible. When washing cars and boats at home, use a phosphorus-free detergent and wash over the grass (not pavement or bare dirt) so that rinse water can filter into the ground.

Mobile Grooming Services

Mobile groomers use a variety of shampoos and detergents that can wash into stormdrains and are toxic to aquatic life. These service providers also use flea and tick shampoos that contain pesticides, so rinse water from these grooming services needs to be retained on-board and not discharged onto a lawn or street.

Painting, Varnishing, Staining

To avoid pollution from household paints, varnishes, and stains, be sure to clean brushes properly and dispose of the items as required by the label. Even water-based paints that are considered ‘non-toxic’ are harmful to aquatic life as they create a turbid plume in lakewater that reduces light and interferes with gill function in fish and other aquatic organisms.
Furniture Polish and Solvents

Furniture polish and solvents, like paint thinner, must never be cleaned and rinsed off over a natural area (lawn, dirt, or surface water) or pavement. Instead, rinse water from these items must be captured, retained on site, and disposed of as Household Hazardous Waste.

Other sources of pollution that originate from households include:

• Batteries
• Chemical drain cleaners
• Oil & gasoline
• Pool chemicals
• Brake fluid & antifreeze
• Propane tanks
• Devices containing mercury
• ….and more

For more information on the proper disposal of these and other pollutants and how you can help, please visit this site.

Taking a pro-active approach to pollution prevention the most effective way to protect our lakes, streams, ponds, and canals. In addition to knowing how you can help, always hire a responsible and professional contractor who is transparent about what they are using on your property and who is willing to maintain honest and open communication with you. Windermere’s lakes, wildlife, and residents deserve our care and attention.

The Town of Windermere