FORT SILL, Okla., April 18, 2019 -- Environmental problems evolve slowly and tend to sneak up on us with damage usually being done before we realize anything is wrong.

It is hard for us to imagine that a drip of oil or a bit of dirt will harm our water supply, but even small amounts can pollute a vast amount of water.

One quart of oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of water. Tasks you perform daily may have a potential impact on what is washed down the storm drain.

Fort Sill's drainage system includes catch basins, storm sewers, creeks, ponds, lakes, ditches, natural low areas, and drainage features to accommodate storm water run-off.

Inside the cantonment area, there are 12 major stormwater outfalls. All of these outfalls discharge into Medicine Creek, Sitting Bear Creek, Wolf Creek, and a tributary of East Cache Creek.

In addition to accommodating the quantity of stormwater run-off, the stormwater drainage system also serves an important water quality function. The stormwater drainage system can remove significant amounts of natural and man-made pollutants. Fort Sill continues to implement a number of practices to improve stormwater quality. However, the first step in increasing the quality of stormwater run-off begins with you. We want you to be aware of potential problems and show that indeed one person can make a difference. Remember, the key to decreasing pollution often begins right in your own backyard, and Fort Sill is our backyard.

Most of us are fairly knowledgeable about common pollution prevention techniques outside the home such as vehicle maintenance, vehicle washings, lawn maintenance, vehicle leaks, etc. etc., but here are some uncommon potential problems that also need to be recognized, especially with spring rains that usually happen in the next couple of months:

1. Storm drains. Take a few seconds and familiarize yourself with nearby locations of storm drains. All street grate drains flow directly into the stormwater system. Should an accident happen, you can block the flow of the contaminants from literally going down the drain. At that point, call the Fort Sill Fire Department if the materials are hazardous. If it is from a leaking vehicle, simply put an absorbent down and then put it into a trash can. No liquid type of waste is allowed at the Fort Sill landfill, only solid material. Under no circumstances should you dump any material down the storm drain or hose it down. Dilution is not the solution to pollution.

2. Trash cans. You'd be surprised at the amount of contaminants that end up in your trash cans. If they are stored outside, keep the lids closed and covered as much as possible.

3. Consider alternatives to toxic substances. Using alternative products instead of toxic substances drastically reduces the presence of toxins in stormwater and receiving waters. Common toxic substances found in the home are cleaners, automotive products, and pesticides. Other common hazardous substances that are found in homes are fertilizers, paints, and fuels. In some instances, the safer alternatives are cheaper, work better than their hazardous counterparts, and are generally healthier for you.