Toluene is a member of the benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) group of pollutants, which are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are certain compounds that participate in atmospheric photochemical reactions; in other words, VOCs aid in smog and ground-level ozone formation. Though VOCs are released by plants, they are released in much greater quantities by anthropogenic sources. Toluene is a component of paint thinners, adhesives, some inks, rubber, pesticides, and nail polish, is an additive to gasoline, and is used in leather tanning. It most commonly enters surface or groundwater through petroluem spills, which accounted for 90 percent of all toluene spills in 1993. Additionally, the EPA found that the pollutant was present in the water or soil at 63 percent of domestic hazardous waste sites in 1991.
Fish and other aquatic organisms are sensitive to both acute and chronic toluene exposure, which can cause major nervous system and neurological damage. Toluene is also most hazardous when absorbed through the skin, which is the most common point of entry for aquatic organisms.
How You Can help
Are you a member of a group or organization in your community that would be interested in adopting this waterway? Contact the Cumberland River Compact if you’re interested in learning more about stream adoption.
Ensure that hazardous materials are properly disposed of and that no litter is left near waterways on your property.
1) How Do I Recycle? Common Recyclables - EPA
2) Search for Recycling Solution (Inc. for Wallboard/Drywall) - Earth911
If you live or work next to a waterway, leave a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on its banks. Allow natural and native plant growth in this buffer area or plant native trees, bushes, and groundcover. This vegetation can filter pollutants before they reach your waterway and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Native plants and grasses require less watering and fertilizer and also provide important habitat for native species of wildlife.
1) Free trees for Tennesseans during TEC's annual statewide 100K Tree Day - TN Environmental Council
2) Purchase Native Wildflower/Grass Alternatives to Mowed Grass - Roundstone Native Seed and/or Seedland
3) Tennessee Aquatic Stream Clean Up and Riparian Tree Grant (Scroll to bottom of linked page for more info) - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
4) General Guidelines for Volunteer Based Riparian Buffer Plantings - TN Environmental Council
5) Improving Stream Channels With Live Staking - UT Extension
6) Tennessee Urban Riparian Buffer Handbook - TN Dept. of Agriculture
7) Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
8) Native Plants for TN - UT Extension
9) Forest Stewardship Program and Landowner Services - KY Division of Forestry
10) Plant Availability Guide - KY Department of Agriculture
11) State Nurseries and Tree Seedlings - KY Division of Forestry
Rain gardens can filter and infiltrate stormwater that flows across your yard.
1) Rain Gardens - A Resource Guide - Cumberland River Compact and Metro Nashville
2) TN Native Rain Garden Plants - UT Extension
3) Rain Gardens for Tennessee - UT Extension
4) Rain Gardens Educator's Toolkit, Rain Gardens for Tennessee Site Summary, and Rain Garden Facts and Tips - UT Extension
5) Rain Garden How-to Brochure - Harpeth River Watershed Association
6) Rain Garden Guide for Middle Tennesseans by Patty Ghertner
7) Start-to-Finish Rain Garden Workbook - Harpeth River Watershed Association
8) Rain Garden Workshop Guide - TN Environmental Council
9) Landscaping with Native Plants in West, Middle, and East TN - TN Wildlife Resources Agency
10) Native Plants for TN - UT Extension
11) Plant Availability Guide - KY Department of Agriculture
Impervious or impermeable surfaces, like pavement, contribute significantly to polluted stormwater runoff and alter stream flow habitat. If you've got excess pavement you'd like removed, consider a de-paving project with the Compact. Elsewhere, ensure that your downspouts drain to vegetation, gravel, or rainbarrels, rather than impervious surfaces. If you constructing or repairing your driveway, pervious pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate and filter through the ground. If you can’t do the whole drive, consider making only the portion closest to the street pervious.
1) De-paving Work - Cumberland River Compact (Call 615-837-1151)
2) Rain Barrel Sales - Cumberland River Compact
3) Rain Barrels Make Good Sense - UT Extension
Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official and let them know this is concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations.
1) Advocacy Toolkit - TN Environmental Council
2) Find Your Legislators - Federal Legislators; State Legislators (KY/TN); Local Legislators (KY/TN)
Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the problem? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.