Here’s what goes down the storm drains we drive or walk by every day: plastic bags, pet waste, motor oil, gasoline, weed killers and other pesticides, fertilizer, leaves, grass cuttings, plastic bottles, cans and more.
Here’s what should go down the storm drain: rain.
That’s all. Rain.
But rain carries along whatever it meets on the way, sending pollutants into our streams, rivers and reservoirs. The result is often unsightly and always unhealthy for us and aquatic life. A federal study released in 2013 found that 55 percent of the nation’s waterways — and 65 to 71 percent of rivers and treams in our region of the country — do not support healthy aquatic life.
The River Hill Watershed Committee will be working with Scouts and other volunteers to paint labels on 50 storm drains along Great Star Drive. We hope to complete the project during the weekend of June 21 and 22 or June 27 and 28, depending on the weather. A group of students is working on a pilot section of drains this month.
On the top of the drain will be the label, “ONLY RAIN DOWN THE DRAIN.” Visible along the edge of the road will be the label, “DRAINS TO THE PATUXENT RIVER.”
We are seeking volunteers to help with this multi-step project, which includes cleaning the concrete, applying a base of white paint and then stenciling the letters. If you want to volunteer, call Claret Hall at 410-531-1749 or sign up on our new Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WatershedCommittee.
These labels will serve as reminders that we should take responsibility for stormwater runoff from our yards and vehicles.
Here are a few tips to keep only rain in the storm drains:
• Avoid or use as little fertilizer and herbicides as possible. Test your lawn to see if fertilizer is needed (that’s the law now). Keep fertilizer away from pavement; never use fertilizers before a storm. If your property is adjacent to a stream, leave a buffer strip of unmowed vegetation.
• Leave grass clippings on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil. Clover in a lawn is another natural source of nitrogen.
• Clean up after your pet.
• Maintain your car to prevent oil leaks; collect and recycle all used oil if you work on your car.
• Don’t wash vehicles on pavement. Oil and soapy water runoff harms fish and other aquatic life.
• Install a rain barrel. The stored rain can be used in your garden during dry spells.
• Rivers and streams assessment information: http://water.epa.gov/type/rsl/monitoring/riverssurvey/upload/NRSA200809_FactSheet_Report_508Compliant_130314.pdf