Truth be told I could not have told you if there was a drain at the end of our driveway or not. They are generally just there, little windows into the earth below that we avoid without even noticing them. Sometimes when the leaves pile up and create a dam, I mindlessly push them out of the way and experience an inexplicable thrill at watching the new river gushing through the channel I constructed with the toes of my boot.
But one day this winter, as I was walking my 10yearold to school, I found the drain just down from the fence where the lilac bush grows had become the focus of the fire department, public works and the neighborhood.
A kitty cat had found its way into a storm drain and subsequently managed to get only its head above the grate. Now it was stuck with its little face peering out from one of the two by two inch holes in the metal and its legs dangling below. After 15 minutes of trying to get it through, the fire department decided to pry off the heavy metal grating. Unfortunately, this did not help as the cat was frozen to the earth below. This was not a pretty picture and unsure that the cat hadn’t used up all nine lives, I rushed my son off to school.
The end of the story is that the cat lived. It had been missing from a neighbor’s for days, and the town officials really got to play old fashioned heroes. But the moral of the story is that you never know what could get into a storm drain and where it will end up.
Our town officials concluded the cat crawled in through an open culvert, got lost and then tried to climb its way out through a grate. Apparently that was not a success.
But the cat took the same trail as oil, gum wrappers, napkins, food, cigarette butts, dog poop and any other refuse we leave near or on our roads –purposely or through our daily farming and transportation activities. Unlike the cat, however, our refuse goes through the system and into our waterways. Unlike the cat, the pollution that ends up in our storm drains joins with stormwater and makes its way to the lakes, ponds and rivers around us.
About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.