Author: Shelby Cohen, Community Relations Coordinator, Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District.

First and foremost, thank you to the Friends of Lake Robinson for their awareness surrounding water quality and for working to preserve this freshwater resource for generations to come! Here at the Greenville County Soil & Water Conservation District (GCSWCD), it is our mission to promote the wise and responsible use of natural resources for all lands through grassroots advocacy, education and partnerships.

Greenville ​County is urbanizing exponentially. ​I​n that process​,​ we are losing green space​​ ​that is ​essential for maintaining water quality​;​ ​farmland that promotes healthy soil and secures ​​a robust local food system; and ​critical ​habitat ​that sustains life for pollinators ​and wildlife. As Greenville faces these issues, folks like you – who truly are the last lines of defense against water pollution – are even more critical. Your day-to-day practices have the power to protect or pollute.

As you know, Lake Cunningham and Lake Robinson feed directly into Greer CPW’s filter plant, providing you with award-winning drinking water. Stormwater runoff plays a large role in local water pollution. As runoff flows across the land, it picks up pollutants and carries them into local waterways, such as Lake Robinson. In a natural system, healthy soils act as filters that clean pollution from water as it percolates into the ground. When green space is paved over, however, pollutants and other debris accumulate faster and are eventually washed into waterways.

At GCSWCD, we focus on four major pollutants that affect Greenville County. By following our suggestions, you’ll be able to protect Lake Robinson to the best of your ability!

1.       Pet Waste – Not only is pet waste unsightly and smelly, but it contains an abundance of bacteria and parasites, too! Aside from the risk of E. coli and salmonella, which can make both humans and wildlife sick, decomposing waste also releases excess nutrients into the water, leading to algal blooms (eutrophication). 

What should you do? Grab it, bag it, and trash it! Carry bags with you when you walk your dog or while you’re on poop patrol in your yard. Seal the waste in a bag, and throw it in the trash. This is the safest way to dispose of pet waste and to protect Lake Robinson. Have a problem in the neighborhood or in shared spaces? We split the cost of pet waste stations. Learn more here.

2.       Used Automotive Fluids – According to the Smithsonian Institute, over 363 million gallons of oil make it into waterways each year, polluting drinking water and killing aquatic plants and animals. Drips and leaks add up. Are you an at-home oil changer? Use drip pans and drop cloths to catch any stray drops or spills. Kitty litter is a great way to clean up spills. Simply pour it over the spill, let it clump, sweep it up, and throw it away. Used motor oil can be recycled at service stations or other locations. Not sure where the nearest drop-off location is? Use this map to find out. Used auto fluids can also find their way to the ground via car washing. If you wash your car at home, consider doing so on gravel or grass to reduce runoff and filter out pollutants.

3.       Yard Waste – This waste consists of grass, leaves, twigs, and other yard trimmings. Yard waste accounts for nearly 17% of all municipal solid waste, and is often a source of clogged culverts, storm drains, and pipes. Like pet waste, piles of leaves and grass clippings can overload a waterway with nutrients and lead to algal blooms. The best option for reducing yard waste is to switch from manicured turf grass to a landscape of native plants. Native plants do not require fertilizer, pesticides, or as much watering since they are well adapted to the local environment. If this isn’t an option, the next best thing is reusing yard waste as compost or mulch, which will naturally add nutrients back into your soil.

4.       Fertilizer, Herbicides & Pesticides – Overusing yard chemicals can be toxic to your health, local ecosystems, and our waterways. If you aren’t careful, these chemicals can kill beneficial insects and healthy soil organisms, weaken root systems, and contribute to nutrient pollution in Lake Robinson. Before buying fertilizer, always be sure to do a soil test first and find out what your soil actually needs. If fertilizer is necessary, be sure to buy a slow release product and never apply before rain, on slopes, or anywhere within 100 feet of the lake.

For more information about conserving Greenville’s natural resources and protecting special places like Lake Robinson, visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @gcsoilandwater.

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