storm drain

Around the Water Cooler: Artistic Storm Drains Help Raise Awareness

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

A cool thing has happened in Baltimore: storm drains around the city have been adopted and colored with beautiful art to remind us that healthy waterways depend on keeping trash and pollutants out of our storm drains. Stormwater picks up trash, chemicals, and other pollutants and carries them all untreated right into our waterways.

Even if you can’t see a river or lake, or the harbor from your street, what goes into that storm drain at the bottom of your street can directly affect the health of that waterbody downstream. Making that connection more obvious can be an important factor for raising awareness and helping community members take action.

Blue Water Baltimore, a non-profit focused on restoring the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams, and harbor “to foster a healthy environment, a strong economy and thriving communities,” has launched the second year of its Storm Drain Stencil Share Program to engage community members of all ages, artists, community leaders, and environmental stewards to bring awareness to ways we can keep our water clean.

Throughout Baltimore, you can find decorated storm drains dressed with important messages, like “Trash in the street pollutes what we eat” or “Drains are only for the rain.”

The fact is, we should all be conscious of what goes into our storm drains. We all live in and are responsible for the health of our watersheds. Regardless of whether you can see water from your house or not, what you put on your lawn, whether you scoop your dog’s poop, or even what household cleaners you use can all affect the health of our waterways.

What do you think about Baltimore’s efforts to make sure its waterways stay clean and that we can all enjoy great blue crabs while visiting the Inner Harbor? What education programs would you like to see in your community?

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry loves clean water, healthy beaches and great seafood. A regular contributor to EPA’s It All Starts with Science blog, she helps communicate the great science in the Agency’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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C.L.E.A.N. (Choosing to Lead Environmental Action Now) Club

In Dr. Seuss’ book, The Lorax, we see the quote: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I guess that was my mindset when I began this journey in 2008.  I have always thought that my work could have been achieved by anyone, but my mom said: “Well, maybe it could have, but you are the one that went out there and did it”. I think that is the problem with our world today, we do not have enough people to just go do it.

Growing up on a small farm in Georgia, I was active in Boy Scouts and 4-H, so my world depended on the outdoors.  In 2008, when it came time to plan an Eagle Scout project, I sought the wisdom of those in my community and interviewed leaders in my surrounding area. I finally settled on a storm drain tagging initiative.

My initial project achieved the goal of tagging 152 drains and hanging 455 educational pamphlets on doors in the six new subdivisions in my county. I also wrote articles to the local newspapers explaining my project and how residents could help. I guess this project was just my starter for the next few years because after I achieved my goal of Eagle Scout, I expanded my project to include 4-H. I developed and gave an educational presentation to thousands of students, teachers and community leaders in Georgia.

For the next four years my project grew. I created a Facebook page on storm drain pollution, and planned more tagging events. I expanded my educational component to include radio & television interviews.  I was determined to teach people that the trash that doesn’t get disposed of properly, could very well lead into our water sources. All of these efforts led to my creation of the C.L.E.A.N. Club, which stands for Choosing to Lead Environmental Action Now, a youth led initiative to clean up & beautify our communities.

In 2010 I started getting recognized for my work; first by Keep Georgia Beautiful as Student of the Year, then by Keep America Beautiful for my C.L.E.A.N. Club.  In 2012, after winning the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) and the Regional Kohl’s Cares Kid, I began to wonder if what I was doing was something significant….but after thinking about it I decided that I had been right all along. I am not special, I just care a whole awful lot, and anybody can make a difference if they care to do so.

Andrew is an 18 year old freshman at Macon State College and a 2011 President’s Environmental Youth Award winner. He loves the outdoors and is a huge advocate in any effort that helps to keep our environment clean.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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