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Don't Let Summer Project Harm the Environment

Hot summer days are perfect for home projects. But be careful not to damage the environment.

"Summer is a great time to enjoy Georgia's abundant natural resources," said Wayne McLaurin, an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "But remember, one person's carelessness can cause environmental problems for all of us."

Using bug repellents, applying lawn or garden chemicals, changing the oil in your car or disposing of garbage all pose an environmental risk.

"When using insecticides, always read the labels carefully. And follow directions," McLaurin said. "Using too much could cause damage, while using too little could be ineffective and require additional applications."

Even products labeled as natural or safe for the environment are still chemicals. Use them with caution. Check product labels for the proper way to dispose of empty containers.

If you change the oil in a car, lawn mower, boat or other engines, collect and dispose of it properly.

"It's illegal to dump oil on the ground or driveway," McLaurin said. "Just a little bit of oil can contaminate a lot of water. One quart of oil can contaminate thousands of gallons of water."

Most service stations and some auto parts stores now accept used motor oil for recycling.

Open burning is against the law most places in Georgia unless you have a permit. If you're planning on clearing brush, try to find a place to pile it and allow it to decompose naturally.

"Brush piles are sites for wildlife to seek cover and use for homes. Organic matter is too valuable to take up landfill space," McLaurin said.

Don't clean your yard by washing everything down the storm drain. Storm drains empty directly into a body of water. And everything that goes into them ends up in the water.

"Remember, street flooding often is caused by construction materials, branches and so forth clogging the drains," McLaurin said. "Plus, plants and wildlife can be harmed by paints, fertilizers, pesticides and oil washed down the drain."

To learn more on safely handling pesticides and other tips on protecting the environment, contact your county Extension Service office.

(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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