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Nonpoint Source Pollution

Thankfully, the U.S. has come a long way from the days when untreated, hazardous waste was habitually poured into the nation’s waters by sewage treatment plants, factories, and other specific points of discharge. But pollution that can’t be directly linked to a single source has proven to be far more difficult to contain.

Nonpoint source pollution occurs when rainfall or snow melt moves across land, picks up pollutants such as fertilizers and bacteria from pet waste, and then deposits these pollutants into lakes, rivers, coastal waters, and groundwater.

According to the EPA, nonpoint source pollution is now the biggest cause of water quality problems in the country.

Our Nonpoint Source Pollution Workgroup meets regularly to discuss new developments in policy and funding for programs to manage and track nonpoint source pollutants.

NEIWPCC hosts a regional conference on nonpoint source pollution every spring. In 2016, the EPA asked NEIWPCC to run a national training workshop for state, federal, territorial, and tribal nonpoint-source program officials. Planning for both national and regional 2018 conferences is under way.

Other NEIWPCC programs and workgroups overlap with nonpoint source issues. Harmful algal blooms are fed by nutrients that reach water bodies in runoff; mercury and other substances, including many emerging contaminants are spread by atmospheric deposition (below).

The chief tool for managing nonpoint source pollution is a kind of pollution budget called a total maximum daily load. NEIWPCC funds programs and convenes workgroups to address both septic systems, a nonpoint source, and stormwater, a significant source of polluted runoff.

NEIWPCC employees won an Environmental Merit Award in 2014 for their role organizing the Northeast Voluntary Turf Fertilizer Initiative. Many partners and stakeholders met to develop guidelines to manage fertilizer use.


Atmospheric Deposition Fact Sheets

From Air to Water: The Challenge of Atmospheric Deposition

What starts as air pollution may end up as water pollution as dangerous compounds emitted into the air fall into surface waters. In fact, nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury compounds are pollutants of particular concern in the Northeast that make their way into water primarily through atmospheric deposition.

The fact sheets describe the mechanisms of atmospheric deposition, its impact on nonpoint source pollution in watersheds, monitoring and modeling strategies, and the need for collaboration in the fight against this phenomenon. The publication was funded through a CWA Section 319 Grant provided to NEIWPCC by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.


Additional Resources

EPA’s Nonpoint Source (NPS) Home Page

USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials – (NEMO) University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension

Connecticut DEEP – NPS Management Program

Maine DEP – Bureau of Land, Watershed Planning and Management Division, NPS Pollution Program

Massachusetts DEP – Bureau of Water Resources, Wetlands & Watersheds Division, NPS Pollution Program

New Hampshire DES – Water Division, NPS Pollution Program

New York State DEC – Division of Water, Bureau of Water Permits

Rhode Island DEM – Office of Water Resources, Water Quality Division, NPS Pollution Program

Vermont DEC – Watershed Management Division, Clean Water Initative

Turf Fertilizer Guidelines

These regional guidelines related to the formulation and application of turf fertilizer are the result of collaboration between the Northeast states, the EPA, and industry and non-industry stakeholders.